Digital Literacy vs. Digital Fluency

The rapid emergence of modern technologies had drastically changed the way the world works and the way in which information and knowledge is acquired. The internet generation (net geners) have begun to absorb information in new ways and have a limited tolerance for absorbing information which they could easily find through a Google search. Growing up digital “has encouraged this generation to be active and demanding inquirers - not passive consumers of media created for a mass audience” (Tapscott, 2008, p.18). The development of of these skills has been a coping mechanism to handle the information overload in the digital age.
"If it were possible to define generally the mission of education, it could be said that its fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, creative, and economic life” (New London Group, 2000).

Effectively preparing students to be successful in the twenty-first century involves a development of digital fluencies that go beyond just being able to use digital tools - they must become producers of content and be able to take advantage of peer-to-peer learning opportunities, have a changed attitude toward intellectual property, develop the skills valued in the modern workplace, and have a more empowered conception of citizenship.

So what does it mean to be digitally fluent? There seems to be much discussion about digital literacy in schools today, but I don’t hear as much chatter about digital fluency. While literacy refers to knowing what tools to use and how to use them, to be considered fluent one must be able to reliably produce a desired outcome. Just like most students arrive knowing what a book or pencil is and have some idea how to use them, they still need guidance to become fluent with the tool.

Source: SociaLens Blog

An effective way to imagine the difference between literacy and fluency is to consider language. Developing fluency is like learning a foreign language: to be literate in that language means that you have learned some phrases and can share some basic ideas. However, to be fluent means the ability to create your own story and proficiently use the language in varying situations. Digitally fluent people are able create, re-mix, and share ideas through the use of technology. 
"The key idea is the ability to produce content rather than simply use technology" (Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011).

It is important to remember that literacy occurs on a spectrum and students don't simply become fluent after a single lesson. It takes time, practice, and continuing feedback much like the acquisition of most other skill sets. The Global Digital Citizen Foundation divides digital fluency into five categories: Information, Solution, Creativity, Collaboration and Media. The organisation has developed a structured framework to model the critical skills that today's students require to become digitally fluent.

Source: Global Digital Citizen Foundation

Great - yet another set of criteria I must integrate into my teaching. 
Teachers are already juggling an array of criteria that must be covered through their programs. I currently must satisfy the demands of the MYP concepts, objectives, ATL skills, a national curriculum and the ISTE Standards. The last thing I need is another set of criteria that must be infused into my program. However, what I like about The Global Digital Citizen Foundation is that the fluencies listed are easily integrated into already existing programs. Instead of restructuring my units, I simply reviewed my program with these standards in mind to see which areas I deficient in.

There are many large and small scale educational activities which can be integrated into current teaching practices to promote technology competence and digital fluency. The following is a brief collection of classroom activities and technology tools I collected to encourage the acquisition of digital fluencies using the five categories identified by The Global Digital Citizen Foundation:

Curated alongside: Costello, J., Hamilton, D., Langford, C., Stigall, J. (2016)


Briggs, C. (2012). The Difference Between Digital Literacy and Digital Fluency. Retrieved from

Costello, J., Hamilton, D., Langford, C., Stigall, J. & Turple, C. (2016). Digital Fluency in the Classroom. Retrieved from

Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough: 21st century fluencies for the digital age. Corwin Press. 

Jukes, I. (2015). Global Digital Citizen Foundation. 21st Century Fluencies. Retrieved from

New London Group (2000). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures in Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures, ed. Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis. London: Routledge, p 9-38.

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