To be fluent in anything is to generally be able to do something well. Thus, digital fluency entails proficiency in using multiple digital technologies. This is an essential skill to acquire in the 21st century, considering entire lives today are embedded in new technology. The internet, emails, computer games, mobile phones and social media are integral parts of everyday life, and learning to use these technologies begins both at home and in the classroom at a very young age. The outcome of being digitally fluent relates to issues of responsibility, equity and access. Working fluently in using technologies allows for safety online and the ability to participate in life opportunities, such as being able to apply for work, manage finances, as well as contributing to being part of the local community (Spencer, 2015).
There are many studies on both digital literacy and digital fluency, and these terms have
historically been used interchangeably. However, the two terms have very different meanings. Digital literacy is a skill, while digital fluency is a characteristic. The former indicates that a person knows how to use digital technologies and what to do with them, while the latter is more broad and encompasses being digitally literate. A digitally fluent person can decide when to use specific digital technologies to achieve their desired outcome. Additionally, they can articulate why the tools they are using will provide their desired outcome (Te Keti Ipurangi [TKI], n.d.).
A number of skills are required in order to function in the globally connected society of the 21st century. As well as the more traditional skills of literacy and numeracy, students must also be able to acquire such skills as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and collaboration, all of which are important in the digital age (White, 2013, p. 4). The Australian Curriculum, which is guided by the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, identifies eight areas of curriculum and seven general capabilities; Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) fits into both of these areas and is highlighted as an important skill to obtain in order for students to participate in a “technologically sophisticated society both now and in the future” (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], n.d.).
Developing digital fluency in students requires the student to be exposed to the mixture of technologies available in order to build their skills and expand their digital experiences (Howell, 2013, p. 147). This can include using such technologies as word processing, spreadsheets, animation, advanced web-searching, podcasting, presentation software, blogging, web 2.0 (social networking), making a video or movie, publishing and designing a web page (Howell, 2013). For example, the animation software Scratch could be used in the classroom, which allows the students to code their own interactive stories, animations or games. In doing so, the students learn to think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively. An example of a very basic Scratch animation that was developed within the time frame of a class session, is attached below.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (n.d.). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability. Retrieved from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/information-and-communication-technology-capability/introduction/introduction
Christian. (2011, February 5). [Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.socialens.com/blog/2011/02/05/the-difference-between-digital-literacy-and-digital-fluency/
Howell, J. (2013). Teaching with ICT: Digital Pedagogies for Collaboration and Creativity. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Spencer, K. (2015, October). What is digital fluency? [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://blog.core-ed.org/blog/2015/10/what-is-digital-fluency.html
Te Keti Ipurangi (TKI). (n.d.). Digital Fluency. Retrieved from: http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Teaching/Digital-fluency
White, G. (2013). Digital fluency: Skills necessary for learning in the digital age. Melbourne: ACER. Retrieved from: http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=digital_learning