Digital literacies and European TEL research
I was lucky enough to have a workshop accepted at ARV13 this year, a European symposium in which participants attend linked workshops on themes in TEL research.
Although the workshop was not funded by Jisc, I took the opportunity to raise awareness of the Developing Digital Literacies programme, and especially the Exeter Cascade project which I have been helping to take forward. In my own session I spoke about the contribution we can make to building a conscious, critical approach to the use of digital technologies as a key attribute for graduates entering a digital world, and also a value that institutions should have when they invest in digital technologies and approaches.
‘Critical’ is a word that sees a lot of (over?)use in discussions of higher education and in the writing of course outcomes. What does it mean in relation to digital technologies? For me it has a number of aspects:
Repertoire – Being a skilled user of one device, service or system has its limits: critical use means moving fluently between systems and being able to confidently choose and adopt technologies as they become available. Repertoire also gives users a more discriminating approach to technologies in use, and allows us to develop practices ‘against the grain’ of technology’s obvious intended purposes.
Creativity – Unless we are producing artefacts and representations in digital media we are unlikely to understand how digital media work on us as consumers. The ‘student as producer’ movement plays out in the digital sphere in important ways.
Play – Associated with creativity, we know that ‘peer supported experimentation’ is one of the best ways to become confident and familiar in a new environment, real or virtual. People need time and space to play with technologies in a low-stakes, complex environment without clearly defined goals.
Awareness – Technology use arguably implies a responsibility to reflect on the forces behind the screen. What real materials are our devices composed of and how are they sourced? What resources of energy are consumed for virtual services to be delivered? What relationships of production and consumption exist so that we can enjoy the apparently limitless capacities of the internet?
Safe and ethical behaviour – For me this is closely related to critical awareness. Rather than learning the ‘rules’ of safe and ethical behaviour online, a critical awareness of how digital systems work, how data is collected and used, how public and private are blurred etc allows us to develop our own values and negotiate them with others.
The overall workshop topic was TEL: the crisis and the response., and the aim was to discuss how technology enhanced learning has contributed to a number of crises we observe in formal education, and how it might also support helpful responses to crisis. The group involved in the workshop continues to collaborate on a number of writing and research projects including a special issue of linked papers, a proposal to ALT-C, and a contribution to the Grand Challenges for TEL Research (2013): ‘How can TEL contribute to resolving educational inequalities?’ Contact us via the blog if you are interested.
There were contributions from several people associated with JISC projects including Simon and Peter from Greenwich Digital Literacies in Transition, speaking about new pedagogies. On the third day we heard from other workshop groups and contributed to discussions on how priorities for TEL research are being shaped across Europe. The JISC community may be interested in outcomes from the workshops on ‘Data Analysis and Interpretation for Learning Environments‘, ‘Teacher-led Inquiry and Learning Design‘, ‘Technology support for reflecting on and sharing experiences across contexts‘ and ‘Establishing a European infrastructure for TEL‘. This last was organised, like the Grand Challenges project itself, by the European TELEARC consortium. The Grand Challenges will be written up and produced in book form – more details will be available via the usual JISC mailing lists.
My slides on critical digital literacies (no notes) are here.