Digital Fluency Assessment 8202.1
The definition of new and emerging digital technologies is broad and varied as the term is multidisciplinary (Veletsianos, 2016). Edwards and Fenwick (2015) defines new and emerging digital technologies as technologies that reconfigure professional practice and responsibility. Veletsianos (2015) describes them as new digital technologies that are tools, ideas, developments, and advancements in technology. Unrau (2004) defines them as new technologies that require the literacy skills to get the most out of them. Unrau’s (2004) definition of new and emerging digital technologies is one that defines my view. I see the importance of identifying these new technologies and exploiting their potential in order to create equitable and positive disruptive changes to a traditional education system. In terms of this definition I understand it as actively exploiting advancements in technology such as robots (Barreto & Benitti, 2019), social media (Chandler-Olcott & Mahar, 2003), Gaming development and coding (Gee, 2003), multimedia (O’Brien, 2001) and global search engines (Jansen, Spink, & Saracevic, 2000)
It's important to acknowledge that my context is unique and that it will look different to other schools. Robotics is a new and emerging digital technology that is impacting on the contemporary learning environment at Mayfair School.
Barreto & Benitti’s (2019) research found that there were positive outcomes for teaching concepts related to all areas of the school curriculum when robotics was introduced and note that rich learning happens when robotics is implemented into a classroom. Alimisis (2013) sees the emergence of robotics as a tool that will support creativity and other 21st-century learning skills and Cejka, Rogers & Portsmore (2006) summarise that robotics by nature incorporates mathematics, science, technology and engineering from New Entrants to Year 13. Barreto & Benitti (2019) believe more research is needed about how to use robotics to develop new skills in students. Johnson (2003) supports this by suggesting that if this research is proven then it needs to be incorporated into the curriculum. Furthermore Johnson (2003) warns that educators should be leading teacher inquiry into the longevity of robots and how this technology can be best exploited by schools, this being the case, only if schools can afford the technology. Even through there are endless possibilities of introducing robotics into the classroom Alimisis (2013) believes the networking of teachers is needed to support further integration of robots in education to convince teachers to actively take up robotics. “Children naturally latch onto robotics. Their teachers, however, may be more apprehensive” (Cejka, Rogers & Portsmore, 2006). Despite the hesitations towards robotics it is a “transformational tool for learning, computational thinking, coding, and engineering, all increasingly being viewed as critical ingredients of learning” (Eguchi, 2014).
Coding/Programming is a key part of robotics and a new emerging digital technology. Coding is the process of developing sets of instructions that enable robots to carry out tasks. A large number of learners from around the world have taken part in a project called “the Hour of Code”, that was designed for teachers and learners globally to spend one hour on coding a week (Code.org, 2019). The evidence from research conducted by Mikropoulos & Bellou (2013) found that coding teaching with educational robotics supported meaningful and authentic learning and promoted ongoing challenges, reflection and collaboration for learners. García-Peñalvo (2016) sees the learning of problem solving when learning coding as a key skill for learners to have in the digital age. While agreeing with this evidence García-Peñalvo, Maday & Reimann (2018) believe that coding is only the surface feature and believe that students must go deeper with learning around computational thinking rather than just learning the process of coding. Wing (2006) who coined the term computational thinking disagrees. According to Wing, computational thinking is about problem solving, creating simple systems and using simple concepts central to computer science. Coding is a tool to practice this computational thinking. Resnick (2013) sees a lack of coding software that allows for creativity and deeper computational thinking as the stumbling block for schools as the students need to go beyond putting simple patterns and sequences together and make tactile robots that are flawed with mistaken code in order to truly understand how coding works.
The evidence for using robotics and coding as emerging digital technologies in the classroom is positive with many links to the curriculum learning areas and student success. The factors holding this technology back are teacher mindsets, teacher capability and knowledge, a lack of research based evidence of success, a lack of research on implementation and the cost of a robot.
In order to grasp concepts of robotics and coding, teachers and students need to be digitally fluent. Digital fluency and digital literacy are not the same. The Ministry of Education (ND) uses definition of a digitally literate person as one who “knows how to use digital technologies and what to do with them” and a digitally fluent person as one who “can decide when to use specific digital technologies to achieve their desired outcome. They can articulate why the tools they are using will provide their desired outcome.”
The definition and frameworks of digital fluency are diverse and are woven with rephasing and similarities. White (2013) lists a set of topics students and teachers require in order to be digitally fluent. These topics are:
digital commons and copyright
history of the Internet
identity and privacy
safety and technology terms
(White, 2013, p.8)
White’s (2013) list is wide and varied in comparison to Miller and Bartlett (2012) who define digital fluency into 3 subheadings of:
Net-savviness, in which teachers and learners have an understanding of how the world wide web is used.
Critical evaluative techniques, where teachers and learners are able to challenge and check for accuracy of information on the world wide web.
Diversity, where teachers and learners are able to access information that has been gained from another source.
Core Education have provided some guidelines to schools in my Community of Learning and it paraphrases the research of Miller and Bartlett (2012). Core see a person who is digitally fluent as a combination of:
digital, or technical, proficiency: able to understand, select and use the technologies and technological systems
digital literacy: cognitive or intellectual competencies, which include being able to read, create, evaluate and make judgements and apply technical skills while doing so
social competence, or dispositional knowledge: the ability to relate to others and communicate with them effectively.
Miller and Bartlett (2012) closely aligns to the Ministry of Educations guidelines on what is required for a student to be digitally fluent:
knows where and how to find and access information quickly and accurately
can critique the relevance and accuracy of information being accessed
is an adept producer of digital content
can recognise and use the most effective methods of reaching their intended audience
understands and demonstrates how use digital technologies responsibly including – digital security (self-protection), copyright.
All of the models and frameworks share similarities and common themes but slightly differ to the amount of knowledge or skills required to be digitally fluent. White’s (2013) list of topics seem to be an endless consumption of skills and knowledge and a journey that would be too long to measure if a person is digitally fluent. At the other end of the scale Miller and Bartlett’s (2012) and Core Education’s (ND) heuristic list seems too small and lacks detail of what a digitally fluent person must be. The Ministry of Education’s expectations of someone who is digitally fluent is more concise than White (2013) and adds more detail than Miller and Bartlett (2012) and Core Education (ND). It is the simplicity and well thought out connection to New Zealand Schools that makes it the model that I like. In order to fit into my context I have redefined the skills that need to be a focus in order for teachers and learners to be digitally fluent from the Ministry of Educations guidelines:
Research - teachers and learners can find and access information quickly and accurately
Critical Thinking - teachers and learners can critique the relevance and accuracy of information being accessed
Presenting - teachers and learners can produce digital content on digital devices and can recognise and use the most effective methods and platforms of reaching their intended audience
Ethics - teachers and learners understand and demonstrate how to use digital technologies responsibly that include being digital safe and understanding copyright.
Digital technologies and digital fluencies within contemporary educational contexts is disruptive and challenges the very fabric of traditional school leadership. Digital technology has disestablished traditional models of schools and has created new challenges in the learning environment. Weber (2013) predicts a demise of the traditional charismatic leader and defines this leadership as one that has a leader influencing employees while inspiring loyalty and obedience. Mizra (2018) disagrees slightly in saying traditional leadership styles remain the same but the digital age requires that leader to appreciate and harness the online connected community and to make a meaningful contribution on this platform. Stanley (2017) identifies that leaders must be different in the digital age as it is transformative and disruptive and as we delve deeper into the digital age success will be determined by what leaders do at critical points that demand change. Stanley (2017) sees that traditional leadership of making strong decisions and having the power to make change as only being the beginning of leadership in the digital age. Sernack (2018) supports this by suggesting that leaders need to adapt, grow, learn and innovate in an instance that is in tune with the fast paced digital change and leaders need to adapt and grow their styles in order to be successful for their organisations. Kluz and Firlej (2016) best describe traditional skills of leadership as not being replaced but coexisting with new styles of leadership. This view is well supported by How, Hedberg and Stevenson (2014) who state that “successful leaders continue to identify and model best practice, transform school cultures and support the learning of teachers and students.”
Underpinning all the aforementioned research is that implementing digital technology and digital fluency requires leadership that is less hierarchical and more collaborative and leaders must have an obsession for attaining new knowledge and be open to change. Stanley (2017) resonated with me in my context and frames success for leaders leading digital technologies and digital fluencies as requiring a mix of styles:
Participative & inspirational styles of leadership to engage and cultivate people’s collective genius.
Pace setting style to develop connected teaching and learning through innovation.
Analytical style to see and solve problems to ensure consistent delivery of high quality teaching and learning.
In reflection of my own leadership I need to develop my analytical style. I often tend to focus on being a visionary to create a thriving school with a focus on the future where this time could be spent systematically having a closer look at our strategic plans and evaluations and making sure there is a high quality teaching and learning happening in the classroom.
Critically evaluate the integration of Digital Technologies into contemporary education that better enable culturally responsive practice.
Indigenous education systems aimed to meet similar expectations of today's education systems. Indigenous education systems were also focused on customs and culture knowledge that had been accumulated for the community to function successfully. The accumulated knowledge was systematically passed down from generation to generation from cultures such as First Nations of North America (Stolen Lives, 2018), Maori of New Zealand (Pihama,Smith, Taki, & Lee, 2004), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia (Korff, 2018) and Sami of Scandinavia (Jacobsen, 2011). Mariani (2004) fundamentally sees that there is a commonality in education systems but there is a discourse in how different cultures learn and how different cultures experience digital technology and digital fluency.
With the democratisation of knowledge, with the open access to it on world wide net, Sykes (2019) sees different cultures accessing knowledge where and when they require it but Mariani (2004) sees these different cultures accessing different information as each culture requires access to different knowledge for different needs. While the skills required for digital fluency would be similar across different cultures the experience would be different depending on the cultural learning style.
Access to learning digital fluency skills and digital technologies are very different for families that cannot afford technology or attend a school that embraces digital technologies, or supports the skills for a learner to become digitally fluent. This digital divide (Wardschuer, 2003) means that some are not experiencing digital fluency and digital technologies is non existent. Initiatives such as Manaiakalani and computers in homes that integrate digital technology as an enabler have been successful as they have had a focus on simple digital fluency skills and access to the world wide web (TKI, 2019). Wealthy philanthropists have funded projects to try and close the digital divide by funding digital projects such as putting digital technology into libraries or funding school computer suites (Clake and Dede, 2005). This type of contribution and investment has been labeled digital determinism. It is the belief that the presence of technology aims to develop new digital skills. Clarke and Dede (2005) call it a “fire model” in using the analogy that if you are cold you can sit by the fire to keep you warm but eventually that fire will burn out. Therefore there needs to be deeper learning of digital fluency in order to create deeper learning using new digital technologies.
Sykes (2019) identified that digital technologies have allowed the opportunity for cultures who have been marginalised to disengage from contemporary schooling and use self directed learning in the cloud to improve educational outcomes. Miller and Bartlett (2012) and White’s (2013) would argue that learners would require skills of digital fluency to harness the full learning potential of the digital technologies. In my own context of robotics I have seen the difference in student capability and the difference in students has been that the students with more digitally fluent skills have had the greater success.
Because the term culture includes popular culture, ethnicity, colour, class and religion, among others, there needs to be an approach that is culturally responsive when implementing digital fluency and digital technologies. In reflection of my project scope I believe that culturally responsive practice in leading, implementing and developing digital pedagogies lies in the action continuum (Step Up, ND). As part of the critical reflection in relation to digital fluencies and digital fluencies I believe the key lies in “Educating Self: Taking actions to learn more about oppression and the experiences and heritage of target group members by reading, attending workshops, seminars, cultural events, participating in discussions, joining organizations or groups that oppose oppression, attending social action and change events (Step Up, ND).” In doing this it allows for looking at the wider context of people within an organisation and understanding their cultural blessings and inherent capabilities (ka Hikitia, 2013) to best implement digital fluency skills and digital technologies respectfully.
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