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Digital fluency and digital skills across the curriculum

What does digital fluency mean and, more importantly, what does it mean for teaching and learning? Tim Gander and David Parsons discuss this topic.
(funky music)
<v ->Welcome to this session where we’re going to be talking</v> about digital fluency, a term that you may be familiar with, along with some other very similar sounding terms, and that could be a little bit confusing, isn’t that right, Tim? <v ->Yes, it can be a confusing area</v> since there are so many similar terms, ranging from digital proficiency, digital competency, digital literacy, digital fluency, and digital wisdom even. What do they all mean? Does it even matter which term we use when we’re trying to explain the type of skills that people will need the feel at home in the digital world?
It will be hard to find a definition of terms that are universally agreed with, but we’d like to use the term digital fluency because it’s generally defined as a more developed set of digital skills than, for example, digital proficiency, which tend to imply a minimal set of capabilities, like passing a driving test, perhaps. Mitch Resnick, the man behind the Scratch programming language for education compares digital fluency to becoming more fluent in a language, speaking like a native, as it were.
He also says that it’s important for us to be able to not only be able to read the world of digital technology, be consumers of it, but also to be able to write, and to be able to create with it, too. So Dave, how might we define digital fluency in a way that provides us with a useful roadmap with what we wanted to achieve as ourselves and as our learners? <v ->Well, Tim, I think a good starting point is to think</v> about digital fluency as being something that integrates with other 21st century skills.
For example, being creative with digital tools, thinking critically about the advantages, disadvantages of different tools and different contexts, and selecting the right tool for the right job, using digital tools for problem solving and working collaboratively with others, including those who might be physically remote from you. One thing to remember is I guess that all the 21st century skills are actually mediated these days through technology. So, when we talk about skills like creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and so on, all of these were important skills before the advent of digital technologies, but now these technologies bring all of these skills to a whole new level, open up opportunities that were kind of previously hard to imagine.
So, how can we define digital fluency in ways that can guide us in teaching and learning? So, one thing we could take from the SAMR Model is the idea of transformation. The SAMR Model explains how technology can be used in education at four incremental levels, substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition, hence S-A-M-R, SAMR. The last two of these are grouped together as transformation as opposed to enhancement for the first two, which is to say in education we sometimes use technology in ways that don’t really disrupt that kind of normal process and practice of teaching and learning.
So, in a traditional teaching context, students can sit quietly at their desks, writing an essay on their laptop, you know, as their parents might’ve done years before with a pen and paper. This sort of limited use of digital technology has got advantages of course, in terms of ease of say correction and sharing, for example. So, in some ways it can enhance that learning experience, but it doesn’t really in any way transform that experience to open up new possibilities for learning. So, in terms of the digital world, it requires some basic competencies to use a word processor, but kind of no more.
On the other hand, if we use digital tools to create learning activities that would have been impossible before those technologies existed, then we can look to transform education, to take full advantage of digital technologies, and better prepare learners for the world of their present and their future, and that would require that digital fluency we’re talking about.
<v ->So, an example of that redefinition could be</v> a group of students creating a virtual tour of somewhere which they hold special to themselves, and then sharing that with another group of students across the other side of the world who would have shared their own tour of their own local area, and then perhaps meeting up synchronously online, beaming into each other’s countries to talk about the significance of the area and what it means to them. I mean, that’d be a completely new experience that you couldn’t have had without these digital tools, and perhaps virtual worlds.
So, activities like that leverage digital fluencies that involve collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity, and levels of cultural competence which wouldn’t have been able to weave together on such a large scale without the use of that technology, and a certain level of digital fluency. For sure. <v ->So, our challenge for you is</v> for both you and your students to become digitally fluent together. (funky music)

Next-generation learners demand a change in the curriculum to better equip them with the necessary skills for a world that grows ever more digital.

In the video, we discuss what digital fluency means and more importantly unpack this and related terms in ways that can guide us towards transformational teaching and learning using the SAMR model.

SAMR model - this model shows 4 layers of technology use in education: substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition. The first two are grouped as "enhancement" and the second two as "transformation"

Image by Lefflerd, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The SAMR model was developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura and disseminated through Apple education initiatives. It is a very simple layered model of ways that technology can be integrated into teaching and learning.

There are 4 stages in the model including

  • SUBSTITUTION – Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change.

  • AUGMENTATION – Technology still acts as a direct tool substitute, but with functional improvements.

  • MODIFICATION – Tech allows for significant task redesign

  • REDIFINITION – Tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable

The first two stages represent enhancements of existing ways of working, whereas the last two stages are about transformation in terms of student learning, as the technology is actively helping to transform the way in which learning can occur.

Consider one of the ways that you currently or recently use(d) technology in your practice – where would you place that activity on the SAMR model? Share your brief explanation in the comment section below.
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