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    Digital Literacy: Friend, Foe or Fad?

    By Moira Wright, on 16 December 2015

    The UCL DL SIG invites UCL staff and students to an afternoon of discussion, networking and debate on digital literacy on Thursday January 7th 2016 from 2-4.30pm.

    This event is planned to address the question ‘Digital literacy: friend, foe, or fad?’ through an exploration of the benefits and challenges in the conception, delivery and evaluation of this hot topic. Delegates will be encouraged to reflect on their practices and discuss.

    Highlight of the event is that Helen Beetham, Education Consultant to UK HEI’s and Jisc, will speak. Helen Beetham is an author, researcher and innovator in the field of e-learning, with particular expertise in Higher Education. Since 2004 she has played a leading role in the JISC e-learning programme as an advisor on pedagogic issues. She is an experienced workshop leader and a regular speaker at conferences in the UK and abroad. An edited volume of essays, Rethinking Pedagogy for the Digital Age, was recently published by Routledge. Her areas of research and advisory expertise include: e-learning policy and practice; learners and learning in the digital age; pedagogy and educational theory; design for learning; e-portfolios for learning; academic writing and academic literacies.

    The QAA HER at UCL is upcoming and as part of this they have asked UCL to provide a snapshot of digital literacy activity at UCL. This report is not part of the scored element of the review. Steve Rowett and myself have been conducting interviews to learn more about what is happening at UCL. Some of this work was conducted using Jisc tools and it has uncovered a fabulously rich and varied picture – this event will include some presentations and examples of exciting current practice from UCL staff and students including Diana Lee – hack organiser, blogger, tech society and student, Free Hype – voluntary student society, Professor Martin Oliver and Dr Lesley Gourlay UCL Institute of Education, Dr Viv Jones UCL Department of Geography and Dr Sunny Bains (please use Eventbrite link for tickets below to view the full programme).

    About the UCL DL SIG

    When the UCL E-Champions network was formed a UCL Digital Literacies Special Interest Group (UCL DL SIG) was set up at the same time. The SIG was created for UCL staff to promote the use of technology in learning, provide a platform to ask questions, exchange ideas and also to get support from colleagues beyond E-Learning Environments.

    We’re using the Jisc definition of digital literacy: ‘the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society’ (see link Jisc: Digital Capabilities 6 elements below).


    Refreshments are provided along with time to network.
    Tickets are via Eventbrite (use the password: UCLDLSIG) :

    Click here for tickets and programme details – Digital Literacy:Friend, Foe or Fad?


    Further reading

    Jisc Blog: Building capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency

    Jisc: Landscape Review
    Jisc: Frameworks mapped to 6 elements

    Jisc: Digital Capabilities 6 elements, Helen Beetham pdf

    QAA: How we review higher education

    QAA: Higher Education Review: Themes for 2015-16

    From consumption to competency and creation

    By Fiona Strawbridge, on 12 November 2012

    The 'I see what you mean' bear at the Denver Convention CenterThree plenary talks nicely framed this year’s Educause conference and, in their own ways, called for the involvement of students in designing and building their learning experiences and outcomes.

    Clay Shirky (author of ‘Here Comes Everybody’ and ‘Cognitive Surplus’) opened the conference by talking about the way in which technology (especially social media) is enabling us to use our collective cognitive surplus to do increasingly creative and productive things in our spare time; we still like to consume, but we also like to create and share. This socially mediated approach to creativity has unexpected benefits for society and from education.  Shirky argued that the interesting thing about MOOCs is not their massiveness, but their openness and potential for sharing.

    In the keynote ‘blueprint for change’ talk Christine Flanagan (Student Experience Director from the  Business Innovation Factory) talked about a ‘student experience lab‘ which had travelled the US and found that many are unprepared for student life and want more from higher education, some questioning the importance of a degree.  In the same session Elliot Masie (expert in workplace learning – see Masie.com) had pointed out that in many subjects the half life of what people learn is less than four years and so the ability to update knowledge and skills is essential – we all need to be lifelong learners and our campuses need to accommodate multi-generational learners.   Both argued that we need to take risks and accept failure in developing new approaches to teaching and learning.

    Flanagan argued that students are less immersed in their studies than in previous generations which means that there needs to be better incorporation of extracurricular achievements into their HE outcomes. She claimed that competency-based learning, in which students demonstrate mastery of a series of tasks which can be rolled up into a degree, is an effective approach.  In contrast Ed Ayers, in the closing plenary, focused on the need for students to be able to deal with the kinds of complex and contested subjects in which complexity is accepted; knowledge is not just learned but must be created, aggregated and synthesised.  He bemoaned the focus of much e-learning on teaching procedural and processural topics (especially in STEM subjects) that can be taught in chunks and called for its development to help aggregate and visualise information to create new knowledge and understanding – digital scholarship or generative scholarship.   Ayers’ insitution – the University of Richmond – has a Digital Scholarship Lab which involves computer scientists working with humanities academics and students.  Ayers showed wonderful examples of animated maps telling some of the human and political stories behind the emancipation of slaves during the American civil war in very direct and graphical ways. He argued that by focusing on the use of technology to drill and grill, we are missing its potential to create and transform understanding.

    Ed Ayers on stage at Educause

    Ed Ayers on stage at Educause

    It seems to me that although Ayers appeared to be have a very different perspective from Flanagan and Masie, the two could be reconciled if we can involve students in designing and developing new ways to use technology to go beyond knowledge consumption and find new ways to create, present, aggregate and synthesise information to allow new understandings to emerge.  Flanagan had suggested that if you want new models you could talk to innovators, look to industry, or talk to students, and that student involvement can help break down silos within an institution and promote experimentation.

    For some academics who already have the necessary imagination, skills and access to technologies (which are probably not those traditionally viewed as ‘learning technologies’), and who are willing to work collaboratively with students, this may be relatively straightforward; for many though it may involve partnerships with learning technologists, and experimentation with unfamiliar technologies with help from research support staff. And of course the involvement of students in design and implementation needs to be carefully managed. But in all won’t this support both deeper learning whilst also providing the kinds of practical experience that will enhance students’ wider skills and employability? And, going back to Shirky’s opening remarks, make good use of some of our collective cognitive surplus.