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When the term “digital fluency” came up in my study, my first reaction was “sure, that’s me.” I made this assumption on the grounds that I often know more about digital technologies and web 2.0 applications than the majority of my senior colleagues, and because I find learning new technologies very straight forward. To me, digital fluency and being a “digital native” (Howell, p. 6) sounded synonymous, both meaning growing up around digital technologies and therefore having strong technological intuition when familiarising with new programs.
It turns out I was quite wrong. Howell goes on to describe the level of digital fluency that is standard for children finishing primary school or beginning secondary school as something quite beyond what I ever learned, making me reclassify myself, not necessarily as a digital immigrant but more of a technology neophyte (Howell, p. 133). She describes this grouping as “beginners who have a solid grounding in the basics, and are ready for more complex learning experiences with technology.”
Having made this breakthrough about where I stand on the spectrum of digital fluency, I still do not fear getting future students to this point. Howells description of various technologies one can use with students to facilitate creative, experimental and purposeful technological learning (Howell, p. 135) sent my imagination running wild with ideas of my own. However it did instil on me how arrogant I had been to think I did not need further education in this area, and how important it is that I develop not just a digital pedagogy for my teaching, but for my own life-long learning as well.
Digital Curation for educational purposes in the age of Web 2.0 is much like weeding a garden, eradicating dandelions like Wikipedia to reduce “content overload” (Johnson, 2013) and creating spaces for worthwhile plants like government or university publications to flourish.
A foreseeable issue with this is that if all of the unreliable content is already weeded out, how will educators allow students to learn for themselves how to differentiate reliable sources and information from untrustworthy websites and authors?
This skill is highly conducive to becoming a life-long learner, and subsequently educators must once again consider moving towards a more collaborative education structure, allowing students to take on increasing responsibility in not only their learning but the educational planning of said learning.
Encouraging students to take on the role of digital curator as well, either individually or collaboratively will provide them with learning opportunities to become digitally responsible (Johnson, 2013) and to investigate the various sources of information available online.
In my investigation of Pinterest as a potential learning resource rather than a teaching resource as I have previously utilized it, I created a sample board for students displaying an emerging interest in bees. My reasoning for curating this topic through Pinterest was that students would be able to investigate the topic more broadly and collaborate with each other and their educator on which direction they would prefer to scaffold their learning through project work, with inspirations for songs, dances, gardening, art and poster based work.
Upon reflection I am considering that it might be better to collaboratively curate such boards with the children rather prepare them in advance as part of the lesson plan, and just leave it up to the safety systems on school computers to block out inappropriate content, which was one of my earlier reservations about using Pinterest.
In the digital age we have entered, it is time to re-evaluate many systems of our society, primarily our education model. With digital technologies in the classroom not only is it not enough for a teacher to be “at the front of the class distilling knowledge” (Howell, p. 5). This is a selfish notion driven by our outdated stereotypes of what it means to be a teacher. Lee Crockett describes this well when talking about his best-selling book Literacy is not Enough; he explains that “most educators have been in a classroom since the age of 5…and because of this we have a very particular notion of what teaching and learning and assessment look like.” With an increasing technological presence in education, teachers must learn to redefine their role, curating experiences and collaborating with students in a mutual learning environment.
This is unavoidable, as students are increasingly digitally expectant. They experience technology as a major component in their entertainment and social based activities outside of school, so it is not a huge leap for them to expect it to be at school as well, not just as a standalone subject but as a deeply embedded element of their learning on any given topic. Most modern career paths require a high level of digital competency, and one can only assume that as technology advances this will become more so in correlation, so as educators it is our responsibility to engage children in their own digital culture to prepare them as future contributors to society.
My impression is that whilst Marc Prensky’s terms “digital native” and “digital immigrant” (2001) are currently applicable, they will soon become obsolete as we move into an age where one’s level of digital fluency merely falls on a spectrum. No one will ever truly be digitally fluent, because at the rate technology is progressing there will always be more to learn.