This reflection was inspired by our discussions in the group and partly co-authored with Jonas Widtfelter. It stems from an attempt to figure out the push for digital literacy across the board.
The pressures to develop and become digital literate are regulated both by contextual and personal factors. In an increasingly networked world, digital literacy is fast becoming a prerequisite for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship and without it citizens can neither participate fully in society nor acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to live in the 21st century” (European Commission, 2003, p. 3, cit. in Murray & Pérez, 2014, p. 89).
This means that, being competent to use ICT and the Internet is becoming a key performance indicator of individuals. However, Hartley and colleagues (2008: 57) propose that “digital literacy is generated by its uses, not by a body of knowledge or ‘critical’ values” which implies that the specifics of
digital literacy is contingent not only on the “the world’s context” but rather informed by individuals, organizations, and institutions. In the context of academia, lecturers interact with contextual stressors that signal the need to “keep up with the times.” These signals relate not only the need to perform digitally in the world at large, but also to keep up with students’
knowledge, and to use all the digital tools we are required to use (such as online learning platforms, digital exams, scheduling systems, etc). Add into the mix a global pandemic that pushes teaching online and the contextual pressure to become digital literate in higher education is almost a necessity (Santos & Serpa, 2017).
As these contextual factors materialize, it is at the individual level that are internalized. A digitized world creates expectations in its citizens, as if they need to perform, otherwise they are out. Looking at Topic 1’s scenario, we can see how external stressors imprint a “need” to keep up with a course, with the students, yet still trying to keep the personal and institutional
identities apart. There is a hint of “uncertainty” that shades the scenario with challenging and disconcerting undertones. The expectation to being digital literate through guess that others “other participants will be more experienced than me” and perhaps more telling, the “I feel stupid asking about things.” This can be explained by several socio-psychological approaches. Deci and Ryan (2000) for example indicate that the motivation behind enacting a behavior is based on extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. This suggests that, in order to participate in the online course, the person in the scenario needs to know and use the tools involved in the course, which is an external factor, which is institutional. At the same time, by not becoming digital literacy, they will not have the same learning opportunities like the other participants, which is an external social motivator. Finally, not challenging insecurity toward online learning
might become an obstacle for their learning in this digital era, which is an internal motivator.
But how does this translate into increasing personal digital literacy? Nawaz and Kundi (2010) propose that digital literacy is often studied as a continuum of paradigms to which one end is instrumental (objectivist) that is geared to the immediate objectives and training purposes. In this scenario, increasing digital literacy becomes about learning specific skills and ICTs that will help performing in the course. The other end of the spectrum is more substantive (constructivist) and focuses on more long-term and educational approaches. Our hope is that, by enhancing the intrinsic motivators of the value behind digital literacy, it will motivate to
incorporate digital literacy as a part of personal development, but at the institutional and the personal level.