Where Does Our Digital Literacy Come From?

Assessing important skills.


March 26, 2015
Where does our digital literacy come from

We often talk about digital literacy, technology competency, and/or social media prowess. In 2015, there is an assumption that those of us who work in higher education will have some degree of technology fluency that will be used to affect our professional existence in some way or another.

Our ability to navigate the electronic waters of devices (both mobile and not-so-mobile), applications, and digital solutions is honed on a daily basis through formal learning experiences, autodidactic problem solving, social media engagement, errant mouse (or trackpad) clicks, Google searches, and CMD + Z.

When we're hired, it's rare that our digital literacy will be assessed. And, perhaps even more telling, after we've been in our jobs for a bit, there's no rubric or measurement to see if we've grown more digitally literate. Some individuals who happen to lean towards a digital lifelong learning literacy track will be on a continuous journey of learning about new technologies, new apps, new services, and new ways that technology can enhance or improve their daily routines. While others will seem to be somewhat frozen in their ability to take on a bit more mental (or temporal) bandwidth with regards to the latest social media platform or a new update to their tried-and-true operating system.

Perhaps it's time to create assessments for higher education professionals that measure their digital literacy journey? Figuring out what people know about all things digital when they enter a new environment would be exceptionally helpful for folks who work in staff development. And, assessing the digital literacy of existing staff would send a clear message that technology competency is an ongoing part of our professional trek.

These assessments could then be used to create in-house professional development tracks to bolster organizational digital literacy, fill in knowledge gaps, and grow individual skill-sets.

I realize that this type of work is already happening at some institutions. However, within student affairs and/or the "non-academic" side of the "house," it seems that technology competency, digital literacy, social media fluency, online engagement, etc. are still areas that need some structured/intentional work. Oftentimes, the digital literacy of a division or organization is dependent upon the digital leanings of a senior leader. It is crucial that leaders prioritize and encourage organizational digital literacy. A digitally literate organization will be more efficient, innovative, and engaging.

What are you doing to become more digitally literate?

Do you assess the digital literacy of your new hires and/or current staff? Who is responsible for the overall digital literacy of your organization?

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