Research into the learner experience of using technology for learning in UK Higher Education suggests that although students may be comfortable with digital technologies and devices, particularly in their everyday social applications, they are often less well-versed in the critical, social and personal knowledge practices which lie at the heart of any discussion of ‘literacies’, and tend to take their lead from teachers or other academic staff. (e.g. Benfield, G. & Sharpe, R., 2011) This idea is supported by preliminary research undertaken with students at our institution.
At the same time, staff digital literacies are often portrayed in terms of a ‘deficit’ (Lea, 2013), leading some to propose that all staff should be trained up to a certain level of digital competence. However, there are significant challenges inherent in this approach to staff development e.g. “lack of time to engage with new tools, distrust of the academic benefits or cultural attitudes” (JISC, 2014). Delivering large-scale training and development sessions for staff in learning technologies can be extremely problematic in terms of time, logistics, staff engagement and the nuanced nature of digital practices in different disciplines. The key is to find ways to actively engage staff in change and create opportunities for conversations (JISC, 2014).
Underpinning this project is the idea that helping students to develop the digital literacies they need and encouraging staff to investigate and develop their own digital practice are two sides of the same coin. Inspired by successful collaborations at other UK HEIs (e.g. Student as Producer at the University of Lincoln, the DIAL Projectat the University of the Arts), the overarching aim of this project is to create a focal point for dialogue around digital literacies among students and staff. This concept is informed by the Developmental Model of Student Engagement (DMSE) “based on constructivist notions of learning such as the co-creation of knowledge by learners and teachers” and “the quality of learning and the personal, mutual and social benefits that can be derived from engaging within a community of scholars.” (Trowler & Trowler, 2010). By situating this dialogue within subject area teams, relevant support from learning technologists and other professional services departments can be driven by the needs of practitioners in the subject and avoid the top-down, ‘techno-deterministic’ approach which can sometimes prevail.
In the initial phase of the project, an online resource (Clued Up! Digital skills for the 21st Century student) has been developed, in tandem with the creation of a group of student Digital Ambassadors, who will help to co-create and run a programme of workshops to provide information and support to students across the university on how to use digital technologies more effectively in their learning.
A second phase will seek to facilitate partnerships between these digital ambassadors and staff in their particular subject areas in order to investigate relevant digital practices and develop bespoke resources to help both groups to develop their practice. It is hoped that the outputs of these collaborations will serve as exemplars which, together with the student website, can be showcased throughout our institution and the wider community to provide one possible road map of how universities can address some of the challenges posed by the rapid evolution and adoption of digital technologies in educational spaces. By creating small, agile development teams of Digital Ambassadors and interested staff, situated in specific subject areas, it will be possible to scale the project up by replicating the model across different courses and disciplines.
This presentation will give an overview of the project so far from both the project developers’ and the students’ point of view, including the times we may have ‘fallen off and got wet’. It will go on to discuss the particular benefits of this type of intervention and outline our plans for further development of the project in the coming academic year.
Beetham, H., McGill, L., Littlejohn, A. (2009) Thriving in the 21st Century: Learning Literacies in a Digital Age (LLiDA Project) Available at:http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2009/elearningllidareport.aspx [Accessed April 2nd, 2014]
Beetham, H. & Oliver, M. (2010) The changing practices of knowledge and learning. In Sharpe, R., Beetham, H. and de Freitas, S. (Eds.) Rethinking Learning for a Digital Age. London, Routledge.
Benfield, G. & Sharpe, R. (2011) Supporting learners in a digital age (SLiDA): synthesis report. Oxford, Oxford Brookes University. Available at:http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/briefingpapers/2011/slida.aspx [Accessed April 2nd, 2014]
JISC (2014), hosted by Northumbria University. Developing Digital Literacies. Available at:
Lea, M.R., 2013. Reclaiming literacies: competing textual practices in a digital higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(1), pp.106–118. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13562517.2012.756465 [Accessed April 1, 2014].
Trowler, V. & Trowler, P., 2010. HEA Report: Student engagement evidence summary. Available at:http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/studentengagement/StudentEngagementEvidenceSummary.pdf [Accessed June 3, 2014]
|Affiliation||London Metropolitan University|