There are many methods of communication that can be used with digital literacy learners. For example:
- Face-to Face
- Blog Posts
- Instant Messaging
- Skype / Facetime
- Twitter Tweets
- Google Hangouts
The advantages and disadvantages of three of these are analysed below.
For classroom-based digital literacy learning, this is probably the most common method of communicating with learners. However, virtual face-to-face communication can also occur using tools such as Skype or Facetime.
The primary advantage of face-to-face communication is that it promotes a two-way dialogue between the digital literacy practitioner and the learners. Body language and tone of voice are also important factors which can be observed when communicating in this way. Research undertaken by Albert Mehrabian1 concluded that there are essentially three elements to any face-to-face communication:
• Tone of voice
• Non-verbal behaviour e.g. body language and facial expression
Surprisingly, words only account for 7% of communication . Tone of voice accounts for 38% and the remaining 55% comes from body language. Therefore, the non-verbal elements are particularly important, especially when there is any confusion or ambiguity.
Classroom communication can take place on a one-to-one basis, or with a group of learners. It can be useful in facilitating positive discussion and students can also learn from the conversations that takes place with other learners. It can also generate impromptu questions and immediate requests for clarification.
If learners have low literacy skills, they will also find it easier to speak to to the digital literacy practitioner rather than write to them.
On the downside, not all learners feel comfortable speaking up in front of others. They may even feel apprehensive about asking questions of the tutor in a one-to-one discussion, for fear of appearing inane. Some learners may have a tendency to dominate group discussions and express their views rather forcibly. Also, not all learners attend every session and hence, miss out on communication opportunities. Finally, depending upon the size of the group, the tutor may not always have ample opportunity during the teaching session, to address each and every learner.
Email is a quick and effective tool when it comes to communicating with learners between teaching sessions. For universal topics, the same email can be sent to all of the learners, providing that the individuals’ contact details are not disclosed. Homework or research tasks can be set and documents attached. Links can also be included which means that the learners can be immediately directed to the sites that they may need to look. It also encourages the learners to used digital technologies, tools and techniques outside of the classroom.
Unfortunately, not all learners will open their emails and not all check for messages frequently. Hence, they may show up to the following session completely oblivious to what has been asked of them. Alternatively, the learner may discover the email at the last minute and be thrown into a state of panic, which in turn deters them from attending the next teaching session. There is also the remote possibility that the tutor’s message may end up in the spam or junk folder.
As with all written communication, there is also the possibility that the message may be misunderstood. Unlike face-to-face interaction, the learner will need to wait for clarification from the tutor, to any queries that they may have. Email also relies upon the learner having a certain degree of literacy skills. There is a risk that the digital literacy practitioner may use vocabulary that the learner is unfamiliar with.
By using a blog to communicate with learners, the tutor is encouraging them to use their digital literacy skills between teaching sessions. A blog can be read at the convenience of the learner and feedback can be left in the comments section. It can also encourage learners to help each other, by addressing any queries raised in the comments section.
A blog can be used to provide additional information and may even include links to further resources that the student may find useful. This encourages the learner to explore and undertake independent learning.
The disadvantages are similar to that of email. The learner may not understand what is written in the blog and is unable to obtain immediate answers to any questions. Depending upon how the blog is accessed, the learner may not even be able to find the correct blog entry that they need.
As comments are generally visible to the public, other learners will be able to read what everyone else has written. This may deter learners from commenting. Finally, if the learner has low levels of literacy skills, then they may be discouraged from reading the blog pots.
- Mehrabian, A. (1981) Silent messages: Implicit Communication of Emotions and Attitudes. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.