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Smartphone Literacy

T & L Colleagues,

(I also posted this in the Career Pathways CoP.)

I've been thinking about what "smartphone literacy" could mean. In addition to basic smartphone literacy: knowing how to turn it on; creating, remembering and entering one's password; two-thumb keyboarding; and knowing how to download, update, and organize apps, some of the most important skills are these:

1. Knowing what your smartphone can do for you beyond communication -- voice, text messaging, and email; and information searching; for example, managing your contacts, and calendar, scheduling meetings and responding to others' meeting schedulers, learning online through websites and apps, purchasing -- for example without hard money or credit cards but only a smartphone,  and banking, etc.

2. Deciding what you want  it to do for you, and why. For example, for some people buying food has become complicated. Was that fish wild-caught or farmed? Where are those shrimp from, and does it matter (it does!), are those really organic vegetables, and does this food contain gmo's ?  Someone close to me has resisted buying a cellphone but now thinks she needs a smartphone to help her with these basic food shopping decisions. Increasingly, foods have QR codes that take you to web pages that answer questions like these, and print labels on food don't.

3. Learning how to make your smartphone do what you want it to do. YouTube videos (in English, Spanish and increasingly other languages) are often one good way; asking a friend, family member or classmate who has the same kind of smartphone is another, or a combination of the two.

4. Knowing what kinds of learning smartphones are good for, and what kinds a computer would be better for. A smartphone vocabulary app, especially one that uses "spaced" learning strategies, is an ideal way, in 5-10 minute sessions, to learn new words. Learning how to write -- and writing -- a resume, perhaps not. Reading a streamed or downloaded short story is fine on most smartphones (you flip paragraphs instead of pages, and you generally can enlarge the text to meet your needs) but you might not want to read War and Peace this way. Some online course activities might be okay on a smartphone -- indeed some are designed to be done quickly on a smartphone -- but others, especially those that require having more than one page open at a time, no thanks. 

In summary, we all need to learn what smartphones can do, what we want to do with them, and what they are and aren't good for. Of course if you only have a smartphone, no computer, you might get good at using it for things it wasn't intended for!

I'd love to hear others' thoughts about what smartphone literacy should include.

David J. Rosen


David J. Rosen's picture
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In the Reading and Writing CoP, Norene Peterson commented, "Smartphone Literacy needs to include knowing when and where one should *not* use a smartphone, e.g. accessing financial information via public wifi. Safety is paramount" and I replied, "Great addition, Norene. Although it applies to all public digital devices, you are certainly right that with the ubiquitous smartphone protecting private information and passwords is even more important. Thanks for reminding us about this."

David J. Rosen

Technology and Learning CoP Moderator