Allied medical sciences students' experiences with technology: are they digitally literate?

Author:Harati, Abbas
 
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Background:

Recent advancements in information and communication technologies (ICTs) have changed the learning methodologies for everyone. Due to computers and the Internet, the learning process requires people's ability to access, locating, extract, evaluate, organize and provide digital information. Nowadays, the Internet provides access to the various virtual information resources and the ICTs are fundamental instruments for effective learning in educational environments in the 21st century, which plays a key role in effective learning and creative performance in educational environments (Shopova, 2010). Being merely an information transfer medium is not important for the learners, but they should be able to systematically acquire the capabilities required to search and select information resources (Shopova, 2014). In fact, in order to use digital resources, people need the capabilities and skills of utilizing digital technology, which is referred to as "digital literacy" (Argentin, Gui, Pagani, & Stanca, 2014).

There is a close relation between digital literacy and information literacy. Information literacy is referred to as the ability of individuals to access and utilize the information (Frederick & Riesser, 2013). Digital literacy means the individual's ability to find, evaluate, extract, organize and utilize digital information that requires technical and cognitive skills (Steenburgh, 2015). The amount of knowledge and skills which a person possesses to use information technology, and also, identification of the level of ability of individuals to perform various complex tasks is identified by digital literacy (S. Lee, 2014).

Digital literacy expresses the individual's knowledge and skills in using information and communication technologies, and his/her ability to perform complex tasks for effective use of digital environments. This perspective reflects that digital literacy has become a skill that people require to obtain information, achieve success, communicate and interact with others, find jobs, succeed economically, participate actively in the community, collaborate online and personal development. People who are still digitally illiterate or have insufficient digital literacy cannot engage in today's digital world (S.-H. Lee, 2014).

Skills and capabilities of digital literacy are divided into six categories(Siddike, 2010). The first category, called digital literacy fundamental capabilities, refers to possessing different skills, such as the ability of learning in order to communicating, analyzing and solving problems. The next category is the basic capability of digital literacy, which mainly involves the knowledge of computer and related technologies. The average capability of digital literacy is another category of digital literacy skills, which relates to the knowledge of using various features of the operating system and software applications. Advanced digital literacy capabilities include information organization and knowledge-ability in terms of the use of different tools to achieve the required information. Technical abilities of digital literacy are related to the ICT and generally consist of the ICT economics. Ultimately, there are the specialized digital literacy skills, which allow the individual to not only have sufficient knowledge of information resources, but also of various online databases, search engines, and email. They can also use digital technology to facilitate the evaluation of retrieved information and, in fact, to use digital media and instruments to provide information explicitly (Siddike, 2010).

Bawden (2008) provides a useful and effective concept of digital literacy that involves four components, i.e. underpinnings, background knowledge, central competencies, and attitudes and perspectives (Bawden, 2008). The "underpinnings" represent the basic skills of digital literacy. Background knowledge consists of individuals' knowledge for understanding the nature of information and resources. Central competencies are the individuals' abilities to find, search, combine, and critical analysis of the information. Attitudes and perspectives refer to individuals' ability to learn independently and ethically use of information. The ability to use digital resources is important for all community members, including students. The ability to use digital resources is an important factor for student progress during their presence in the university and digital literacy is a prerequisite for learning in a student-centered learning culture (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008). Communication technologies allow students to interact with each other for educational purposes (Echenique, Molias, & Bullen, 2015). Digital technologies provide students with a wide range of tools and applications, so that they can store and transfer information in digital formats (Echenique et al., 2015).

Every year, thousands of new students enroll in universities which most of them have an experience in information and communication technologies. But nevertheless after one year, it is clarified that most of their knowledge about ICT is superficial and do not have the skills required to make effective use of digital information resources (Verhoeven, Heerwegh, & Wit, 2012). It is clear that digital skills of the students are essential for the academic literacy (Guzman-Simon, Garcia-Jimenez, & Lopez-Cobo, 2017). Simon et al. found that digital skills which is learnt out of formal campus are not sufficient to meet the student's information requirements. Santos and Serpa (2017) pointed out that digital literacy skills of postgraduate students are different, therefore digital literacy training programs should be promoted (Santos & Serpa, 2017).

Currently, students not only need to seek information, but also need to learn how to evaluate, find, access and use information effectively. The ability to master the skills of finding, understanding, evaluating and utilizing the information in effective and ethical manners for meeting individual and academic needs, is fundamental to student learning and leads to better results and more successful learning performance (Shopova, 2014). On the other hand, students with higher levels of education and digital skills can retrieve more useful and relevant information(Shariman, AbdulRazak, & Mohd. Noor, 2012).

One group of students includes medical students. This group of students should increase their capabilities such that they can perform their duties well both at the education period and afterwards. The medical field has a specific status regarding its direct relation with community health due to the speed of creating new medical information on the one hand, and the shortened expiration date of this information on the other, in terms of its direct relation with people's health. Therefore, students of medical sciences universities are among the most important groups of students.

In 1395, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences was selected as the top university of medical science in terms of educational rating by the Ministry of Health of Iran. Leading in the field of information and communication technology and the establishment of the e-University are taken as 2025 perspectives of the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical...

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