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The Digital Department


Developing digital literacies for teaching administrators


Archive for the 'Publications' Category

How to Develop Digital Literacies in Yourself and Others

By Clive Young, on 9 January 2012

Doug Belshaw, a researcher/analyst at JISC infoNet has devloped an excellent Slideshare on digital literacies. He asks;

If literacy is just ‘reading and writing’ then why has so much ink been spilled over such a simple concept? Is there just one ‘literacy’ to rule them all? Or are there multiple literacies? Is what we do online a ‘literacy’?

Doug believes there are eight essential elements to digital literacies and that definitions of digital literacies should be co-created to have power. In this presentation he points to useful resources (from JISC and elsewhere), asks some questions as conversation starters and provides some practical examples of how you can develop digital literacy skills in yourself and others.

Distributed literacy in the digital department

By Clive Young, on 20 October 2011

Early last year the ESRC/EPSRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme published ‘Digital Literacies’ (Gillen and Barton 2010) useful overview of the theoretical background. It traced the conceptual evolution of the term from its origin as a synonym for ‘IT skills’ through the addition of ‘soft skills’, in an academic context mainly criticality and evaluation and on to the Web 2.0 notion of the student as a consumer/creator/collaborator. The latest manifestation revolves around the idea literacy as a ‘situated practice’ i.e. it is intimately linked to the specific context of use and cannot (should not?) be considered in isolation.

Most of the discussion concerns student literacies, about how the individual acquires digital expertise in a disciplinary domain and within a specific teaching context but that this ‘literacy’ contributes (among other things) to the transformation of the student into a skilled practitioner, ready to take her place in an increasingly ‘technologised’ professional world.

Nonetheless the authors detect a distinct shift from the original formulation of digital literacy as ‘the skillset of the individual’ towards a more modern model of literacy as a ‘social practice’. As the authors put it,  “a single act of digital literacy’ is founded upon a network of practices with sociohistorical antecedents” and it only has meaning “if it has a relation to others’ understandings and activities”.

Although the original TDD proposal focused on the CPD and the portfolio-building of the individual we emphasised the development of a community of practice as a dynamic resource network providing an external perspective as well as a source of expertise. Reading Gillen and Barton I suspect this goes even further. The digital department is itself both a social practice and an active process. We cannot ultimately look at the literacies of one the TAs alone; we should think of distributed digital literacies across the department. As the literacies of TAs improve,  what is the effect of the other participants in the departmental social practice; the students and particularly the academics?  Can the students own literacies be enhanced by interacting with a ‘switched on department’? Will academics, relieved of basic digital management  have the time and inclination to engage more fully with online activities? What effect could this have on course design?

But that is what makes TDD so interesting, as Gillen and Barton explain

“Digital literacies are always dynamic – in part because technology is perceptibly developing so fast in front of our eyes – but also because human purposes continue to develop and are reshaped by collaboration. This is the moving backcloth for the current explosion of creativity in digital literacies that makes this such a fascinating arena”.

Gillen, J and Barton, D. 2010. Digital Literacies, Enhanced Learning phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme, TLRP-Technology Enhanced Learning

NUS “New Technology in Higher Education” Charter highlights admin role

By Clive Young, on 11 October 2011

The National Union of StudentsCharter on Technology in Higher Education, published in August this year aims to set out “best practice for the use of technology in higher education, for teaching & learning and how technology can improve the student experience“. The idea is that students and their respective student unions will use the Charter to make sure technology is high on the institutional agenda so that “graduates are equipped and ready for the 21st century environment“.

The 10 points of the charter cover; clear ICT strategy, staff development, training and support for staff and students, accessibility, online administration, linking technology-enhanced learning and employability, investment in using technology to enhance learning and teaching, research into student demand and finally that technologies should enhance teaching and learning but not be used as a replacement to existing effective practice.

Online administration is of course an interesting focus with regard to our The Digital Deprtment project. More specifically the Charter says “Administration should be made more accessible through the use technology, including e-submission, feedback and course management“. It continues “The use of technology in institutional administration will simplify and improve assessment, feedback, registration and module selection. Technology should also be utilised to support effective communications within institutions for both students and staff“. Very much the emphasis of the project and good to hear these views expressed so clearly from representatives of the student body.

Supporting Learners in a Digital Age

By Clive Young, on 26 September 2011

Not surprisingly much of the work on digital literacies in higher education has focused on students. JISC have recently published Supporting Learners in a Digital Age, a briefing paper largely based on their high profile ‘Supporting Learners in a Digital Age’ (SLiDA) project. SLiDA explored how nine different institutions are helping students use digital technologies effectively in their studies, and preparing them to live and work in a digital society. Part of the briefing paper is a “a strategy for digital capability“. This states in short:

  • Thriving in the digital age demands the confidence to respond to complex and changing circumstances, rather than mastery of specific systems.
  • It helps to have a framework of core principles.
  • Shared frameworks are key to a strategic approach, but examples of good practice are important to guide curriculum renewal in different subject areas.
  • Digital skills should not be bolted on to existing provision. Rather, the institution needs to renew its core practices in the light of new digital challenges and opportunities.

Alhough aimed at students these apply equally to staff skills. Indeed in the strategy it is recognised that “teaching staff skills are critical to students’ experience and developing confidence with technology”. How can this be achieved? “In addition to general workshops and training opportunities, staff benefit from embedded experts such as e-champions and specialist professionals. They need opportunities to share practice with colleagues in both scholarly and informal settings.” In other words The Digital Department altnough adapting the focus very much builds on and extends the ideas of Supporting Learners in a Digital Age.