Learning Literacies in a Digital Age #digilit #altc2010

I started writing this at the event, but had the opportunity to chat to James Clay & Steve Wheeler – too much fun to turn down!

Today I have come to the pre-event for #altc2010, ‘Learning Literacies in a Digital Age’ (note not ‘Digital Literacy’), and have had a really interesting afternoon thinking about the challenges that face us in HE in giving graduates key digital skills.

The first task: define digital literacy! My response was: “The world is hyper-local. Produce engaged, curious & critical students who can contribute to society.. (& be employable) #digilit #altc2010”.

We then had a number of discussions around online documents, largely related to the ‘Learning Literacies in a Digital Age‘ publication (check the great links at the bottom of the page) – and had some discussions around whether the definitions that had been produced were in agreement (largely!) and where they were meeting.

  • Polemical Question: Is digital learning not just the same as before, but with a phone attached? What critically has changed? What new capabilities are required? (see also Mary’s Blog)
    • More flexibility & adaptability, faster modes of communication, people expect to take more time off
    • Integrated – no boundaries. More portfolio working.
    • What is required to be connected? The digital divide?
    • Many see it as ‘technology’ rather than communications/learning – mindset needs to alter to make progress
    • Permanence of material (whilst often rather ephemeral in its use)
    • Don’t have to be embodied to be present.
    • Not what we do, but who we are – how deep do we go?
    • Can’t get through the day without being ‘digitally literate’
    • No distinction between online/offline for many – leads us to ask questions of identity
    • It’s critical to manage our online reputation – “Who are you” – people need access AND education for this.
    • Information overload – how to deal with it
    • How to engage with it -online etiquette – for which people need education & training (similarly to training in visual literacy for reading posters)
    • Filtering – it’s what some of us naturally do, others don’t know how to. Is media criticality now second nature for “Digital Natives”
    • Media becomes transparent (as the telephone has become)
    • Attitude & motivate can be big barriers – people are so busy, if there’s no reason for it, they won’t bother
    • Informal learning “they want to try” – debate re natives, etc… more progressive debates are those provided by daveowhite (who promises a paper soon) on digital residents and digital visitors!
    • Have found over the last year ALL students are on Facebook, and most students… ID the benefits for how to use in other ways.
    • Move question from “why” to “why not”?
    • Learn to DISCONNECT as part of becoming literate
    • Requirement to keep up to date with the digital world
  • Further Debate re: nature of students/teachin/staff
    • How much knowledge is already held?
    • What access is there to networks (who rather than what)
    • Potential to personalise (highly prized)
    • Political Views – do places just become ‘echo chambers’
    • Prior expectations – may impact motivation, etc.
    • Those who couldn’t contribute in class before, now can online
    • With so much good quality content online, students want something different from tutors.
    • For many students their first step is Wikipedia. This is not quite the danger of before, content is better updated & referenced, but still – first step, move on beyond it!
    • Are students not critical, or are they now all prosumers?
    • People are their own audience – self-reflective – many can’t relax, but have to blog/tweet about everything…
    • Allow people to make active choices rather than be rushed in – careers tend not to be straight line progression, so the choices that institutions make may not be the rights ones… (e.g. boxing everyone into the institutional software).
    • The format of much modern online knowledge – no distinction between good/bad content, and there’s a glue of content. Need to define form/content issues?
    • Should decisions be evidence-based rather than anecdotal/personal prejudices… however, isn’t reflecting on own practice, feeding in own examples, evidence?
    • Remember that technology means nothing to some people – how many of us know that person who only switches their mobile on when they are EXPECTING a call?
    • Ensure that when we are ‘standing back and allowing the student voice’ we are not just standing back from responsibility.
    • For staff – need to ID the outcomes of digital literacy. Some say that teachers are the “bottleneck” – it was agreed that many need to learn, but that policies need to be put into place to allow time to learn – many are keen!
    • If we can have advanced online social networks – allows dialogues between groups… we can put things in place and then get on and teach the programme. Redefine what needs to be learnt and then identify appropriate teaching practices – for research and teaching.
    • We need to allow space to experiment – there’s too much fear of failure.
    • Little changes can make a big difference – reflect on own practice.
    • Is it not more about digital citizenship?
    • What challenges the ‘native’ case? Use digital tools for learning tasks – people see the difference – e.g. collaborative knowledge building, use Wikis etc, then staff have confidence to use elsewhere.
    • Think about the world outside the institution
  • SLIDA
    • Carried out 10 bigger case studies (will be available in 4-6 weeks) – ‘social learning in a digital age’.
    • Strategies, policies, practical developments – not just pockets of practice. Need PVCs, Deans of L&T involved. What was driving the projects and how were seeing them through?
    • What happens… at a level of detail. Strategies, frameworks, individual, embedded, etc.
    • Edinburgh – changes the L&T spaces, allowing for collaborative working in pods (in a science context). We’re often not explicit enough in our teaching about the collaboration skills out students are gaining. Conversations re: pedagogy informed the teaching space – wanted to design OUT the teacher at the front (has a radio mike & can be seen on screens)
      • REMEMBER – this is a specific context, where students need to work with a lot of forumlae, etc.
      • The students LOVE IT, especially where there are options to turn the table into a whiteboard. They can call up material – all hosted on a central server.
      • Changes the use of the classsroom out of teaching time – teacher starts the conversation… can then teach large groups interactively.
    • Surrey – student driven initiatives, including CoLab – they know better, so let them teach US. Got students to redesign the VLE… gave them work experience in an institutional context, experience of Project Management, etc. This can’t necessarily be done by a traditional teaching module – students are “paid” (not much), as the unit becomes self-funding.
    • Once have found a way – then need to find a way of embedding.
    • We’re living in a technology rich society, we’re not looking for a skillsnet, but attitude set, where we’re prepared to ‘learn from learners’.

The project has defined digital literacies as: Digital Literacy is defined as the confident and critical use of ICT for work, leisure, learning and communication. (practice, not capabilities, and different contexts – more about attitude to technology). [Anyone remember where I can find the nice coloured diagrams online, and the PPTs were promised on Cloudworks?!]

See also: Effective Assessment in a Digital Age and Cloudworks

#ALTC2010 Conference
I wasn’t able to stay for the conference, so here’s a few bloggers I know will give some good insight:

Particularly keen to see posts on Twitter (what have I missed?):

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Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture  in the third sector (especially faith). Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.

4 thoughts on “Learning Literacies in a Digital Age #digilit #altc2010

  1. Nice blog post in terms of the questions raised with a lot to follow up. I have covered some of the issues in my blog post which prepped the debate.
    http://heutagogicarchive.wordpress.com/
    Will add reflections later and wrap up all the links to resources as Rhona, Helen and I also ran a Digital Capabilities symposium. The definition you offer is that from the EU (which is different to the one it offered 5 years ago), part of the workshop activity was about defining, or not defining digital literacies. My own take is that our view of “literacies” have evolved over the last 20 years. Twenty years ago education delivered subject mastery as success and offered literacy for failures. Helen’s argument is that Digital Literacies are skills all graduates need because “learning, living and working are understood to take place in a digital society” SO Digital Literacies are now characteristics of success. As you say perhaps we need digital citizenship; absolutely! I would say that we need the digital skills to exercise our citizenship, and we should be learning those as we particpate in the design our learning in a mashup culture.

  2. Thanks Fred.
    I had a variety of notes scribbled on bits of paper – was too busy using the iPad to tweet (http://www.twapperkeeper.com/hashtag/digilit), and as it was only the 2nd time I’d used it, haven’t yet found a way to bounce between screens without scrolling many times… , so hope they still make sense…
    It was a really interesting session, and I love the way that discussions can continue afterwards via online media!
    Bex

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