2 Digital skills and digital literacy
When talking about digital skills you might come across different definitions, which range from describing the basic use of a computer or computer software to more advanced technical and programming skills. One term you may hear relatively frequently is ‘digital capability’. Another is ‘digital literacy’.
The term ‘digital literacy’ is used as an overarching term for referring to ‘digital skills’ or ‘digital capabilities’. A useful definition of digital literacy comes from Jisc, a national body that champions the use of digital technologies for UK education and research: ‘the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society’ (Jisc, 2015).
‘Digital literacy’ includes the skills everyone needs to be effective online, whether it’s searching efficiently, evaluating online information, communicating and sharing, or finding the right digital or online tools to suit particular needs.
These are skills that transfer across all areas of our lives. If you think back to the list you made in Activity 1, many of the things you listed are likely to have been relevant to your everyday or home life. However, the same activities and skills can help you to be more effective at work. In fact, many of the skills you’ve listed may appear in job descriptions. The ability to work online with members of staff in remote locations, for example, could be an essential skill for a particular job. Digital (literacy) skills are very important if you’re studying, and can make a different to how successful you are at researching, collaborating with other students or writing assignments.
Digital literacy is therefore also about using your digital skills in different contexts and having the confidence to decide what is right for you. One of the aims of this course is to help you develop confidence and skills to be able to ask the right questions of who, and what, you come across online. In other words, to think critically.
You’ve provided some details about what you do online. In the audio recordings below, Manuela, John and Michael talk about the kinds of skills they think they need to succeed in a digital environment. They’ll also talk about how confident they feel.
Transcript: Manuela talks about skill to succeed in a digital environment
I don’t feel very confident about my skills when it comes to technology. I think, if you want to be digital, you have to know how to use computers, tablets, and phones. And you have to know how to make them work for you.
Perhaps it’s also about being able to find things quickly on the internet and using all those apps. And you need to know how to write intelligently. So, knowing how to write blogs and being able to comment on what other people write.
Sam and Isabel, my children, look down on me because I am so slow. And lots of my friends from the bike club use Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t feel very confident about it yet.
I want to get a job in marketing and I know it’s all changed because of the internet. So, to succeed in a digital environment, I think it’s all about developing confidence and just getting online.
Transcript: Michael talks about skill to succeed in a digital environment
I think you need to know how to use those wretched phones and those watches that tell you how far you’ve run. To be good at digital things, you need to be great at computers; and that’s not me, by the way. You need to know how to use Facebook and all those sharing sites.
Margaret, my wife, will tell you it’s all about knowing how to shop online. And she’s the world expert at that. She can find anything when she’s on the internet.
Am I confident? Well, I’m confident about most things, so I’m sure once I start learning about all things digital, I’ll get my confidence pretty quickly.
Transcript: John talks about skill to succeed in a digital environment
To be successful in a digital world, you really need to know all about computers and smartphones; and iPads, everyone has an iPad these days. I feel pretty confident about my digital skills. I’m not sure how much more I can learn, but I’m willing to give it a go.
I have an iPhone. I’m dyslexic, so I use Siri. You know, the little speech app that you just ask questions and then it goes to find your answer? It’s brilliant.
When I’ve searched for things online myself, it can all get a bit overwhelming because there are so many results. And a lot of them just aren’t relevant. It takes ages to find what I’m actually looking for.
I use Facebook and SoundCloud and stuff. Once or twice my friends have told me off for posting stories and passing on stuff that they didn’t really want to see but we won’t go into that one.
Activity 2 Identifying skills
Reflecting on the skills you use in a digital environment will help you to gauge how confident you are about using them, and identify which ones you would like to improve. Choose one of the environments listed below and think about what skills you might need to do things effectively online. Use the table in your Digital plan to note down your thoughts.
- At home – for example, knowing how to find things on the internet quickly.
- At work – for example, being able to find information for reports quickly to meet deadlines.
- If you’re studying – for example, being able to conduct research online.
You will probably have made a list of skills that are relevant to your own experience. Table 2 provides a few suggestions.
|At home, I might need to know …||At work, I might need to know …||When I’m studying, I might need to know …|
|… where to look for information.||… where to find statistics and research that I can use to get my point across.||… where to find journal articles.|
|…how to communicate online to get my point across without upsetting anyone.||… how to communicate with colleagues, clients and customers online, including using social media. When writing online, I would need to know who my audience is and be able to adapt what I write for that audience.||… how to write online, especially blogs.|
|… what and who to trust online.||… where to find reliable up-to-date information, or know the best people to go to for this information.||… how to find trustworthy sources of information.|
|… how to find reliable information.||… where I can find resources – multimedia or industry information. This includes databases that would be useful in my area of expertise.||… where to find resources for my subject.|
|… where to go for specific information.|
… how to use social media to keep up to date with information on my profession/industry.
… how to make the best use of video conferencing.
|… how to find experts in specific fields.|
|… how to stay safe online.||… how to use social media to keep up to date with information on my profession/industry, while maintaining my own privacy.||… how to use online platforms to collaborate with other students online, while maintaining my own privacy.|
|… how to develop and protect my digital identity.||… how to project a good impression online for clients, colleagues and employers.||… how to keep up to date with my subject.|
|… how to use social media to connect with friends and family.||… how to find tools and apps that would be useful for my job.||… how to keep up to date and communicate with others in my subject area using social media.|
|… where to go if I want to learn how to do something.||… how to find places to learn and develop the skills I have – including how to use software packages or online tools.||… where to go to fill the gaps in my knowledge in a subject.|
|… where I can find free resources – images, audio and video – that I can use without breaking the law.||…where I can find free resources that I can use to create more interesting marketing materials and reports.||… where I can find free resources – images, audio and video – that I can use legally for my studies, particularly within assignments and reports.|
You’ve now thought about the different activities that you engage in when you’re online. You may also have identified a few of the issues you have come across while doing this. And finally, you’ve thought about the skills you might need to make you more effective when you’re online.
In the next section, you will get a chance to reflect on how confident you are about different aspects of online activity, and be directed to resources that will help you to develop your skills.