More on Technological Proficiency

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the difficulty of defining what colleagues at UMW called “Technological Proficiency”. Tomorrow, I’ll be heading to the ELI Fall Focus Session in Boulder, CO. The theme of the focus session is Being Net Savvy: Developing Skills for a Rapidly Changing World. As I began reviewing the suggested readings I was pleased to discover a tie in between “Being Net Savvy” and having “Technology Proficiency.”

Lorenzo, Oblinger and Dziuban, in their recent Educause Quarterly article, observe:

Educators are reconceptualizing information literacy as “a way of thinking, a dispositional habit, and a cultural practice.” Beyond just a way of finding accurate and correctly sourced information for an assignment, today’s information literacy is a way of thinking about information. Critical thinking, knowledge construction, and reflection are the processes that surround information. It is also a “‘habit of mind’ that seeks ongoing improvement and self-discipline in inquiry, research, and integration of knowledge.”

Librarians, information technologists, faculty, and administrators are coming together, realizing that the new culture of education—influenced by information literacy initiatives, Web 2.0, and Library 2.0—can impart much more than the skills students need to get them through their academic careers. Information literacy is important, personally and professionally, throughout life.

Students may not need a strong understanding of how specific information-resource tools work because the tools change so quickly today. Having a basic understanding, however, of how information is created and communicated, of what’s needed to manage, evaluate, synthesize, and present information—whether in a person’s professional, personal, or academic life—”this goes on forever.”

Another suggested reading was the National Academy of Sciences book, Being Fluent with Information Technology. Here are some quotes from the executive summary:

Generally, “computer literacy” has acquired a “skills” connotation, implying competency with a few of today’s computer applications, such as word processing and e-mail. Literacy is too modest a goal in the presence of rapid change, because it lacks the necessary “staying power.” As the technology changes by leaps and bounds, existing skills become antiquated and there is no migration path to new skills. A better solution is for the individual to plan to adapt to changes in the technology. This involves learning sufficient foundational material to enable one to acquire new skills independently after one’s formal education is complete.

This requirement of a deeper understanding than is implied by the rudimentary term “computer literacy” motivated the committee to adopt “fluency” as a term connoting a higher level of competency. People fluent with information technology (FIT persons) are able to express themselves creatively, to reformulate knowledge, and to synthesize new information. Fluency with information technology (i.e., what this report calls FITness) entails a process of lifelong learning in which individuals continually apply what they know to adapt to change and acquire more knowledge to be more effective at applying information technology to their work and personal lives.

Fluency with information technology requires three kinds of knowledge:
• Contemporary skills, the ability to use today’s computer applications, enable people to apply information technology immediately.
• Foundational concepts, the basic principles and ideas of computers, networks, and information, underpin the technology.
• Intellectual capabilities, the ability to apply information technology in complex and sustained situations, encapsulate higher-level thinking in the context of information technology. Capabilities empower people to manipulate the medium to their advantage and to handle unintended and unexpected problems when they arise. The intellectual capabilities foster more abstract thinking about information and its manipulation.

It’s this last piece that I was trying to articulate in my earlier post. Looking forward to learning more at the focus session.

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