The Lede: Wise Digital Capabilities & Challenges for Teaching (summer reflections)
“Digital literacy” provokes yawns because it seems to be old news that everyone knows what it mean. (Does everyone really?) The Digital Capabilities framework from JISC offers a new way of thinking about the digital challenges implicit in teaching every subject in this university. How can our students (and faculty) thrive long-term in an evolving digital environment?
JISC is a UK non-profit that supports digital research, resources, and advising for higher education. Its updated digital capabilities framework refines previous thinking from 2010 and 2014 to support curricula, faculty and staff development, organizational consensus, and to signpost opportunities for scholars, practitioners, and planners.
Six digital capabilities are built upon the first: ICT or information & computer technology proficiency: confident selection, use, and adaptation of digital services and applications to achieve complex tasks. Think: Word, PowerPoint, Blackboard, WebAdvisor, and texting, but build upon that: a productive understanding of how digital technology is altering tasks and practices at work, home, and in public life. But this is barely a start.
On the basis of ICT proficiency and productivity, the second capability is critical use of information, data, and media: the abilities of find, organize, evaluate and curate a wide range of “incoming” (or “downloading”) digital data, information, and media. The third capability is creative digital production, problem-solving, and innovation: “out-going” (or “uploading”) evidence and practices to solve problems, answer questions, contribute scholarship, and develop new digital practices.
The fourth capability is digital participation: communication and collaboration. This is more than “uploading:” it emphasizes the ability to collaborate, work in groups and teams, and building digital networks and the intellectual and social interactions that utilize them. The fifth capability is closely related: digital development and learning: both the ability to learn and teach others in digitally-rich frameworks and contexts, including pro-active peer learning, assessment, and pedagogy.
The final and arguably most important capability is digital identity and well-being: managing personal health, safety, reputation, work-life balance, and identities in digital contexts. This is a challenge for both teachers and students: the long-term personal challenges of recent, short-term innovations.
These capabilities are implicit in teaching every subject in this university: this is not just “library skills” or even “information literacy skills,” but long-term capabilities to thrive and sustain productive work and life in a digital environment: a digital personal ecology. For librarians, many of these capabilities map to the habits, skills, and dispositions identified and advocated in the ACRL Information Literacy Framework (2016).
Many of these capabilities and concerns were implicit in the recent apprehension of the “Golden State Killer” (Joseph DeAngelo) using digital sleuthing through DNA matching, tracing genealogy, and collating information gleaned from many digital sources that did not exist when he was active 1974-1986. The legal questions only scratch the the six capabilities and management (or mis-management) of digital identities. The recent revelations of the extent and reach of digital personal information gleaned by Facebook, Google, and other surveillance corporations give one pause for thought.
This is the future for which we are preparing our students. These capabilities (for better or worse) combined with opportunities and threats from robotics and artificial intelligence (see the book reviews in this newsletter) will determine a great deal about their future well-being.