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Un-defining digital literacies: students' day-to-day engagements with technologies

Kenote, given at ILTA's EdTech 2012 conference, Maynooth, Ireland.

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Un-defining digital literacies: students' day-to-day engagements with technologies

  1. 1. Un-defining digital literacies: Image orstudents’ day-to-day engagements text towith technologies go hereMartin Oliver & Lesley GourlayInstitute of Education, University of LondonEdTech Conference 2012NUI Maynooth31st May 2012
  2. 2. Overview1) Literacies as social practice2) Literacies as situated practices3) Literacies as distributed and diffuse2
  3. 3. Literacies as social practice3
  4. 4. Definitions of digital literacies Digital literacy defines those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society. (Beetham, 2010)• Is having a definition “a convenient hypocrisy”?4
  5. 5. Conceptions of literacies• Ethnographic research (Brice-Heath 1983, Street 1984)• Social practice not individual cognition• Academic literacies (Lea & Street, 1998)• Critique of cognitive, individual model• Focus on meaning-making and texts5
  6. 6. Learning technologyMany theories of “learning” but not good explanation of “technology”Literature search• Decade of journals in the field• Only 10 articles in a decade that try to explain “technology”• Five of them about “affordances”
  7. 7. Technology “offers” (causes) or constrains• A way of designing user agency out• Appealing to designers who want users to behave• Cf. Woolgar & Grint (1997) and “configuring the users” (an STS take on the problem)• Vendor rhetoric of technology “solutions”Seeking approaches that don’t reduce ‘the social’ to a ‘command and control’ systems/engineering paradigm7
  8. 8. Literacies as situated practice8
  9. 9. IOE JISC project2-year funded project – – Digital Literacies programme, 10 projects1st year: student research • Focus groups • Longitudinal multimodal journalling2nd year: implementation projects9
  10. 10. MethodologyReflecting diversity, complexity etcData as close as possible to practices, not accounts of practicesJournalling as ethnographically informed data ofArtefacts – emphasis on experience over abstraction, sense of the fine-grained day-to-day lived practices10
  11. 11. 11
  12. 12. 12
  13. 13. What did the focus groups say aboutsituated practice?13
  14. 14. What do our students use?Lots of things - many institutional, but also many that are not institutionally supported• Office tools (primarily Microsoft, plus Google docs and Prezi)• Institutional VLEs (Moodle and Blackboard)• Email (institutional, personal and work-based)• Synchronous conferencing services (Skype, Elluminate)• Calendars (iCal, Google)• Search engines and databases (including Google, Google Scholar, library databases, professional databases such as Medline, etc),• Social networking sites (Facebook,, LinkedIn) and services (Twitter)• Image editing software (photoshop, lightbox)• Endnote• Reference works (Wikipedia, online dictionaries and social bookmarking sites such as Mendeley)• GPS services• Devices (PCs at the institution and at home, laptops including MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, Blackberries and E-book readers).14
  15. 15. “The student experience”No evidence that the student experience is singular…•Marked differences in experiences and priorities across thefour groups•PGCE, MA students, PhD students, Online masters’ students•Coping with whiteboards and staff room politics of access;using the VLE to access materials; library databases; usingthe VLE to create a sense of community (…and Skype behindthe scenes…)•Professional, personal, study15
  16. 16. The sense of community is much stronger at my new school. People stay at work later- at the old school everyone left early. And at the old school we weren’t given any work space in the English department so we had to work in the staff room but at the new one we have desks so we really feel connected to the department. And its great because everyone works at their desks and then for lunch they have ‘turn-in’ time when we all move our chairs away from our desks and eat together in a circle. (PGCE student)16
  17. 17. I could go into like Web of Knowledge, I could put that reference into EndNote, I could then go and look it up through, do a direct link through to [the University’s] holdings, find the article. But if I actually looked that article up in the [the University’s] holdings, I then cant then pull it the other way. And it’s like hang on a minute, why does it work in one direction and not another, that just seems [unclear]. Then Ive got, something Ive actually had up on my screen a moment before, Im having to type in by hand. Im like why, why am I doing this? I dont understand the logic behind why the pathways dont work both ways. (PhD Student)17
  18. 18. Complexity: domains and devices18
  19. 19. Access, difference, convergence Well, in my bedroom, on my bed, its mainly my mobile and going through my emails, travel information, whether on Facebook, my mobile too. Then, um, and in the study room, that would be my laptop and, um, laptop, that would be Blackboard, research, entertainment.19
  20. 20. The only thing I struggle with […], is the issue of like keepingyour private life separate from your work life because I thinkincreasingly the two, youre being forced to kind of mush thetwo together. Because like [Another Institution] used to haveits own email server and it would provide you with an email.Now it’s provided by Gmail and it’s like everybody knows thatGmail is the nosiest thing in the world and tracks absolutelyeverything you do. And […] Im a little bit uncomfortable withthe idea that my work email knows what shopping I do and,you know what I mean? I just find the whole thing is startingto get a little bit scary.20
  21. 21. Journalling case study: YukiJapanese, female in her 40s, MA student For me the most important thing is portability, because I use technologies, ICT, everywhere I go, anywhere I go. For example of course I use some technologies, PCs and laptops and my iPad in the IOE building, and in the IOE building I use PC, I use them in PC room, in library, and for searching some data or journals. In the lecture room I record my, record the lectures and taking memos by that.21
  22. 22. Print literacies22
  23. 23. Digital/digitised texts23
  24. 24. Non-human actors24
  25. 25. Domains25
  26. 26. 26
  27. 27. 27
  28. 28. Themes from the journals• Complex, constantly shifting set of practices• Permeated with digital mediation• Strongly situated / contingent on the material• Distributed across human /nonhuman actors• Texts are restless, constantly crossing apparent boundaries of human/nonhuman, digital/analogue, here/not here, now/not now.28
  29. 29. Humans, and what they take to be their learning and social process, do not float, distinct, in container-like contexts of education, such a classrooms or community sits, that can be sits, that can be conceptualised and dismissed as simply a wash of material stuff and spaces. The things that assemble these contexts, and incidentally the actions and bodies including human ones that are part of these assemblages, are continuously acting upon each other to bring forth and distribute, as well as to obscure and deny, knowledge. (Fenwick et al 2011)29
  30. 30. So, what might this mean for you?Thinking differently about digital literacies• Calling things “generic” and “transferable” just hides the complexity• “Skills” understood as achievements that involve resources (physical, digital) and people in specific places…leading to new questions:• Can we develop “resilience”: the capacity to cope when parts of these network change or break?• (Beetham, Exeter) Can we develop learners’ digital literacy repertoires?30
  31. 31. What might you need to think about?What technologies are students using anyway?• Do these help or hinder study?• Can they learn to use them in this new context?• Can you help them bring together or keep separate different parts of their lives?31
  32. 32. What technologies are students required to use?• What do they struggle with or get concerned about?• Where and when do they do this? (Do you know?)• Who helps them, inside or outside the institution? (…if anyone…)• What happens when they struggle, or choose not to use them?How can you help students to help each other?• Can “resilient” coping strategies be described and shared?32
  33. 33. Revisiting the definitions Digital literacy defines those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society. (Beetham, 2010)Taxonomic definitions or literacies or of attributes are doomed to failure33
  34. 34. Revisiting the definitionsA focus on orientations not skills and capabilities • …agility, adaptability, resilience, tolerance of ambiguity, ability to interweave institutional/non-institutional technologies, ability to work across a range of physical, temporal, digital and analogue domains • A situated account implies situated development, not monolithic institutional programmesIf we want to develop digital literacies for life… • Not giving learners something, but helping them to develop an unafraid stance of constant learning34
  35. 35. Questions and comments? Institute of Education University of London 20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL Tel +44 (0)20 7612 6000 Fax +44 (0)20 7612 6126 Email Web

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Kenote, given at ILTA's EdTech 2012 conference, Maynooth, Ireland.


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