Thinking Skills in the Digital Era

Thinking Skills in the Digital Era

Yoram Eshet (The Open University, Israel)
Copyright: © 2005 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-555-9.ch279
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The fast development in digital technologies during the digital era confronts individuals with situations that require the utilization of an ever-growing assortment of technical, cognitive, and sociological skills that are necessary in order to perform and solve problems in digital environments. These skills have been termed in recent literature digital literacy (Bruce and Peyton, 1999; Gilster, 1997; Lenham, 1995; Pool, 1997; Swan, Bangert-Drowns, Moore-Cox, & Dugan, 2002; Tapscott, 1998). But unlike the common attitude toward this term in most of these papers, digital literacy is more than just the technical ability to operate digital devices properly; it comprises a variety of cognitive skills that are utilized in executing tasks in digital environments, such as surfing the Web, deciphering user interfaces, working with databases, and chatting in chat rooms. In fact, digital literacy has become a survival skill in the modern era: a key that helps users to work intuitively in executing complex digital tasks. In recent years, extensive efforts were made to describe and conceptualize the cognitive skills that users employ in digital environments (e.g., Burnett & McKinley, 1998; Cothey, 2002; Hargittai, 2002; Zins, 2000). Unfortunately, these efforts are usually local, focusing on a selected and limited variety of skills—mainly information-seeking skills (e.g., Marchionini, 1989; Zins)—and, therefore, they do not cover the full scope of the term digital literacy. Eshet (2004) has established a holistic conceptual model for digital literacy, arguing that it covers most of the cognitive skills that users and scholars employ while working in digital environments and, therefore, providing researchers and designers of digital environments with a powerful framework and design guidelines. This framework was derived from the analysis of large volumes of empirical and qualitative information regarding the behavior of users in digital environments. Its exclusive nature was discussed by Aviram and Eshet (in press), and its feasibility was tested by Eshet and Amichai-Hamburger (2004), who tested the performance of different groups of computer users with tasks that require the utilization of different digital skills. In these experiments they showed that the range of digital skills is restricted to the five skills discussed in the present paper. The present paper describes the major cognitive skills that comprise digital literacy, discusses their value in refining our understanding of how people interact in their work and in digital environments, and examines their application in improving communication among users, scholars, and designers of digital environments. The digital thinking skills that are discussed in the paper are the photovisual, reproductive, branching, informational, and socioemotional thinking skills. We suggest that these five digital thinking skills exist in every learner, but their volumes or magnitudes differ from person to person.

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