Being digitally literate contributes to much of the success in a blended learning classroom. Success is to have satisfied students who have achieved the intended outcomes while gaining transferrable skills related to using technology. To increase students’ digitally literacy on their road to digital competency they have to be given agency to discover on their own the “marvels and monstrosities….amazing and terrible experiences” (Burtis, 2020) of using technology to create and promote ideas rather to simply consume the ideas of others and not have an opportunity to , reflect, synthesize and personalize content.
I once felt that completing assignments should be so intuitive that students should not have to think about how to do it. They should be given all the affordances to be able to do a given assignment. Why? Why do we have to spoon feed students? Why not acquire some research and technical skills in the process of uploading a self-introduction? We are not doing students any favours by walking them through one given video application support by an institution. Simply ask students to upload a two-minute video introduction. Have students look into a way to do that, and once they find an application have them discover how to record and use it. Why not? Students may complain but they will walk out of the course with better research and technical skills on top of the course’s outcomes. It is better they complain to you than to their future client or employer. Chances are students will introduce a method that is innovative and cost effective.
Digital literacy is something that is learned through trial and error, practice, curiosity, and necessity. It is not something that is taught step-by-step. Applications are getting more intuitive as user interfaces are becoming similar but that is a relative statement. It is more intuitive for me because I am techno-junkie and love experimenting with new apps to deliver new activities and ideas (that is where “critical digital pedagogy” comes into play). But one can not become digitally literate if they don’t tinker and experiment software and hardware. There can be no fear, animosity, or hesitation to click and try something new and see how it works. If, in ten minutes I can not even log in or at least get an example on the screen then I blame the software developers and not my level of digitally literacy. I don’t blame myself, I just move on to the next software that will provide the same outcome and see how it performs. Chances are I find an app that does what I need in two or at the most three tries. Does it do what I want it to do? Am I sure what I want it to do is the right thing to do? Okay, now I am moving into critical digital literacy, which is an area all instructors must work in.
Critical digital pedagogy is ensuring that an educational technology that is chosen is exactly what is needed to best achieve intended outcomes. Does it mean it will be the easiest means of doing the assignment or activity? Hopefully not. A good challenge to work with the chosen technology will improve students’ digital literacy. Once students figure out how to use your Padlet then they will have an easier participating in a Mentimeter activity. Once students are comfortable using Padlet they can create their own and then when asked to create a Canva they can see the similarities in user interfaces and then say, “Wow. I’m becoming digitally literate!”
So why do we provide so many on demand how-to-use-the-software-that-I-want-you-to-use-to-complete-the-assignment videos? I don’t know. I create them myself, but while I create them I reflect on my own learning preference, which is just to figure it out by myself. As I do, I discover other potentially useful features and how similar one application is to another. Of course hacking at Adobe Illustrator just gets me frustrated and would take me a semester to complete an assignment. But, a video on how to respond to a discussion post or how to start a WordPress blog? Let ’em hack and discover how much easier it becomes after just a few tries at new software. For accessibility reasons and for those who just can’t get it provide the video beforehand, before a student gets too frustrated with the software.
Remember that critical digital pedagogy means choosing the best digital tool to achieve learning outcomes but it does not necessarily have to be the choice of the instructor. Leave it open for students to decide while recommending some options. Of course, when assigning a self-and peer assessment activity it can not be left it up to the students to find their own application to do it (although they do and do it well with cloud applications). peerScholar, for example would be the platform used to complete that assignment.