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Two types of digital literacies?

By Clive Young, on 16 May 2012

As part of TDD Alison and I attended an interesting JISC workshop on ‘digital literacies’ yesterday. There was much emphasis on how skills and practices contributed to both academic and personal online identities. However the literacies supporting each might be different. A distinction emerged from discussions with programme ‘synthesis consultant’ Helen Beetham.

  • Professional/academic literacies and identities, characterised by specialist tools like SPSS, CAD/CAM, LaTex, GIS tools and the academic tools Moodle/Lecturecast/Turnitin. They tend to have  a steep learning curve but the literacies are usually quite well integrated into modules and ‘owned’ by the department and/or the institution.
  • Personal/social literacies/identities  – characterised by cloud-based web services such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube –  designed/promoted as ‘easy to use’ and not usually integrated  unless  part of the academic subject itself (investigating digital technologies etc) and therefore not ‘owned’ by anyone (…should they be?).

There is significant possible overlap, however, where cloud-based services could be used directly in to support academic study (blogs, media etc), to engage in discipline-based ‘research 2.0 activities’, to develop portfolios for employability and establish a professional online identity.

This seems the area where the institution may be able to take more ‘ownership’ – the academic application of web service tools. Some universities (or academic departments) reported they had set up wikis covering technologies and techniques that students themselves can contribute to. It was suggested such wikis could be ‘seeded’ by student volunteers or interns.