Digital Literacies

Before we answer what are Digital Literacies in my context, lets start at the beginning.

For me, the beginning was at an orientation session next to a veteran teacher. I was teaching a computer based class in a computer lab at the time and every class was filled to the brim with content. After mentioning how I had no idea how to fit in three hours of content into one class, let alone help students understand how to use their computers, the software, and solve theoretical problems, he looked at me and said “take them outside”. His suggestion was to take the students to the park area outside, sit and talk, get to know them, and lay the foundation for the course.

Because many of my classes are tied to a computer, more so now that I am delivering HyFlex courses, going outside is not possible. But the idea of getting to know students, their technical abilities, comfort level using technology and scaffolding the approach to the course stuck with me. Even if a student needs help to catch up, the courses I now teach are designed to transition them into the new material without being held back by a gap in knowledge or unfamiliarity with technology.

Another student I think of often started a course saying “I am middle aged and coming back to school as an mature student. I have never used a computer and am uncomfortable with technology”. Before the class began we talked about the barriers he was facing, and found a way forward. It may have been more work, and getting used to some unfamiliar ways of doing things, but by the end of the semester, this student had the highest marks in the entire class.

Of course this is always not the case, and it is important to realize that not only are the classes I teach filled with complicate (some students would say boring) material like stats and data analysis, there is an underlying layer of technological ability that takes some upgrading. Not knowing something, or getting into a new and unfamiliar subject makes some students nervous or fearful, particularly when it is numbers or math related.

I am fortunate that there are resources on campus (such as the Learning Center) where students can go to get help. I often need this type of help myself and am a fixture at the Teaching and Learning Hub trying to figure new things out. I found it ironic the other day that even though I am a computer power user, I was getting a lesson on how to deal with my endless stream of incoming email. I think it’s important to appreciate that we are all both learners and instructors, and can’t know everything. Appreciating the struggle some students go through with technology helps to take a step back and figure out how to make the material more understandable, approachable, and come packaged with some background context so they can get involved and confident in their abilities.

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