The Digital Competencies for the next Generation. What are they?

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Films are easy to watch and so its presumed are easy to make. That line comes from James Monaco’s highly prized book, How to Read a Film. It’s thinking parallels “digital”.

On a phone, digital content is easy to watch, let alone make, that the whole process appears easy — a seamless workflow in which digital video, imagery and narrative just pop out from the ether.

So when yesterday I was asked by colleagues what digital competencies will the next generation require, it seemed an innocuous question. In part because digital is still evolving, platforms are still becoming available, I defaulted.

I know what the next gen should be doing, I have written about it ad nauseam and often teach it, but the question seemed more geared to tools. That’s the problem with unitary questions, often used in interviews. The recipient will expect an answer to that question that fulfils key words towards a score quotient.

I have often thought how everything else is a conversation except for interview panels. A bad day and you’re sunk. Storyful, which blazed onto the scene in 2010 begged the same question about skills needed, which today still aren’t wide spread. In my previous post where I speak to 16–18 year olds at Millfield I also give mention to critical skills of reading hidden news messages by exploring cinema journalism.

Cinema journalism, the blend of cinema and journalism, which was news making before tv came along asks you to look at interpreting what’s not so obvious, something like social Practice theory; how what you see is influenced by hidden cultural and social practice.

Youngsters spending all their time on social media may be an addiction, but it could also be a symptom of a lack of physical fulfillment in their lives. Just because everyone’s doing doesn’t erase reasons why they are.

In truth addressing what digital skills are needed in this era can be directed more swiftly and with considerable ease to google’s suite of tools. Google by the way will be joining me for our ideas hack week on the programme I lead called the digital Story lab.

Verification. How do you know what you’re looking at is real or not? In an a time of manipulation, downright lying and media hoaxes, how do the next gen, and us know what is what?

As theories go you could tap into anyone of them, such as the common inductive-deductive thinking. The analysis drills into a scepticism for what you’re being told.

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The digital tools to do this were re-displayed yesterday courtesy of @BBCAfrica in a masterclass display of forensic journalism.

It’s brilliant and indeed everyone should be able to do this, but in truth we don’t and as a core digital competency, whilst it’s blindingly obvious as a journo you need this; Storyful have been saying this for ages, we’re not there. Why not?

We’re not all journos! We like to think so because we use similar tools e.g. iPhone, but to do what BBC Africa did, may not be required for the life you lead.

Hence key competency uptakes have become knowing how to knit together an array of digital tools. I fell for the question, when in a conversation, or different circumstances I should have banged on about critical skills. Digital is fluid; and tools can be taught; what’s going on in the mind requires deeper attention. The tools is the vehicle, the people inside it literally are the passengers being ferried into all sorts of places, known and unknown.

Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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