Start of the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme

@PatParslow reading a poem at #jiscdiglit! (CC BY dougbelshaw)

@PatParslow reading a poem at #jiscdiglit! (CC BY dougbelshaw)

The JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme is a two-year commitment by 12 colleges and universities funded to explore digital and new literacies in their institutions. After a successful programme startup meeting in early October, the projects have begun their initial activity.

Nine of the twelve projects have active project blogs, with the remaining three setting them up as a matter of priority. Some highlights from initial blog posts can be found below with the Exeter CASCADE project giving a useful brief overview of the startup meeting.

Greenwich have taken a slightly different approach in that they have set up a social networking site with blog features called DLinHE (Digital Literacies in Higher Education). As is appropriate to the subject matter, it is very conversation-oriented. An early post, for example, encouraged discussion around defining ‘digital literacy’:

We are entering a contested area here, folks. Each of us probably has a different definition of what we mean by DL depending on our discipline and context. Even the term ‘literacy’ is problematic, for example, library and information professionals would most likely be infuenced by information literacies and look to the (revised) Sconul pillars for a competency framework, others by media literacies, etc.

This early definition stage is where many projects are at. The Bath PriDE project ran a think tank event recently with their Faculty of Engineering and Design and the participants came up with the following definition of digital literacy:

A digitally literate person in the Faculty of Engineering and Design should be proficient in retrieving, managing, evaluating, sharing and presenting relevant information supported by access to the appropriate hardware and software.

As Vic Jenkins notes in a comment to that post, there may be “a natural tendency to focus on more generic or familiar skill sets… when participants first approach ideas around digital literacy.”

Developing digital literacies is certainly an iterative process, as University College London have discovered (emphasis in original):

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?

These are certainly exciting times for the projects involved in the JISC-funded programme, but also for those who are looking to do something similar in their institution. Be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates and follow the hashtag #jiscdiglit on Twitter!