Digital Literacy

Just like there are 100 great books of Western Civilization that open the door to European and American culture, I am starting to wonder when someone will declare the 50 digital literacy skills that unlock full participation in contemporary communication.  Perhaps someone already has and I missed it.  And, even though my education is based in liberal arts, I have not yet read the 100 great books.  I am less worried about the books than I am about the 50 digital skills.

I find myself struggling to keep up.  For ten years I served in a complex parish with a parish administrator and a communication/stewardship staff positions.  They edited and formatted my communications. While I and others wrote the articles, they produced print and digital newsletters. They sorted data for the congregation’s data base and loaded that data into charts for the vestry and committees.  The results were what I wanted.  I did not need to learn the mechanics.  I am not alone.

Conversations with clergy colleagues display a wide range of digital literacy.   Not long ago in a board meeting I asked another member about the new device he was using that looked like an iPad and Mac had produced an offspring.  He could navigate around with that baby like a race car driver in a finely tuned machine.  On the other end of the spectrum is a clergy person I know who after seven year of not using any form of computer is making friends with a new laptop. Once, to another colleague, I needed to explain that the digital tools and video conferencing universe of our educational institution was virtually unknown in most parishes.  The parishes simply cannot afford the technology.

Now, I find myself frustrated at even the simplest of computer tasks.  My vocabulary is not big enough. I take my computer very literally.  If it tells me to do something, I do it.  If it doesn’t work, then I’m stuck.  I don’t know the options to get a basic task done. I don’t know how else to talk to the computer except with the words the screen has given me.  Log in and I type the password. Create new password and confirm password, I do that.  When the screen loops around again to ask me to create and confirm a password, I’m lost because I am illiterate in what the computer needs next or why it is repeating itself. Its one thing to be frustrated with my own stuff.  I can always go to Plan B with a pen and a piece of paper.  When I trying to pay a bill for a service my work needs, then all I have are those sickening stuck and lost feelings with a past due invoice sitting in my inbox.

Digital literacy, I think, will become an increasingly required skill for us involved in the interpretive, transformational, and highly relational world of serving others.  In our transformational world, it is now and for ever shall be the relationships that shape our lives.  However, to communicate those relationships, to invite others into those relationships, or, to create the chance to have a face to face conversation, we need make that first encounter through a screen, photo, or post.  Spiritual Leaders, due to dwindling parish resources, have already become entrepreneurs who need to do all the functions of an organization.

Is there a list of 50 essential skills of Digital literacy for pastors?  If so, I would love for some to educate me.  Is there a recovery group for those who have fallen behind in their communication literacy? And mean this question seriously.  I do feel like I am recovering from a lost time and entering a new way of being in the world.  Most importantly, how did you gain digital skills?  Do you have a Digital literacy list, just like your reading list, that you developed?  I would love to learn from you.


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