The term ‘digital skills’ is frequently referred to both inside and outside of higher education. What does it really mean, and how can we judge if we are digitally literate/capable, or not? I turn to the Jisc framework, originally developed by the work of Beetham and Sharpe (2010), to help answer the digital skills question.
Jisc defines digital skills as ‘capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society.’ It is quite a collection too. This ‘living, learning and working in a digital society’ looks to require a vast array of skills to navigate life successfully, covering many areas:
- information, data and media literacies
- digital creation, innovation and scholarship
- Communication, collaboration and participation
- digital learning and self development
- digital identity and well being.
Keep digitally fit
Am I fit? I use a computer for work and study, I am aware of my online identity, I can use digital tools like Google Drive to collaborate with others. I can tweak images, make a shaky Vine video, edit a video clip and make a basic screencast. I tweet in a professional capacity, blog using WordPress for pleasure, use Diigo for organising my bookmarks and the likes of apps such as CamScanner for handy things like creating PDFs from paper documents, but is this digital activity enough to tick off all the categories? And technology is always evolving…how do you maintain digital fitness, once you have gained it?
There are a number of things you can do to maintain or enhance your digital literacy. Jisc provide a dazzling list of ideas to help you whether you are a student, a course team member, a senior manager, support staff and even IT staff. Below is a top one from each Jisc list. You can view the complete Jisc lists here.
- Course teams Relax. You don’t have to be an expert in all things digital so long as you keep up to date with developments in your subject community (one size does not fit all).
- IT managers Inform students that game-changing technologies (‘threshold practices’) require investment of time and effort (learning and teaching staff).
- Senior managers Become digitally literate yourself – not to be able to do everything but to be able to provide leadership of an institution in the digital age.
- Students Learn how to use the online library catalogue early on. But explore online resources, not limiting yourself to those recommended by tutors. Find academic/learning portals you can trust, learn to identify authoritative resources.
**There wasn’t a tip strictly for academics so I have added one in myself!**
- Academics Read how you can embed the digital literacy framework into your teaching in the interesting journal article, ‘Learning from the early adopters: developing the Digital Practitioner.’ by Liz Bennet in which she explores how Sharpe and Beetham’s digital literacy framework can be applied to lecturers’ digital literacy practices.
If you are a student and you would like to take on board Jisc’s top tip to learn how to use your online library resources, you can get support from your university. Wherever you study, you can book training to get to grips with confidently using your catalogues via the university Library. If you would like to explore the Library catalogue on your own steam, see your university’s own guide to using it. They’ll be pleased as punch to show you how it all works. Librarians love people accessing resources, so don’t be shy to ask.
Learn new things online
If you want to start building on your digital skills, you can start with open learning online. These are resources online that are open to anybody, and best of all, a huge proportion of those are free! The Open University (OU) has an excellent collection of digital resources for understanding and engaging in digital practices. Learn about social networks and blogs via the BBC webwise, try the online ‘My Digital identity’ OU course, learn how to make audio recordings with your phone, watch a YouTube video on how to build your Personal Learning Network (PLN) or read the seven things you should know about WordPress.
If you are a complete beginner or want to help someone like a parent, for example, to get started with their digital literacy skills from scratch, try the brilliant and easy-to-access Learn My Way resource. This site covers all of the digital basics. You can even get help from a human being too via a link to your local digital champion. Here is a search for my local area in Hove, there is support for digital learning popping up all over.
If you identify as more of an intermediate or advanced digital skills learner, try your hand at a MOOC. I have recently started an Iversity MOOC delivered collaboratively by five European universities, ‘Digital Skills and Social Media Marketing’.
It takes a bit of discipline to stick to a MOOC but if you can commit and engage with the community, in this case a Twitter community gathered by the hashtag #passion4digital, then you make the most of the opportunities available to you to learn online.
flickr photo by *s@lly* shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license