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Enabling e-Learning forum: How can we foster digital fluency?

For the past several years the Ministry of Education has been dedicated to supporting schools with a large number of initiatives to helps schools and kura grow their e-capability. Looking to the future, the MoE has a vision for Lifelong Learners in a Connected World 2025 and has outlined a number of initiatives to help support this direction in this one-page PDF file, Towards Digital Fluency. One thing is clear, our students will need to be digital savvy and digitally literate; therefore schools need to foster digital fluency, so that students can thrive in a digital age.

Digital literacy and digital fluency defined


  • Digital literacy – A digitally literate person knows how to use digital technologies and what to do with them.
  • Digital fluency – A digitally fluent person can decide when to use specific digital technologies to achieve their desired outcome. They can articulate why the tools they are using will provide their desired outcome. Enabling e-Learning: Digital Fluency.

In this CORE blog post, What is Digital Fluency, Karen Spencer clarifies that digital fluency is broader than digital literacy. She writes,

“Being ‘digitally literate’ means acquiring the skills to make and create meaning, and select technologies to do so. Being fluent requires competencies and capabilities that go beyond the skill level. Someone who is digitally fluent not only selects tools and knows what to do with them, but can explain why they work in the way they do and how they might adapt what they do if the context were to change.”

In this Edtalks video, Esther Casey explains that digital literacy and fluency is; being aware, navigating, making meaning and being critical of digital content from social media to research articles - being able to contribute, being collaborative, making the most of the diverse perspectives to strengthen your own learning, making new knowledge in authentic contexts (ethically).

EDtalks: What does digital literacy look like?

What does this mean for schools?


Esther also explains the challenge for us as educators is to understand the environment for ourselves and know what we do and how they can contribute to the on-going building of new knowledge. CORE Ten Trends Digital fluency has some further suggestions for where to begin:

  • align to the principles of the New Zealand Curriculum, TMOA and Te Whāriki
  • draw on a range of values that are inclusive and enable young people to become confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners
  • be embedded in learning in each of the learning areas
  • be supported by effective pedagogy.

Another key consideration is to ensure that our students (and ourselves) model appropriate actions online as successful digital citizenship, including:

  • understanding where knowledge comes from, assessing the validity (trustworthiness, accuracy)
  • knowing when and how to process/use this information (intellectual property rights, plagiarism)

Digital citizenship and technology use

 Enabling e-Learning digital fluency school stories

What does this mean for your learning community? We invite you to take the challenge and choose one of the following to respond to in the discussion box below.

• A brief explanation for why we should foster digital fluency


• An example or resource to share, showing how you are developing/modelling digital literacy in your school/kura

Once you have responded, download your own community challenge badge for your profile page. Are you up for it? smiley


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  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 04 Nov 2016 11:43am ()

    I am writing here so I will get notifications of other people's fabulous ideas around what they think of to foster and enhance digital fluency.

    As an example I see many people contribute to the 'closed' Primary Teachers Facebook Group. In reading and contributing to it we can see they are indeed somewhat digitally literate- they are on Facebook (a PLN of sorts), able to remember a password or have their device remember it for them and are willing to contribute to a discussion.

    Sadly though that is where it ends for some as they then engage in poor behaviour as they don't fully grasp the potential view and reach of the platform and ask or share totally inappropriate material.

    Or the see a resource that is stolen that they like and quite fancy a copy of. Or legitimately want to share a resource but require people to individually email and ask for a copy. Or see a resource and don't have the capacity to bookmark it so then have to ask again for someone to repost it as they can't find it again.

    Digital fluency is a goal for each of us the lines blur between the 'real' and the 'virtual'.

  • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 04 Nov 2016 5:10pm ()

    You make an interesting point of how differently people use digital tools differently, Allanah. In some sense Digital Literacy and Digital Fluency remind me of the SAMR model; I would imagine that the kind of online interactions you are describing are at a substitution or maybe augmentation level, not transformative. And to a certain degree that's how I have been viewing the term 'Digital Fluency' since I first came across it, transformative, and a step up from literacy.

    I (still) love the Golden Circle approach of why-how-what which I try to follow in a lot of what I do, and I find it quite interesting how in this case Digital Literacy uses the How and What, but Digital Fluency the Why and in addition the When (something I hadn't paid particular attention to previously). Are we at the stage now (finally) where we are seriously considering the why? As Oliver Quinlan said so well:

    It took me a long time to work out that when you start out with Why, the What and How largely take care of themselves. They become obvious and straightforward when you have the confidence you get by knowing and consciously defining Why you are doing things.

    I like the fact that we can use two terms to describe different levels of digital though the terms probably need to be accompanied by their definitions to help with clarity. However, what does it look like?

    In my mind, a digitally literate educator will know how to use technology to access resources, to create resources, (hopefully) to share them (legally). They will know how to get students to complete a task using technology, to show their learning, connect them with others.

    A digitally fluent educator would be able to tell you why they do this (e.g. learning with and from each other, give and take, tuakana - teina), they would know when to use or share (creative commons?) and when and through what platform to create best learning opportunities for themselves and others.

    Yes, we can all get into the last minute panic of needing a resource then and there (especially when we are new to a topic / year level etc.), but, probably like you, I get annoyed when I read posts that ask again and again for often last minute help when there might be better places to get resources from.

    On a side note, after some online abstinence I have to say I find the online education world in NZ quite changed, I am missing some of the rich discussions and resource sharing sessions we have had. Some of the platforms frequented by teachers are less, some are more helpful in providing us with transformative digital learning experiences, and that's where fluency and the ability to pick right place and right time definitely come in to play.

    Maybe I'm completely on the wrong track? Let me know :) Looking forward to reading more posts in this discussion.


  • CatWooller (View all users posts) 04 Nov 2016 5:58pm ()

    Thanks Allanah,  Monika and Tessa for this discussion,

     I have been pondering over the term digital fluency for a while now. I like that analogy you used Monika to SAMR, that really helps to clarify this for us.  At my school we have focused on developing the use of etools by staff and students.  In the classes with our early adopting teachers we are starting to look at the which tool you choose and why but not in a very planned way.  

    I believe for many of our students tasks early on need to get students using a range of specifically identified tools for certain tasks.  Many students in years 11-13 still have resistance around technology and so they need experience in using tools to gain confidence before given the opportunity to make choices around which tool to use and why.  Over the past few years, teachers have provided digital options in assessments, however these were rarely chosen in classes where etools weren't used regularly.  This will not be the case in the coming years as the year 9 students arriving have already developed some skill sets around using etools.  

    Basically what I'm saying is that this landscape is changing fast and we need to respond to that quite quickly as educators in a number of ways, firstly to develop as many digital skills as possible in our older more resistant students and secondly to ensure our junior programs are progressing the skills students are coming in with, as well as providing opportunities for,students to have to select tools appropriate for tasks.

    In terms of this last part, I often see these starting to occur in more PBL type activities where students are navigating their way and finding tools to solve their communication/project needs.  Design thinking, PBL's, passion projects are all good options for developing digital fluencies then.

    Just a few thoughts on the topic!


  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 09 Nov 2016 10:19am ()

    First off, thanks Allanah, Monika and Cat - always a pleasure and of course, make sure you download the following badge of honor (to your profile page) for contributing!

    Your posts have got me thinking. We often jump into what this means for students, - and they’re getting pretty savvy in their own ways, so yes if we’re advocating one thing and not modelling it ourselves, they’ll soon see through that.

    I once presented to a group of teachers on the elements of successful Digital Citizenship and one discussion was around the material we use – mainly images in Google. Most teachers could tell me they used these frequently and encouraged their students too as well, but couldn’t tell me where the images came from or whether there was an ownership issue or not – ie: license to use or share or Creative Commons. They were mostly unaware of advanced search (browser setting) to download images to use or reuse with permissions. Like Monika says, teachers are at different stages of knowing, understanding and doing (SAMR).

    So, with your thoughts Allanah, I’m wondering if we’ve focused on the students and forgotten to upskill ourselves? We all know how to use Facebook, but do we know about copyright and digital plagiarism? Where could we a href="mailto:

    Monika you have run with the focus on us as educators, and I am loving how you’ve reminding us to continue to focus on the 'why'. In my story above some teacher didn’t know why they’d need permissions for images if they're ‘right in front of us when we search’. #more teachable moments

    Also Monika, your comments about how discussions have changed online is a very relevant one. There are rich korero in the Enabling e-Learning community groups when the focus has been timely, targeted, community-driven and facilitated; and while the interactions have slowed in the wider VLN, there are also a lot of online analytics showing us that there an increased amount of people viewing and staying longer on pages to read those threaded posts.

    We hope we’ve created a safe space for teachers and educators (who are often parents too) to have a say, have an opinion, where energies flow and our minds can be challenged and expanded through conversation. So I’d also love to see more educators dive in, click on the LIKE buttons or be really brave and add to the conversations. EG I’ve just commented back to Gretchen Cocks who has helped to clarify some collaborative inquiry processes. I wouldn’t have been able to have this conversation with Gretchen if a) we weren’t in here or b) she hadn’t had been brave enough to share with us all. Hopefully this is timely and relevant for many more people too.

    Cat your observations around the 'changing students' are very relevant too. Steve Bargh (NZQA) was discussing the very same thing yesterday when he shared the changes in digital assessment practices from NZQA. He also said that our young people are becoming more savvy and will eventually walk with their feet if tertiary institutions are not going to be responsive and utilise technologies to blend and personalise learning for them. Tertiary students simply won’t pay for it – and for some they’ll hack the content instead.

    So, yes we need to empower our students and teachers to understand when and why we'd use certain tools, how we'd used them appropriately and know why we'd be using them at all. It might be as simple as giving students guidance like, When you choose to present your project (passion, problem based or other) tell us why you thought it was the best tool to use (or not).” No point writing a song when you needed a database instead.

    I'm now going to wait for more teachers to come and play with us....smiley

    Also see:

    Enabling e-Learning Digital Citizenship resources

  • Margaux Hlavac (View all users posts) 11 Nov 2016 9:14pm ()

    Hi all, I've just watched the discussion with Steve Bargh and it's all very interesting. I am an English teacher in a large co-ed school, which has trialed e-learning over the last 4 years with this year our school going fully BYOD, it has been a steep learning curve for staff and students alike. The early adopters - both students and staff - are generous in sharing strategies, apps and innovations. The diversification in how students can demonstrate and extend their learning is really exciting!

    This year I've worked alongside students creating screencasts to record their responses to texts or craft and create spoken texts, creating short films to demonstrate their film knowledge, collaborating on research tasks that explore their individual interests and assist them to develop critical reading skills, to name a few. Some of the gains are quiet and small but profoundly valuable for the student - such as one with severe anxiety and scripting difficulties, for whom voice-to-text software gives access to an articulate intelligence. For me, voice recorded feedback on work back to students conveys a warmth that takes so much longer to write, and quiet in class students are asking questions by voice recording comments that they would be too inhibited to ask in class. In terms of digital citizenship, I am seeing students articulate their ideas in a respectful, insightful manner, in collaborative documents that support the face to face teaching and learning in the classroom.

    I think that the journey that our staff is on is no different to the journey of a broad banded classroom - some keen and self driven, some anxious to face change and unsure of what works - so the challenge of leading e-learning in our schools is about how to enable the diversity of our staff to see the benefits to the students and to themselves, and to find the tools that work. Transforming pedagogy is key - backwards mapping from the skills we want our 21st Century learners (and ourselves included!) to have, and being willing to take some risks in the classroom to experiment with new strategies. 

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