Fluency in a Technology Accelerated Age

As educators discuss what personalized learning is and how it might be implemented, I think a very important topic should be fluency.

Fluency (also called volubility and loquaciousness) is the property of a person or of a system that delivers information quickly and with expertise.”, Wikipedia (April 17, 2011)

Traditional definitions, including Wikipedia’s, talk about a set of fluency skills: reading, writing, comprehension, and speaking.  In our era of technology driven everything, fluency is so much more.  I think the images that Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano (@langwitches) created to depict Information, Media, Network, and Global fluencies provides a picture of a broader sense of fluency relevant to today.

imageBecoming an expert in finding the best information, quickly, from multiple sources and mediums, knowing how to analyze, evaluate, and organize it, using it appropriately, and sharing your information is a highly valuable capability today.  With information doubling roughly every 12-18 months, this fluency is essential for students and adults alike.


Over the past few years I have “upgraded” my media and network fluency by joining Twitter (@bkuhn), capturing / editing classroom stories via video, reading books using Kindle and Kobo apps on my iPad, Blogging regularly to share my ideas with others, and sharing my presentations on www.slideshare.net/bkuhn.  Media fluency has revolutionized my work, my learning, and my intellectual satisfaction.


I believe that to be serious about learning, student or professional, one must engage the new medium.  Malcolm Gladwell highlighted in his book The Tipping Point that we can only really effectively connect with about 100 people.  I think in the physical sense yes but with social media tools, we can connect with many hundreds of people.  We may not connect as deeply as might be possible face 2 face but as we develop a higher order of network fluency, we will get better at this.  By tapping into modern tools and methods for networking with people, we are able to reach people that we wouldn’t be able to in a face 2 face only setting.  This fluency amplifies our ability to share and mix ideas and methods with so many more talented people.  You really don’t know who you need to “meet” that has an idea that would mix with yours to create something amazing! 

I love this quote from the Rational Optimist, “[t]he history of the modern world is a history of ideas meeting, mixing, mating and mutating” (kindle 3806).  And further, “[t]he more knowledge you generate, the more you can generate. And the engine that is driving prosperity in the modern world is the accelerating generation of useful knowledge.”  (kindle 3466). 

Fluency in a Technology Accelerated Age must be broader than what we traditionally might consider it to be.  We need to prepare young people to be fluent in multiple dimensions so that they are able to fully participate in our world and the world of their future.  We also need to help teachers and principals “upgrade” their fluency so that they can fully engage their students in this new and future world.


  1. Your notion of the importance of fluency is really helpful. We have to stretch our capacity and acquire that fluency, even though initially it can be intimidating to embrace new technologies or tech applications. We are hosting a professional development today in our district and showcasing Glogster, twitter, online quiz devices teachers can deploy- all attempting to build that fluency so our teachers and those from other districts who join us can reach the "full engagement" you describe!

  2. @John it sure does take some folks time to get past the "fear factor" and the "time factor" but once over that hurdle, people love the newer fluencies hey. Good on you for hosting a social media PD and opening up to other Districts!

  3. Hi Brian,
    I wonder what you think about fluency as it relates to coding and programming?

    Is this something we are woefully poor at preparing our kids at? Or is this something like bridge-building which we should leave to the engineers and experts and just use after things have been built?

  4. @Dave great question. I think in the orthodox sense, coding/programming is a specialty area both for interest and need. Much of that is getting morphed into intelligent tools that do a lot of the "heavy lifting" which I believe will increase. So, my opinion is that this should be left to the experts. But, I think students should become fluent in design principles both visual, 3D, etc. Maybe this is just an expansion of media fluency? The potential for 3D immersive learning environments is just beginning. I imagine a day when the 5-senses will be connected to these worlds for learners. Likely the scope of fluency will expand over time.


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