I came through a tortuous path to the role of Adviser in Digital Literacy in the Information and Learning Services Department. In the past I was a: Senior Lecturer in Health Informatics, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery, Midwifery Sister, Staff Midwife, Nurse, Secretary, Bars Manager. I would have liked to be a jeweller and silversmith but of course there is always retirement for that 🙂
Why write about digital literacy – well for one thing it’s part of my job, for another it is very closely connected with my interest in Virtual Worlds and their use in education, healthcare and lifelong learning (and of course my previous work in SL). I think the biggest and best reason for writing about digital literacy though is to try to understand it more fully – where it’s come from where it’s going and what other people have said about it along the way. If this interests you too, please do join in.
I’ve been pondering about the definition of digital literacy for a long time. Not that I knew at first that “it” was called digital literacy – it was just some vague feeling that people weren’t getting it quite right when they talked about IT and information skills (as it was known then) – it felt as though something was missing. It wasn’t until I did my masters in Health Informatics that it all started to make sense. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t suddenly have some sort of blinding insight! I just started to be far more aware of the effects of culture, values and emotions on how people use technologies (whether old or new). I also started to identify just how much the technologies we use affect not just how we work but how we live and even view ourselves. You may all say this was pretty silly of me ‘cos Marshall McLuhan had written about all of this in the sixties and seventies. Well I’d heard of some of that stuff and naively discussed it way into the night along with existentialism, marxist theory and the beauty of the Harley Davidson 🙂 You can see why it hadn’t really sunk in.
Since the debate on a definition for Digital Literacy began, I think that was about six years ago, it has been interesting to watch how different organisations and governments have chosen to express their understanding of the term. I quite like this idea from Davies and Merchant (2009), “we therefore see digital literacy as a set of social practices that are interwoven with contemporary “ways of being” (p83). Probably a little too short for most people but for me the mention of social practices fits well with my own conceptions of “work, rest and play”, and then “ways of being” (such a familiar term) connects so well with the deeper values that influences us, frequently without our awareness.
Davies J and Merchant G (2009) Chapter 5 Negotiating the Blogosphere, Educational Possibilities in Digital Literacies: Social Learning and Classroom Practices (Eds) Victoria Carrinton and Muriel Robinson, Sage Publications Ltd, London