Digital literacy seems intuitively to be a generic skill, applicable irrespectively of context. On second thought digital literacy has both generic and context specific components. In the field of medicine digital literacy is at the heart of competencies required for carrying out the most basic tasks. The system for patient records is a good example of how digital literacy surrounds everyday routine practice. The patient record previously consisted of a folder including masses of typewriter-filled paper documents, sometimes shared with framed 35 mm slides for image purposes. One folder securely kept at each hospital department. Today, the retrieval of information relies on using digital interfaces to search databases from various hospitals and departments for key information. Thus, an enormous overflow of information is available and skills to selectively find the relevant information is required. In analysing the information retrieved, some systems may provide computer-based decision making programs of applications for better organising the visual output for better overview. The extent to which an individual physician could benefit from such add-ons depends deeply on the appropriate skills. Finally dissemination of information comes when new findings and new interpretations of these are digitally put into the database for coming health staff, or other relevant agents (insurance companies etc) to retreive when needed. The way such information is packaged and entered critically affects the possibility of others to efficiently retrieve it and use it. Oftentimes mandatory digital instruments (e.g. patient record systems) are launched by enthusiastic ICT units only to become subject of the deepest of frustration when facing the end user (which in many instances is not only staff but also students walking along their path into a profession). This leads to the question of how we reason around the need to define digital literacy in concrete terms in relation to generic and specific components. If such concrete skills are eventually defined then comes the need to insure, on an individual as well as organisational level, that required skills are mastered. Assessment tools are indispensable in this process and many variations are presented on various web-pages, some of which can be easily used for self assessment. For a certain organisation or unit such assessment tools must be tailored for it’s specific needs. If ICT systems are to be efficiently used at all levels it is, however, a requirement that assessment occurs and that adequate remediation is at hand when needed.
Here’s a web-based questionnaire which is very software/hardware oriented. In contrast a much more in depth method is described by Irvin R Katz in 2007. Looking at my own education programme such assessment is very scarce both for student evaluation and for teacher evaluation. An interesting report from Deakin University can be found here where it is pointed out that surveys like the first of these two tools may not be sufficient since they provide little evidence of true literacy while portfolios and genuine tasks like the second tool may well be better suited for this purpose.
I’m now eager to dig into my own environment for a needs assessment