Digital Fluency

What does it mean to be digitally fluent?  Off the top of my head, before looking up the definition, I would say that a person who is digitally fluent is able to utilize a variety of programs, applications, and digital devices to design and create digitally accessible projects.  These projects could be relatively trivial in scope such as Facebook profiles, or more profound projects like the digitization of the works of Sir Isaac Newton (http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/prism.php?id=1).  Also, in order to be considered digitally fluent, a person must not only be able to create projects, but also be able to use various technologies to successfully foster meaningful interactions and conversation with others.  

After doing a little research as to what digital fluency is, it came to my attention that my initial assumption was only partially correct and that there are multiple levels of digital comprehension and understanding–digital fluency being the highest level of proficiency.  Below fluency there is non-literacy and literacy.  The meaning of non-literacy should be evident.  Digital literacy on the other hand lies somewhere between the other two.  Someone who is literate has a command of the tools, but their projects, when completed do no always match their creators original intention.  A digitally fluent individual is able to obtain their desired outcome.  The difference between literacy and fluency being that a fluent person not only possesses the knowledge to utilize digital tools, but they are comfortable using them and understand why the programs they are using “are likely to have the desired outcome” (http://www.socialens.com/blog/2011/02/05/the-difference-between-digital-literacy-and-digital-fluency/).  Boise State’s Mobile Learning Initiative has posted its own definition stating that digital fluency is, “An evolving aptitude that empowers the individual to effectively and ethically interpret information, discover meaning, design content, construct knowledge, and communicate ideas in a digitally connected world” (http://at.boisestate.edu/services/faculty-consultations/digital-fluency-training/).  Taking all of these descriptions into account, it can be said that a digitally fluent person is aware of the digital tools available, knows how to use them and when to use them, is able to analyze and input data, and can effectively communicate ideas and project knowledge using a digital medium.  

When it comes to my own experience, If the digital platforms are limited to the XBOX and iPhone then I would consider myself digitally fluent.  Unfortunately I cannot just restrict my technological exposure to the previously mentioned devices.  My experience is lacking when it comes to the vast number of other electronic devices and technologies available at the moment.  This deficiency of digital knowledge is not the result of a genuine disdain for technology.  On the contrary, I am fascinated by current technologies and the many ways they can be utilized.  Although I do not consider myself digitally fluent, I do have a strong desire to correct this deficiency.

Being digitally fluent gives employees and business owners across almost all industries numerous skills that will allow them to stay relevant and successful in todays rapidly evolving economy.  In the field of history, being fluent will allow students and historians to project historical information in myriad ways across multiple platforms.  In doing so, those connected to the field of history will have access to information and data at a moments notice.  Data that might have taken weeks or months to gather can be obtained in a fraction of the time.  Digitized data can be displayed in countless visual ways allowing historians to interpret data that was once only available as text.  As a result, history can be used in new exciting ways.  For example, businesses financial records could be cross checked with historical data on a local or global scale giving business owners the ability to discover how past historical events like elections, crime, and warfare have influenced their bottom line.  In addition, because history becomes digitally accessible via games, applications, etc., instructors now have the ability to reach out to students and the general public in ways not previously possible.  This exposure to new digital history will promote historical knowledge while hopefully becoming appealing to a new audience that might not ever have picked up or read a historical piece of scholarship in book form.

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3 thoughts on “Digital Fluency

  1. Nice research, Chuck! It only mildly surprises me that there are a variety of definitions for digital fluency. I wonder what we would see if we created a word cloud comprised of all the different variations of the term. Would we distill the idea to its essence, or obscure the necessary complexity of its application?
    It’s good to see that, despite your Luddishness in class, you are ready to embrace the digital world. Hope your arms are long enough.

  2. You’re saying the iPhone is not the end all technological tool? Why did they make a Steve Jobs movie then? Just kidding!

    I like the definition of the digitally fluent understanding that digital technologies “are likely to have the desired outcome”. Like we saw with the Twitter tag disaster last week, digital tools are not perfect and there is a real learning curve. That being said, as a digital humanities newbie you shouldn’t be too scared. There are tons of resources available to help whenever you get stuck on a particular website or program. Plus, you’ve already stated all the wonderful advantages to getting digitally fluent.

  3. I prefer your definition of “digital fluency” over the one located on the spectrum with “digital literacy” and “digital non-literacy”. I think that placing too many markers that individuals have to meet in order to consider themselves “digitally fluent” ends up closing off the field. Does it really matter if someone can rewrite the code to change something from green to blue? Probably in some instances, but that skill should not be the barrier to someone engaging with the various digital mediums or feeling like they can be part of the “club”.

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