For digitally capable students, the sky’s the limit

Students will continue to live, work and study in a digital economy – They must be prepared with the tools they need to succeed,” says Ruth Watkins, president of the University of Utah.

Grounding digital literacy in wider pedagogic objectives can open up all kinds of educational possibilities, and lead to some surprising results.

“Talking to university leaders and educators here in the UK, it’s clear that the demands of the digital economy are high on the agenda for developing thinking on how best to enable student success.”

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Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is vital to make an impact in the world today. Across professional fields and industries, people harness digital tools to communicate and persuade, to express their creativity, and to collaborate to solve problems.

If students are to thrive in their careers, and contribute to creating a better world for future generations – and many of us work in education because we are driven by exactly that aspiration – they will need to be digitally capable.

A common thread among these institutions is that digital literacy is understood as being much more than simple competence with specific digital tools as an end in itself. Digital literacy is the purposeful use of digital tools for pedagogic purposes – to create something new, to present an argument or position, or to shed light on a different way of looking at a problem.

Developing digital skills are very much part of the equation. There’s a lot of evidence now that while students might be highly literate in some technologies, such as social media, this doesn’t prepare them for using a range of digital tools in the classroom or their wider lives.

But education strategies that integrate digital literacy are much more about giving students the space to experiment, and the agency to explore. Digital learning officer Cory Stokes at Utah describes it as “giving students the power to express their innate creativity by giving them creative tools.”

At Swinburne University of Technology, the first Adobe Creative Campus in Australia, the strategic digital literacy programme is underpinned by a curriculum framework that gives equal weight to technology literacy, information literacy and critical literacy. In addition to students learning to select and use the right technologies, they learn about data and knowledge production in a digital world, and to reflectively question the social context in which digital artefacts are made and the ethics of who controls and consumes them.