Designing for Flexibility

Digital Literacy

Skills and strategies for effective living and working in a connected world

external image 2893019541_5715d1467c_m.jpg
[CC FlickR image by Faithful Chant]


Just as we learn to navigate the city streets safely and effectively, so too do we need to learn to operate in an online environment.
In this topic we'll be discussing issues associated with communication, navigation, safety, privacy and your identity online:
  • Digital literacy
  • Our rights and responsibilities as educators
  • The skills needed to operate effectively in today's online environment

Session slides -

Digital literacy

To maximise the benefits of educational technologies and to ensure we are providing rich, engaging learning experiences we ALL must possess the skills, confidence and wherewithal to function and navigate safely and effectively on the web and across technologies.
We need to be able to select the best ‘tool’ for the job, deal with threats, filter and curate information, and contribute effectively in networks.

Education background, age, gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, education in first language, ability, disability, personal and family circumstance (which may include trauma, financial circumstance, balancing work, family, study or caring for dependents), learning styles and personality, can all affect a learner and their approach to learning.
According to their background each learner will have a range of factors that may affect learning, and progress and participation in education. While some factors may impede learning, others may contribute to or support learning.
As you consider how these factors may impact on your learner group you are encouraged to consider how they may impact on you and your own learning experiences.[1]

Activity 1

In her post Digital Literacy Is In Crisis, Susan Murphy suggests that....
Teachers are in a terrible predicament, because they are in a position where they’re still trying to figure this stuff out themselves. The Web is still so young. None of us has more than 15 years of experience at it. The technology, trends, and philosophies behind the Web change at lightning speed. Teachers are simply not equipped to bridge the gap of digital literacy, because they have fallen into the gap.
Do you agree?
How should this be tackled?
Digital literacy, Susan adds, is not just about knowing how to use the tools but ‘about understanding the implications of digital technology and the impact it is having, and will have, on every aspect of our lives. We need to be teaching our students, at all levels, not just how to click and poke, but how to communicate, and interact, and build relationships in a connected world.’



Digital divides

The notion of a digital divide originally referred to a lack of access to technology for socio economic reasons or a lack of internet access due to poor connectivity.
With improvements to accessibility and the increase in affordable mobile devices this is now less am impact.
So is there a digital divide today?
As we discussed in an earlier topic our VET programs include learners from a wide range of backgrounds including learners:
• with disrupted or incomplete school educations
• with physical, intellectual, learning or socio-emotional disabilities that impact on learning
• with limited literacy skills in relation to established frameworks such as ACSF, Training Package requirements and accredited course levels, (‘spiky profiles’)
• with a range of motivation levels
• with good literacy skills at the level at which they are operating, but needing to develop higher-level skills or more specialised skills to be successful at a new undertaking.

In can be argued that unless we as educators explicitly teach the skills that underpin the use of these new technologies we are further disadvantaging those already on the margins of our educational system, and maintaining this digital divide.

If we are to support learners to develop digital literacy skills, we must possess those skills ourselves. This is sometimes a challenge for educators.


Activity 2

Whose responsibility is it to ensure that students are able to confidently, effectively and safely operate and navigate within the contemporary online world of collaboration, communication, learning and work?
Read the following two posts:
In Schools, a Firewall That Works Too Well - Justin Reich in the Washington Post - Saturday, July 11, 2009
Being Safe Online Is Being Safe In Life - The Innovative Educator (2011)

What relevance does this have for your course?
How can you encourage your students to research online and engage in available networks and communities, and to support them to do so?

Activity 3

In VET we are governed by AQF, VET regulations, ASQA and a framework for learning determined by our relevant Training Package qualification.
How well do these address the (digital) literacy needs of learners and prepare them for a safe and effective life in industry?

Perhaps implicitly what do your units tell you about the (digital) literacy skills your students need?

Background readings

Guardian Professional, 2012, "20 ways of thinking about digital literacy in higher education"

Howard Rheingold on how the five web literacies are becoming essential survival skills - Justin Ellis, 2012, Nieman Journalism Lab

Additional supporting information

Workforce Development Applied Research into Digital Literacy and eSkills - 2013 Research project investigating the levels of digital literacy required across IBSA industries in foundation, technical and strategic implementation functions; digital literacy units of competency needs will be considered for use across all industries.

The 2011–2012 results for the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) - Released by ABS on 09/10/2013

Diigo Group tagged resources
digitalliteracies (lots of great posts etc here)

Relevant Thought Leader Series interviews

Relevant TAFE NSW eHub eCommunities


The activities and documented reflections for this topic provide useful partial evidence for:

TAEDES501A: design and develop learning strategies
  1. ^ Commonwealth of Australia 2011, Knowledge Bank for TAE70110 & TAE80110, page 31, accessed April 2012 -
  2. ^ CC FlickR image by Charles Hutchins -