Software Literacy

Software Literacy

Elaine Khoo (University of Waikato, New Zealand) and Craig Hight (University of Newcastle, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7598-6.ch112

Abstract

Software is not neutral. It comes with social and cultural assumptions that afford particular actions while constraining others. The notion of software literacy is emerging as one way to conceptualize the repertoires of skills and understandings needed for people to be critical and creative users of software packages and systems in a software saturated culture. This conceptual model is a response to current digital literacy frameworks which do not identify the implications of the choice of software on what can be achieved. Studies on information literacy and on ways of mastering software have tended to ignore the role of software itself. The study of software is only now emerging as a field of study. This contribution argues for the relevancy of software literacy as part of understanding the ways people engage with software and how its affordances influences knowledge representation, generation, and critique. It will define the term and set out three progressive tiers of development towards software literacy.
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Background

The proliferation of digital and networked technologies is an expanding and accelerating feature of modern societies and can be predicted to continue to rise and impact on almost every sphere of human living. Most people develop some level of proficiency with everyday software packages informally through their daily use and incremental engagement over time (Bulfin & Koutsogiannis, 2012; Hague & Logan, 2009). Informal learning practices have been shown to increase students’ sense of agency and consequently to have the potential to make learning a richer and more fulfilling experience (Furlong & Davies, 2012). Commenting on the the trend of digital penetration, numerous authors have further argued that ubiquitous access to digital technologies has shaped a new internet-centred generation of ‘digital natives’ (Oblinger, 2003) with the corresponding assumption that access to digital tools has, on its own, facilitated the development of new learning skill sets (Tapscott, 2009). Terms such as the ‘digital generation’, ‘millenials’, ‘Net Generation’ (Tapscott, 1999), ‘digital natives’ (Prensky, 2001), ‘Google generation’, ‘Generation Y’ and so forth have derived from a host of assumption about the distinctive skill set of generations immersed within digital technologies. Such labels aim to characterise an emerging class of learners accustomed to engaging with software and technologies such that they can effortlessly adopt new technologies, operate at ‘twitch speed’, are able to multitask, imagine, and visualize while communicating in multiple modalities and consequently possess higher technical skills compared to previous generations (Prensky, 2001). The term ‘digital natives’ itself assumes a generational change in digital literacies fed particularly by informal learning, opinions which are closely informed by emancipatory rhetoric surrounding the digital. Consequently in part the term articulates anxieties amongst educational institutions and practitioners that they are falling behind the literacies students will bring with them to learning contexts.

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