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

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

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Published by Jeremy Riel
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.

ABSTRACT
The 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.
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.

ABSTRACT
The 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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Published by: Jeremy Riel on Jun 05, 2012
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Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college. 1
Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology anddigital skills education in the community college
Jeremy Riel
, Georgetown UniversityPrimary Investigator  jjr88@georgetown.edu - (541) 513-1293
Sonya Christian
, Lane Community CollegeVice President, Academic and Student Affairschristians@laneccedu – (541) 463-5302
Brad Hinson
, Lane Community CollegeDivision Dean, Instructional Technologyhinsonb@lanecc.edu - (541) 463-3377
Related website:
www.techliterate.org  A project sponsored byLane Community CollegeEugene, Oregonwww.lanecc.edu Presented at Innovations 2012 (March 2012) Philadelphia, PA.hosted by the League for Innovation in the Community College
 Abstract 
The understanding of information technologies and past efforts to assess, improve, and correlatetechnology skills with student success have sometimes been limited by a lack of aninterdisciplinary approach or consideration of the unique needs of community college studentand staff populations. This study identifies core literacy areas of digital technologies bysynthesizing a comprehensive review of the digital and technology literacies literature within theeducation, policy, technology studies, media studies, and communications disciplines. To guidefurther research of technology education within the community college, a framework to assessdigital literacy skills within the community college environment is proposed and discussed.
Keywords
 
Digital literacy, community college, technology education, information technology, ITC, STEM
1. Introduction
Dialogue within the education industry is filled with calls emphasizing a renewed efforttoward technology and STEM training within K-12 and higher education institutions, urged bynot only school or college administrators, but also by political leaders, economics experts, and
 
Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college. 2
community members. In today’s 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 intechnology. The imperative for increased technology education and understanding is apparentmore than ever in today’s popular and academic literature. This call is not simply for anincreased interest among students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but alsoa 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 whichour 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 anew class of “haves” and “have-nots.” He urges for the education of broad technology skills andunderstanding with his maxim that people need to “program or be programmed,” or that onemust 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 technologyeducation has increasingly appeared in the last two decades.Higher education, especially community colleges, have been experiencing recordenrollment and applications since the global economic downturn starting in 2007. More studentsthan ever before are returning to college to prepare for new careers and learn new technologyskills that will allow them to succeed in this information-based economy. Students attendingcommunity colleges nationwide exhibit a wide diversity of digital technology skills due to thecollege movement’s inclusive mission to serve students openly from a variety of backgrounds,technical experiences, and levels of technology access. Ostensibly, this appears to be related togenerational differences within colleges with which this study will not attempt to address. Theexploration of this “digital divide” often compares “digital natives,” or young people who grewup 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 mattersmore confusing for students, other factors such as the merging of aspects of real life with life inthe virtual and the multi-modal communication platforms available today have complicateddigital 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, statusupdates, 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 today’sdigitally mediated school is perhaps simply identifying these new tools themselves and knowingthat 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 littlecommunity-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 skillsliterature was written before 2006, after which an explosion of Web 2.0 and other highlynetworked derivative technologies have been released. This rapid development has undoubtedlyimpacted 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 andtechnology education studies have been performed within higher education contexts within thelast five years. Much of the recent work focuses on K-12 technology training to prepare futuregenerations for the workforce. Assessment within K-12 is an essential task, indeed, but an effortto study the impact of new literacies and technology education within higher education is equallyimportant, especially with large numbers of adults and returning students attending college today
 
Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college. 3
to gain new technology skills and prepare for new careers in the knowledge economy. This studyattempts to contribute to this literature need by proposing a list of digital literacies andtechnology education objectives for use within the community college learning environment. Aframework like this can be used to test assumptions of digital skills of students of variousdemographics, the skills of instructors, and correlation between skills and curricula, teachingmethods, 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 technologyeducation, it was also important to identify many of the technology skills in existence today thatare either demanded within academia or the global knowledge economy, environments for whichthe 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 todevelop a comprehensive list of technologies and competencies related to digital literacy, it islikely that no standardized list can ever be completely formed. This is largely due to theinterpretive nature of technology and its perceived importance by many groups. Instead, thisresearch collects the best information available and synthesizes it in a manner that helps tostimulate the discussion of technology education and provides a starting framework from whichto conduct future research.As such, the following questions guided this study:1) What technologies and functionalities exist today within the global information economy andhow are they used?2) What is digital literacy and what should students know? How has this changed fromtraditional 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)?
2. Literature Review 
Digital Literacy Explored
Paul Gilster first mentioned the notion of “digital literacy” in his mid-90s volume of thesame name (Gilster, 1997). Defined for this research, digital literacy is the ability to efficientlyand accurately use digital information technologies and the information retrieved from them in avariety of contexts, such as academic, career, or daily life. In other words, digital literacy is bothknowing how to use technologies in today’s world as well as how to retrieve, use, and analyzeinformation that digital media provides. In his text, Gilster suggests that digital literacy would bean increasingly important skill in the new millennium with the growing reliance on information

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