Digital Literacy – inspiration from Cardiff

By digital literacy we mean those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society: for example, the skills to use digital tools to undertake academic research, writing and critical thinking; as part of personal development planning; and as a way of showcasing achievements.

JISC

A couple of weeks ago I headed to LSE for one of their NetworkED seminars entitled “Putting digital and information literacies into practice.” It was delivered by  Cathie Jackson, Janet Finlay and Joe Nichols from Cardiff University about their Digidol Project. It was one of those presentations where you come away inspired to do lots of things and also wondering where to begin.

Cardiff have a solid background in Information Literacy (IL), it has been part of the University’s Teaching and Learning Strategy since the early part of this century with a view to it being fully embedded. They explained that they have had a good top down buy in to IL and in turn this is helping with Digital Literacy. Cathie made a few excellent points about embedding IL (something close to my heart):

  • Has to be embedded this is the only  way it makes sense in academic context. It has to be entirely embedded and Not preserve of library but library provides support so academics can deliver IL.
  • Subject Librarians worked with academic staff on a course by course level.
  • Not too precise – what is comfortable for discipline.

She also mentioned the excellent Cardiff Information Literacy Resource bank which I myself have used and which academics can pull things from to use in their teaching. The items are deisgned so anybody anywhere could reuse them – worth pointing academics in our own institutions towards this resource.

Whilst IL is embedded in at least 66% of Cardiff’s courses DL is not massively widespread and embedded. Cardiff are bringing it all together, building on the strong IL foundation and blending  digital literacies, academic literacies, information literacies  together in the education strategy.
They have strong support from management. For example the Chief Operating Officer uses digital media incl blogs. This managerial involvement is seen as key to getting digital literacy on to the agenda. They are also involved in the central staff development programme.
One of the areas they have indentified as being an is issue is the communication gap between service providers and staff and students.
Taking Beetham and Sharpe’s  2009  model they have added another layer at the bottom for Awareness :
Cardiff found IL was stopping at skills and there was a need to look at how to apply it for example to produce a presentation. Different literacies mapped on to the pyramid from Beetham and Sharpe.
They came up with core tasks – building blocks for practices. I.e. find, manage, manipulate, producing, share.
They also identified practices – e.g. Giving presentation, Managing online presence, writing an essay
They also thought of the highest level and what do you want to see from a graduate  in other words what you want to see at end of course.
They looked at different models including the SCONUL digital literacy lens and now have set of 5 core tasks and examples at higher levels. This has been critiqued by their subject librarians. One key point is that DL (and all literacies) flow round triangle, students don’t reach top and finish.
There are some pertinent points:
  • Difficult to talk about practices and attributes – core tasks tend to be combined.
  • Practices need to be disciplinary based I.e. science versus arts
  • Some disciplines expect a read paper.
  • Tools are changing every week – using concept mapping including external tools and how they match the core tasks but also important to understand what people do I.e. tasks maps back to services this allows new technologies to be mapped back.
It is all about conversation – need to talk to staff and students about what they use and get other services involved. Conversations can happen on social media which led on to thinking about what opportunities might social media provide?
They asked students “What do you think you would benefit from?”
Answer:
“how could they use social media promote themselves”
So the answers to questions might not be what you expect but provide great opportunities for developing new areas of training. This echoed the skills gap they had observed. Service providers (including the library) might have tools to solve the problems and tasks of the staff and students but often the two don’t match up.
This is where developing learning literacies helps to enable the staff and students.
Connecting with other areas of the institution such as careers to bridge these gaps works well.
Putting digital and information in practice
Strategically driven
  • Building on establishes iniatives
  • Detailed in university strategies and action plans
  • Key gatekeepers and decision makers
Contextualised
  • Learning literacies development framework
  • Promoting ac ownership
  • Task and practice focused
Scalable and sustainable
  • Linking services to practices – knowledge hub
  • Initiating and maintaining conversations
  • Building communities of interest
This is a link to the Prezi.
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