Since we were children, we are in a continuous learning process. During our lives, we move from the basics of speaking and interactions with others to more elaborated knowledge as critical thinking and problem solving. It is a continuous improvement of ourselves which allows easier interaction with our society, increases our chances to find better economic, and social opportunities in life, and enable us to create more useful and valuable knowledge.
In our educational system literacy and numeracy are the foundations which allow people to participate in more elaborated education processes in their future.
Literacy is related to learning how to read, write and understand various forms of communication as spoken and written language. Some studies show the importance of literacy, highlighting it enables or restricts our degree of interactions with different social circles as the family, communities, workspaces, and society. Literacy is related with economic well-being, aspirations, quality family life, health, and civic/ cultural engagement.
Numeracy skills include the use of basic mathematical functions (add, subtract, multiply and divide) and the ability to apply them in daily life activities (cooking, reading maps or bills, reading instructions and playing sports) and more complex task as problem-solving related to money and investments. High levels of numeracy are associated with higher labour force status and better income. In contrast, low levels of literacy in children are linked to school desertion, unemployment or low-skilled jobs, and deficits in emotional and physical health that could transform in poverty and delinquency.
What about digital literacy? What is it? Why does it matter? If I already have high levels of literacy and numeracy, should I be thinking of adding digital literacy to my skill set?
Although numeracy and literacy are the basics of interaction and success in our society, digital literacy has become another fundamental skill for our actual life. We live in a demanding, and high pace environment where we should learn continuously and interact with a variety of digital ‘entities’. Such interactions are invisible most of the time, for example when we write a report for our courses at university when we answer a call on our mobile phones (smart and not too smart ones ;), when we use our bus cards or pay our dinner with a card instead of cash. All of these actions require basic use of digital literacy, and that means we should have the ability to find, evaluate, understand, utilise, share, and create content/information related to information technologies and the internet.
Digital literacy enables egalitarian access to information and resources, and at the same time enables self-directed learning, which could constitute a competitive advantage in workspaces, academia and research.
Digital literacy and research, taking it a step further.
Source: Winter Bootcamp 2016
Maybe you are a researcher (PhD or Master student) and to be at this stage you have been very fortunate in having a high-quality education to help develop your literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills. Now what? You need to face the challenge of completing your research in the highest possible quality. Many times this implies the use of information which should be analysed to create new knowledge, understanding or solving a problem, or modelling or simulating particular scenarios to take more educated and rational decisions.
Using a lot of information in research doesn’t ensure quality. How do you use or analyse vast amounts of information or even small ones in an efficient manner, saving time and effort? How do you graphically represent data or apply calculations on it to understand what is behind your numbers or collected information?. What could happen if the information changes during the time and you need to apply the same analysis again and again?.
The World is changing every day, every minute, every second. You need to use the tools that you have to take advantage of your time and spend more time creating knowledge efficiently. Not in mechanical labour as sorting information or plotting dots.
I daresay, all of the advanced digital literacy knowledge that every researcher needs to learn is available on-line. However, online learning sometimes implies more personal effort and self-discipline than we have or want to utilise. If you prefer a little bit more of human interaction, there are many communities around the world to support researchers and help them to gain more elaborated skills with databases, coding, plotting, managing information and versions, and help them with modelling and simulation.
Saying that, what do you prefer? What is your learning style? I have elaborated two different lists for both preferences to help take your research skills one step further!
Online resources to improve your digital literacy (at your pace):
- Code.org: Code basics, learning with games. Designed for children, educators, advocates.
- Software Carpentry: Lessons about Unix Shell, version control, databases, Python, R, and MATLAB for researchers.
- Coursera: Look for courses as R programming, reproducible research, Big data, bioinformatics, Python for everybody, Applied Data Science with Python, Capstone: Retrieving, Processing, and Visualizing Data with Python. Just be creative and use the search option with words as code, Python, databases, and so forth 😉
Some communities are pushing not only for digital literacy, but also to use it as a vehicle to reduce social gaps as gender inequality, poverty, and at the same time increasing opportunities for underrepresented communities. I think that is awesome!!! Here some examples:
- #YesWeCode: Initiative at the USA to teach coding to people from underrepresented communities, and gave them the opportunity to participate in the IT sector.
- Girls who code: Another action at the USA to teach coding to girls in safe environments and try to reduce the gender gap in computing.
- Fighting Poverty with Code: Coding classes for homeless in San Francisco.
- Code for Aotearoa: Volunteering program at New Zealand, to teach kids to code.
Communities that promote digital literacy
- The hacker within: It born at the University of Wisconsin as a community of scientist who wants to share their computing skills and knowledge.
- ResBaz: Initiative at the University of Melbourne to help researchers to accomplish their investigations using digital literacy.
- eResearch at UoA: Community of helpers, researchers and experts at the University of Auckland with the aim to unveil the secrets of digital literacy to investigators and support them in their research journey.
Come to have a chat with us if you are interested in learning how to rocket your research using digital literacy, join us at HackyHour, in our workshops, or drop us an email. We will be happy to hear from you!!!.