Charting Digital Literacy: A Framework for Information Technology and Digital Skills Education in the Community College

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Conference paper presented at Innovations 2012, League of Innovation in the Community College. By Jeremy Riel, Sonya Christian, and Brad Hinson.This paper discusses the digital literacy categorization work by Lane Community College (Eugene, OR) in 2011-2012. To begin a comprehensive review of the college's offerings in digital literacy, first the concept of "digital literacy" had to be defined. ABSTRACTThe understanding of information technologies and past efforts to assess, improve, and correlate technology skills with student success have sometimes been limited by a lack of an interdisciplinary approach or consideration of the unique needs of community college student and staff populations. This study identifies core literacy areas of digital technologies by synthesizing a comprehensive review of the digital and technology literacies literature within the education, policy, technology studies, media studies, and communications disciplines. To guide further research of technology education within the community college, a framework to assess digital literacy skills within the community college environment is proposed and discussed.

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<p>Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills education in the community collegeJeremy Riel, Georgetown University Primary Investigator jjr88@georgetown.edu - (541) 513-1293 Sonya Christian, Lane Community College Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs christians@laneccedu (541) 463-5302 Brad Hinson, Lane Community College Division Dean, Instructional Technology hinsonb@lanecc.edu - (541) 463-3377 Related website: www.techliterate.org A project sponsored by Lane Community College Eugene, Oregon www.lanecc.edu Presented at Innovations 2012 (March 2012) Philadelphia, PA. hosted by the League for Innovation in the Community College</p> <p>AbstractThe understanding of information technologies and past efforts to assess, improve, and correlate technology skills with student success have sometimes been limited by a lack of an interdisciplinary approach or consideration of the unique needs of community college student and staff populations. This study identifies core literacy areas of digital technologies by synthesizing a comprehensive review of the digital and technology literacies literature within the education, policy, technology studies, media studies, and communications disciplines. To guide further research of technology education within the community college, a framework to assess digital literacy skills within the community college environment is proposed and discussed.</p> <p>Digital literacy, community college, technology education, information technology, ITC, STEM</p> <p>Keywords</p> <p>1. IntroductionDialogue within the education industry is filled with calls emphasizing a renewed effort toward technology and STEM training within K-12 and higher education institutions, urged by not only school or college administrators, but also by political leaders, economics experts, andCharting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college. 1</p> <p>community members. In todays knowledge economy, it is often stated that hope for growth, innovation, and the ability to compete will come from a workforce that is highly skilled in technology. The imperative for increased technology education and understanding is apparent more than ever in todays popular and academic literature. This call is not simply for an increased interest among students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but also a broad understanding across disciplines, including those in the social sciences and the arts, of the information technologies and processes that control the machines and networks with which our society shares information globally on a daily basis. Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff emphasizes that this dependency on technology within career and daily life can even lead to a new class of haves and have-nots. He urges for the education of broad technology skills and understanding with his maxim that people need to program or be programmed, or that one must know how the machines operate or risk being programmed to the whim of other programmers (Rushkoff, 2011). As such, new research and methodologies in the areas of comprehensive digital literacy, technology education for all, and foundational technology education has increasingly appeared in the last two decades. Higher education, especially community colleges, have been experiencing record enrollment and applications since the global economic downturn starting in 2007. More students than ever before are returning to college to prepare for new careers and learn new technology skills that will allow them to succeed in this information-based economy. Students attending community colleges nationwide exhibit a wide diversity of digital technology skills due to the college movements inclusive mission to serve students openly from a variety of backgrounds, technical experiences, and levels of technology access. Ostensibly, this appears to be related to generational differences within colleges with which this study will not attempt to address. The exploration of this digital divide often compares digital natives, or young people who grew up during the age of the commercial Internet, Facebook, and Web 2.0, with those of other generations, including Generation X, Gen-Y, the Baby Boomers, and others. To make matters more confusing for students, other factors such as the merging of aspects of real life with life in the virtual and the multi-modal communication platforms available today have complicated digital relations in our society further in what Jenkins calls convergence culture (Jenkins, 2008). Life and literacy is not simply paper, pen, and voice any longer: it involves Tweets, status updates, email, texting, mobile, geotagging, prezis, podcasts, wikis, blogs, vlogs, and a host of other multimedia communication options. One of the greatest challenge for educators in todays digitally mediated school is perhaps simply identifying these new tools themselves and knowing that they exist in the first place so that they can be included as part of the curriculum. Despite the growing volume of digital and new literacies research, there is little community-college specific literature. In fact, there is a dearth of studies that focus on the higher education environment as a whole. In addition, much of the digital literacy and technology skills literature was written before 2006, after which an explosion of Web 2.0 and other highly networked derivative technologies have been released. This rapid development has undoubtedly impacted the ways by which people communicate and relate to one another. To summarize the body of work in digital literacy classification and measure, few digital skill assessments and technology education studies have been performed within higher education contexts within the last five years. Much of the recent work focuses on K-12 technology training to prepare future generations for the workforce. Assessment within K-12 is an essential task, indeed, but an effort to study the impact of new literacies and technology education within higher education is equally important, especially with large numbers of adults and returning students attending college todayCharting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college. 2</p> <p>to gain new technology skills and prepare for new careers in the knowledge economy. This study attempts to contribute to this literature need by proposing a list of digital literacies and technology education objectives for use within the community college learning environment. A framework like this can be used to test assumptions of digital skills of students of various demographics, the skills of instructors, and correlation between skills and curricula, teaching methods, institutional factors, and disciplines. Research Questions The impetus for this study emerged from the lack of a clear set of guidelines, standards, rubric, or other framework by which to measure digital literacy, technology education efficacy, or technology skills. In addition, to best analyze the effectiveness of digital technology education, it was also important to identify many of the technology skills in existence today that are either demanded within academia or the global knowledge economy, environments for which the community college seeks to empower their students to have the requisite technology skills, regardless of their chosen discipline, background, or career choice. While this study seeks to develop a comprehensive list of technologies and competencies related to digital literacy, it is likely that no standardized list can ever be completely formed. This is largely due to the interpretive nature of technology and its perceived importance by many groups. Instead, this research collects the best information available and synthesizes it in a manner that helps to stimulate the discussion of technology education and provides a starting framework from which to conduct future research. As such, the following questions guided this study: 1) What technologies and functionalities exist today within the global information economy and how are they used? 2) What is digital literacy and what should students know? How has this changed from traditional literacy and core skills? 3) How do digital literacy and technology skills differ among educational levels (K-12, community college, four-year university) and student groups (transfer, career/technical, remedial, returning)?</p> <p>2. Literature ReviewDigital Literacy Explored Paul Gilster first mentioned the notion of digital literacy in his mid-90s volume of the same name (Gilster, 1997). Defined for this research, digital literacy is the ability to efficiently and accurately use digital information technologies and the information retrieved from them in a variety of contexts, such as academic, career, or daily life. In other words, digital literacy is both knowing how to use technologies in todays world as well as how to retrieve, use, and analyze information that digital media provides. In his text, Gilster suggests that digital literacy would be an increasingly important skill in the new millennium with the growing reliance on informationCharting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college. 3</p> <p>technologies, global communications and information networks, and the then-nascent World Wide Web. Within his essential skills for digital savvy, he stressed the importance in critical thinking as well as the ability to identify the strengths of different types of information, retrieve information from a variety of sources, and assemble it in a way that is useful and efficient. The idea for new technology literacies was not unique to Gilster, however. According to a historical review of digital literacy by Bawden, the idea of digital skills and information literacies dated before Gilster in the form of a variety of names, such as information literacy, information and communication technology (ICT) literacies, electracy (Ulmer, 2003), media literacy and education, computer literacy and computational thinking (Bawden, 2008). Another related field of study that expands these new literacies by exploring the technological, social, and communicative effects of digital technology skills and their inextricable connection today to information retrieval and use, critical thinking, and decisionmaking. In effect, a variety of new literacies have emerged as a consequence of the convergence of digital information technology and traditional notions of literacy and communication. Many authors have contributed to this field that expands past the sole exploration of technology skill acquisition and use (Gee, 2009; Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, 2009; Lankshear &amp; Knobel, 2003; Petrina, 2000; Warschauer, 2007). James Gee discusses this need to also look at the social, cultural, identity, and situated aspects of technology use, new media platforms, and new digital literacy, stating that reading and writing should be viewed not only as mental achievements going on inside people's heads, but also as social and cultural practices with economic, historical, and political implications (Gee, 2007). Since digital literacy is an extension of the traditional notion of literacy, i.e., the ability to communicate and process information through speech, reading, and writing, new literacies are an extension of traditional literacy. Because of this, it is likely that those who struggle with traditional literacies in their native spoken language will find digital literacy elements difficult to comprehend and master as they use the same codified language and integrate a complex set of digital rules and tools that are required to retrieve and process information (Jenkins, 2006). The digitization of our information and the merging of real and digital lives have created a complex array of skills that are now required to participate in this computer-mediated environment and to understand the consequences and interpret the contexts of how information is displayed, stored, and captured (Armstrong, 2008; Jones-Kavalier &amp; Flannigan, 2006; Moore, 2010; Street, 1995; Volk, 2011). In light of the fact that almost even the most basic of communication and information retrieval tasks today are mediated by a computer or electronic device in some way, it is important to include in any analysis of digital literacy skills related to information retrieval and analysis. The two concepts of digital tool use and data are inextricably tied now that almost any form of information can be captured and stored in a database for retrieval and processing later. It is also important to consider factors of social interaction and communication, fundamental knowledge of technology and engineering processes and structure, and the sometimes more ethereal, but unavoidable concepts such as critical thinking skills and value judgment. Charting Learning Objectives Since it has been determined that digital skills are a must-have, efforts to document and identify these skills have appeared in the literature over the last twenty years. Documenting learning objectives and skill benchmarks dates back to Blooms famous taxonomy of learning objectives, and later the revised taxonomy (Anderson &amp; Krathwohl, 2000).The BloomsCharting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college. 4</p> <p>Taxonomy identified and detailed specific thinking skills and actions with which a student would gain as they gained mastery in a subject area. These objectives were provided as a framework with which to construct course curricula and pedagogical tools. Within the Bloom framework, a students first objective was basic knowledge acquisition that would transition into analysis and decision making skill. After learning how to synthesize information within a domain, the students highest-order learning objective would be to create and contribute further through projects that synthesize and manipulate information, concepts, and theories within the domain. While the Bloom Taxonomy or its subsequent revised edition by Anderson &amp; Krathwohl did not necessarily include information technology or digital tools, it provided a starting model for future frameworks to be discussed and developed. With the increase in education research and the inclusion of interdisciplinary practices in studies of learning over the last 20 years, it became evident that the Bloom Taxonomy was not uni-directional. Students within a domain could learn and master the high-order thinking and objectives before they acquired even what was considered basic knowledge, or employ multiple learning objectives at the same time for a more robust learning experience (Trilling &amp; Fadel, 2009). As more research regarding the need and effects of technology education and digital skills began to emerge in the literature, multipl...</p>