Digital Fluency at UMW – The Process

Parts of this post come from the report Incorporating Digital Fluency at UMW.

The purpose of this post is to outline the process we engaged in writing the report “Incorporating Digital Fluency at UMW.” As I wrote in the last post, this has been a long process, with key moments of the right people being in the right place at the right time to move digital learning initiatives forward to the point where advanced digital fluency is now being more fully integrated at UMW.

After forming the working group from a broad base of representative faculty and other stakeholders, we set about the task of actually defining advanced digital fluency. Again, this term was not in wide use when we set about this task in the fall of 2016. Over the summer of 2016, a survey had gone out from (now defunct) New Media Consortium about definitions of digital literacy. Again, because so few organization, institutions, and research used digital fluency, we were starting with digital literacy definitions and moving forward.

I started with a kind of think-pair-share activity, where participants read various definitions and wrote down the top 5 terms that they found useful. They then had to come up with five in small groups, and from those word groups, I challenged them to come up with a definition. After much discussion and wordsmithing, we came up with:

Advanced digital fluency is the ability to consume and produce digital knowledge critically, ethically, and responsibly, as well as creatively adapt to emerging technology.

Once we had a working and agreed-upon definition, we started to research and brainstorm ways to integrated digital fluency into the curriculum. The literature states the most effective way
to help students achieve these goals is to take a fully integrative approach to incorporating it into the curriculum; beyond simply an add-on, digital fluency must be incorporated into the student’s overall educational experience at UMW.

There are a number of ways the curriculum is set up at UMW, including having courses that carry a “Writing Intensive” and “Speaking Intensive” designation and students have to take a certain number of those courses in order to graduate. A kind of “Digital Intensive” course designation was proposed alongside inviting departments and programs to examine how their programs would integrate their disciplinary form of digital fluency into their curriculum, building on what they are already doing academically.

The report itself was written primarily by me, with the invaluable input (and editing skills!) of the working group, along with the formatting wizardry of Nigel and Jess. It was then submitted to the administration in March 2017. It was then shared with the faculty in September 2017 alongside a request for feedback on the President’s Strategic Vision based on the Strategic Plan. In March 2018, the University Faculty Council approved having “Digital Fluency” be one of the institutional effectiveness measures we report to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

Our team is starting an Advisory Group for Digital Fluency in order to help advise and guide these conversations moving forward. This is an ongoing and fluid discussion, which we hope will keep pushing UMW forward with integrating digital fluency.

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