What do we mean by digital literacy?
Find out what we mean by digital literacy.
When asked in the focus groups what participants understood by the term ‘digital literacy’ it was predominantly defined in terms of what training is available to increase digital literacy, digital skills, and digital competence.
One participant noted that there is a lack of clarity across health and care professions about what digital literacy is. It appears that as a result of this, many students are not provided any digital training and they feel much of their digital literacy is self-taught. Many students feel they are responsible for taking care of their own digital literacy (Figure 14).
As a result, many students reported only feeling slightly prepared or somewhat prepared to use digital technologies in a clinical environment (Figure 15), and when broken down by profession, physiotherapy and pharmacy students were more likely to report feeling not prepared at all (Figure 16). Nursing students were the group most likely to report feeling completely prepared (Figure 16).
When students were asked how confident they felt about using digital technologies as part of learning at university, most students reported feeling fairly confident (Figure 17). This suggests that whilst students do not feel prepared for using digital technologies on placement, they feel more confident about using digital technologies in a university environment.
Therefore, there is an argument for exploring a broad range of digital technologies in a university environment to allow students to use them in a safe setting where they feel confident, and in turn, this will prepare them for using these technologies in a clinical environment. Also, this may indicate an underuse of digital technologies in practice due to poor digital literacy capabilities
Case study 5: Systemically embedding digital technology to develop digital literacy
Dr Claire Parkin is a Reader in Medical Education and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Educators. Manfred Gschwandtner is an experienced librarian. Both work at Kent and Medway Medical School (KMMS), a new medical school which opened to students three years ago. Claire's role as Vertical Theme Lead (VTL) for Scholarship and Scientific enquiry is to embed across the curriculum, a spiral integration of core scholarly skills including academic writing, numeracy and digital skills, research, public health, epidemiology, statistics and evidence-based medicine teaching and its application to practice.
Working closely together, Manfred and Claire, along with the curriculum team and learning technologists, have taken the opportunity to integrate into the schools' undergraduate medical curriculum, a programme of digital capabilities and digital technology training, better equipping students with the knowledge and skills to improve their digital competencies before entering clinical practice. Within the first 2 years of the programme students are exposed to mandatory taught workshops on digital capabilities for their study practices such as referencing, plagiarism, digital notetaking, digital applications for learning anatomy, digital microscope, digital reading lists and so on. Through student choice options and skills training, they are further enabled to develop an increasing range of clinical and educational technologies skills via mechanisms such as observing robotic surgery, assistive robotics and assistive devices, electronic patient records, virtual reality simulation suites and use of artificial intelligence.
To enable all of this to be embedded across the curriculum, a mapping exercise of all taught sessions was conducted. Through funding and grants, the Medical School has also been able to provide all students with tablet devices enabling them to tackle prospective digital poverty and provide equitable access to equipment. Gaps in digital technologies training were highlighted in accordance with pre-defined digital competencies. For others looking to do something similar they highlight the importance of establishing a digital-first strategy and a digital competency framework within the curriculum, so approaches are systemic, joined up, and expectations are clear to staff and students, as well as creating a ‘digitally aware’ culture so that digital skills are recognised as important by everyone.
Furthermore, Claire and Manfred have developed and validated a DIGITAL20 (D20) tool, which measures students' competence and confidence with digital capabilities as they progress through their programme. This enables students to measure progress and to identify any digital literacy gaps before progressing onto more complex learning, with the overarching aim of developing them to the fully competent stage, according to the predefined digital capabilities framework so that when they graduate, they are equipped with the skills to be digitally competent doctors of the future.
Early results of the Digital20 have shown that students' competence and confidence with digital capabilities has increased over time. Third year students are entering their clinical placements armed with a good level of digital knowledge and proficiency developed over the previous two years. Work continues to map digital competencies whilst on clinical placement, and how these may be embedded within the digital competency framework. For further information regarding the D20 tool, please contact manfred. [email protected].
Contributors: Dr Claire Parkin, and Mr Manfred Gschwandtner, Kent and Medway Medical School.
Page last reviewed: 10 May 2023
Next review due: 10 May 2024