Author: jimpettiward

This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

Domains of Learning – ocTEL Week 7

One of the Week 7 Tasks for was: 

·       How you would you implement one or more kinds of support in some learning provision in which you are involved?

·       How would these meet the needs of your learners (you may find it useful to refer to any work you did on Week 2),

·       The challenges you think they might experience.

For this task I’ve been taking a look at George Siemens’ article on what he calls the Learning Development Cycle. As I often find with his work, it’s extremely dense (the look of it, font, line spacing etc doesn’t make it an easy article to get to grips with…) but on closer inspection I find thought-provoking nuggets which I’d like to explore further. For me, the concept of the four learning domains  which he describes (see below) is more interesting and useful than the actual Learning Development Cycle which he outlines later in the paper. I’ll try to relate these domains to my own context and describe how I think they overlap.

George Siemens:
I sometimes teach on a Pre-Sessional Academic English programme for international students. The aim of the course is to give these students the necessary language and academic skills to be able to participate in a course of under- or postgraduate study.
There is no escaping the Transmission domain for this course. There is a tried and tested syllabus, materials, timetable and assessment framework which needs to be adhered to. This is, of course, not perfect, but it has the advantage of giving structure to the course and providing a degree of familiarity/comfort for international students with an extremely wide and diverse range of educational experiences. This is not something that is likely to change in the near future, so I think the important question is: 
How can Instructors on the course begin to integrate elements of the other 3 domains of learning into this existing framework? 
Siemens outlines the role of the designer (Instructor in this case…) in each of the domains:

Transmission: Create courses, workshops

Accretion: Create networks, ecologies, environments
Acquistion: Ensure availability of resources
Emergence: Foster and encourage reflection
He also categorises how each domain is indicative of a particular type of learning theory or view of learning:
Transmission: Behaviourism / Cognitivism
Accretion: Connectivism
Acquistion: Connectivism / Constructivism
Emergence: Constructivism / Cognitivism
For me this is useful as it highlights the fact that no one learning theory fits all, and that good learning and teaching practice cannot generally be described by one over-arching learning theory, but instead will have elements of a variety of learning theories.
So, in terms of my course, how would I bring these other elements in? Here are some examples:
Transmission: As an Instructor on this course, most of the course material and the syllabus has already been created. In the transmission domain, my role would be to ‘deliver’ these during face to face sessions, manage the assessed components of the course and so on.
Accretion: The aim here would be to help learners build their own learning networks so that they have the skills to find what they need as they progress into their full degree programmes. For example, I might create a Diigo (social bookmarking) group and encourage students to find and add relevant sites for academic or language skills. A Twitter feed embedded in their course site (currently Blackboard Learn) could highlight useful information and articles, or even better, they could create their own Twitter lists of practitioners in their particular subject area. Use of some of the social communication tools (e.g. blogs, discussion boards) within the course could begin to build up a community of learners and, once some confidence had been developed in this (relatively safe) environment, this could be extended out into a wider network (using Nancy White’sideas of Community and Network – great webinar by the way, well worth a look if you haven’t already).
Acquisition: The idea here would be to provide a variety of resources in different media to try to meet the different needs of learners. For example, rather than links to lots of dense PDF documents, I’d also try to include some OERs in various formats e.g. a video, podcast, prezi, slideshare etc. It’s relatively straightforward to provide a good variety of different resources. The challenging part is persuading learners to engage with these resources. Self-directed learning does not come naturally to many learners – certain educational cultures are prone to spoon-feeding content, and some learners may see this as the norm and find it difficult to adopt different learning behaviours. So acquisition also requires good scaffolding in my view.
Emergence: To encourage reflection and meta-cognition, a personal journal can be used to encourage students to reflect in writing on their own learning. Again, it’s fairly simple to build elements of reflection and self-assessment into a course, although it is sometimes necessary to make these a part of assessment in order to encourage participation. This may be outside learners’ experience of education and therefore needs to be done with care. It always helps to explain exactly why we are doing it and what can be gained by it. Having students accompany any piece of written work with a short description of what they found difficult about the task and how well they think they achieved it can also be an interesting exercise.

In my view, these are all things which an Instructor can do to help learners reach their particular learning goals. The challenges inherent in trying to enable learning in all of these domains often relates to student expectations/experience (particularly when your cohort is international students with an extremely diverse range of educational backgrounds). In a sense, we look to encourage a cultural change among learners, to help them become more self-directed, reflective, networked and risk-taking learners. 
(If you’re a Diigo user, I’ve made a few highlights and comments on the Siemens Learning Development Cycle article which you can access at 
 – depending on browser you’re using you might need to hit Annotate in Diigo toolbar or widget to allow you to see highlights / comments)

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jimpettiward: #octel catching up with Week 5 – a new role for VLEs?

#octel catching up with Week 5 – a new role for VLEs?— Jim Pettiward (@jimpettiward) May 29, 2013

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Catching up with OCTEL Week 5 – A new role for VLEs?

More than just a filing cabinet?
        I’ve been away for a little while, but had a little unfinished business from Week 5. I wanted  to contribute to the general discussion in Activity 5.2 with some thoughts about VLEs, in particular:
       – What are the wider implications of enforced platforms and technologies for Higher Education? 

VLEs. Or LMSs. Or MLEs. Or MLSs. Or whatever you want to call them (does it matter?)
We know that VLEs have aroused strong feelings since they became the standard online learning platform in most universities – see, for example: The VLE is dead at ALT-C 2009.  Despite the frequent criticisms levelled at them, it would be hard to find a UK HEI that doesn’t have some kind of VLE such as Moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Sakai etc., and for all the talk of PLEs (Personal Learning Environments), until there is a coherent alternative, it seems that they are here to stay, at least in the near future. But that’s OK! In my view, VLEs are not, in themselves, a bad thing, but they are often not used very effectively. Perhaps all we need to do is re-evaluate the role they play in teaching and learning within Higher Education?

A frequent complaint about VLEs is that they are used solely as content dumps – the tutor / lecturer simply dumps a load of PDFs, Powerpoints, maybe a course handbook, into the relevant area of the VLE and that’s it, job done, there’s your e-learning right there.  Yet Blackboard and Moodle both have a host of other features designed to encourage interaction, dialogue, peer feedback, reflection, group work and other activities and processes which could be said to belong to social constructivist pedagogical approaches. Used well, these can really enhance the learning process and engage learners. The trouble is, they rarely seem to be used well. There are many reasons for this – staff don’t see the need for it, don’t have time, training isn’t provided across the board, staff may be on temporary contracts and so on. But what if we were to rethink the role of the VLE, both for the educator and the student?
Here’s how I think VLEs could be used:

For 1st year students the VLE would provide a safe online space to interact with their lecturers and other students. It would serve as a type of sandbox in which they could develop new skills – e.g. their reflective writing skills through writing a blog, commenting on other students’ work, creating and uploading a presentation, image or video to a group space for example. The VLE could fulfil a similar function for less experienced staff, allowing them to develop their own digital literacies, alongside their students. The advantages of the VLE over external tools at this stage would be:

·        A private space to develop digital skills related to a student’s subject

·        Capacity for tutors to monitor and where appropriate grade student interactions online and provide prompt feedback

·        Making more use of communication tools within the VLE and expanding its use beyond content repository

·        Reducing the risks associated with online interactions for less experienced staff and students (e.g. data protection, copyright, confidentiality and so on)

As students progress through their learning journey, into their second and final year or on to postgraduate study, the aim should be to ‘wean’ them off the VLE and help them to develop their own personal learning environments and networks. Digitally literate staff should be able to help students build an online profile and identity, develop their ability to critically evaluate and also produce content for the web  and thereby bring them away from the sheltered environment of the VLE into the ‘real’ world. This is where they might, for example, build an e-portfolio (not in the VLE) which they would still be able to access after leaving the university, perhaps begin writing a blog on WordPress or Blogger or starting using Twitter and so on. The point is, the further they go in their university career, the more they should be encouraged to move away from the safe world of the VLE towards creating their own PLE.  Of course, the VLE would still have a role, for sharing files, grading functions for contributory assessments, integration of Turnitin, announcements and so on, but many of the more communicative and social functions of a Personal Learning Environment and the opportunities for networking with wider communities of practice around the world could gradually be built up using external tools and thus preparing the students better for life after graduation.

Equally, the more staff are able to develop and demonstrate their own digital literacies, the greater role they might have in developing other staff and students digital literacies outside the ‘walled garden’ which is the university VLE. – staff who are less digitally literate could be encouraged and supported to develop their skills within the VLE. (some might say that if you can actually use Blackboard effectively, the rest should be easy…. – especially the Text Editor in SP8…)  By developing their ability to use various tools inside the VLE (e.g. blogs, discussion boards, multimedia etc) they may be able to enhance their skills and begin to experiment with creating their own Personal Learning Environments and networks and therefore be in a position to model these skills and help their students to develop them.

For me, this type of digital literacy development is crucial for both staff and students, but we can’t just expect it to happen of its own accord – it takes time and commitment, and since we have these expensive environments available to us, why not try to use them productively to provide a protective ‘nursery’ or sandbox for our staff and students while at the same time acknowledging that they are suitable for some purposes and not for others and that, as a Higher Education establishment, we have a duty to prepare students for life after university and that some of the skills and literacies they need are not catered for within a university VLE? In other words, it doesn’t have to be one or the other (VLE or PLE), but can be both, only perhaps we need to think about how we use the VLE a bit more……

* I probably haven’t explained this very well, and am pro
bably being idealistic but hey-ho, that’s what it’s all about, right?

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jimpettiward: Are you divergor, convergor, assimilator or accommodator? Or 'None of the above'? Or 'All of the above'? #ocTEL

Are you divergor, convergor, assimilator or accommodator? Or ‘None of the above’? Or ‘All of the above’? #ocTEL

— Jim Pettiward (@jimpettiward) May 16, 2013

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ocTEL Week 5 – Learning Styles

I’m currently involved in running professional development sessions for staff looking at how they can use various technologies, including our VLE (Blackboard) in their teaching and development. The aim of the sessions is to showcase what the various technologies can be used for and try to stimulate interest and enthusiasm among teaching staff, rather than ‘click-after-me’ style training sessions.

The latest session I ran was about Developing a Personal Learning Network, so I’ll look at that in relation to learning styles. As staff are so time-poor, we’re currently experimenting with giving a one-hour session which is largely aimed at showcasing examples, giving the rationale for using certain technologies and discussion of the issues, followed by a ‘free practice’ practical session which staff can choose to stay on for if they want to try things out and get support while they do so. The session is also supported by a website and a Blackboard module which contains examples of the technology tools covered in the session, links to further information (both theoretical and practical), a Discussion Forum and so on, which allows staff to catch up, fill in the gaps as and when they have time. 

For the learning styles task, I tried to breakdown the four types of learning style (diverging, assimilating, converging, accommodating) outlined by Kolb into the types of learning approach/activity related to it, then thought about how I try to include these in my sessions.

(I’m uneasy about pigeon-holing individuals into one of these specific learning styles. In my view, many learners display different traits which could belong to any of these styles, depending on what they’re learning, who they’re learning with, their level of motivation etc. I also notice that Kolb has recently expanded these 4 learning styles to 9 (Initiating, Experiencing, Imagining, Reflecting, Analyzing, Thinking, Deciding, Acting and Balancing) which makes me wonder what happened to the original 4 mentioned below…

Having said that, despite my suspicion of learning styles generally, I do think there’s some merit in thinking about learning styles, and trying to identify learners who have more of one kind of style than another, even if only to remind ourselves that when it comes to learning, one size doesn’t fit all.

Developing a Personal Academic Network

LEARNING STYLE                               ACTIVITY/APPROACH


Look at things from different perspectives

Watch rather than do

Gather information


Work in groups

Personal feedback

·        Start session with brief discussion in pairs / small groups to find out what they know and their ideas on the subject

·        Find out who uses which types of Social Media and what they use them for

·        Demonstrate my own Personal Learning Network


Logical approach

Clear explanation

Abstract concepts



·        Small section devoted to how to use a particular technology – e.g. Twitter, Diigo etc (followed up after initial one hour session)

·        Explain rationale behind building your own PLN and how it can help expand access to research and expertise

·        Provide links to further reading/theory in module and on website

·        Diagram of my PLN



Technical tasks

Work with practical applications

·        Set up a tool during the session, or, if short of time, set aside time after session for questions/hands-on working with tools

·        Allow participants to try setting up instance of tools themselves and provide support where necessary


Practical approach

New challenges

Gut instinct

Work in teams

Set targets

·        Discussion Forum and Groups set up in Blackboard module to support session

·        Allow time after sessi
on for hands-on practice setting up/using tools (they might need less help)

·        Ask participants which tools they aim to use and to report back in next session

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jimpettiward: Chalk 'n talk for the masses – is Khan academy really going to change the world? #ocTEL

Chalk ‘n talk for the masses – is Khan academy really going to change the world? #ocTEL— Jim Pettiward (@jimpettiward) May 10, 2013

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Ramblings of an ocTEL junkie (Week 4)

This post is trying not to turn into a rant…
… it combines my thoughts on activities 4.1 and 4.3 for ocTEL Week 4.
4.1. Compare some resources (Khan Academy, eLearning examples, iEthics game)
4.3. Look at tools for creating online learning resources (Xerte, Glomaker, Camtasia, CMaps, Screencast-o-matic)
It would be very difficult not to be aware of KhanAcademywith all the hype and plaudits and the money being thrown at it. On the surface, it seems like a great idea – create thousands of videos and quizzes to help people around the world to learn (as long as they have decent internet connections). The KhanAcademy’s mission is “to provide a world class education for anyone, anywhere.” This is similar to some of the lines coming out of the xMOOC providers (e.g. Coursera: “We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education that has so far been available to a select few.”) The basic premise of giving access to learning materials to people who might not otherwise have it, via the internet, and perhaps helping them to improve their learning situation is admirable, and when there is extensive research documenting the concrete improvements in people’s circumstances brought about by these unaccredited learning paths, that will be something to celebrate. But I don’t think we should get carried away and start talking about changing the world just yet. After all, is it really true to say that a ‘world-class education’ can be had simply by watching a few online videos and taking a few quizzes?

Khan Academy – Multi-step linear inequalities

Pedagogically, most of the material on the Khan Academy appears to exactly replicate transmission-model chalk ‘n’ talk style lectures – surely one of the strengths of the internet is that it offers us so many different ways to access information, communicate and collaborate and opportunities to break away from the more formal, lecture-based educational paradigms?

And if we’re trying to encourage our students to have a critical eye and learn to evaluate reliability and value of online sources, what does it say if we recommend they watch videos where we don’t even know who the author/speaker is, for example, this video on the French Revolution (maybe I just don’t know where to look?) Having said that, expanding learning opportunities to greater numbers of people around the world has to be a good thing. Also, it may well be useful to be able to point students in the direction of these videos as supplementary resources, as long as we’re also teaching them to question what they find and synthesise information from a variety of sources.
Next, I tried a few of the Elearning Examples e-learning games. Game-based learning has been the next best thing for a long time now. For example, look at the Horizon (HE) Report in 2006 and you’ll see ‘Educational Gaming’ – Time to adoption 2 – 3 years. Look at the 2013 (HE) report and you’ll see ‘Games and Gamification’ – Time to adoption 2 – 3 years. In my view, this underlines the fact that with a few exceptions, gamification of learning is something that is often talked about but rarely implemented in any coherent way (in Higher Education). Yes, it would be fantastic to harness the motivation and energy that people often experience when taking part in and completing games, or the social aspects of MMOGs, but creating quality gaming experiences generally costs a lot of money, something which isn’t exactly sloshing around in Higher Education at the moment.
The games available on the link we were given seemed to have little to do with education and I couldn’t work out what I was supposed to be learning by doing them. I tried something called ‘NYT brain games’ but none of them worked. I tried a dinosaur fighting game but this just involved pressing arrow keys and ‘z’ as fast as possible. I tried ‘The Creative Mystic’ and it turned out that it was designed to advertise a product. At that point I gave up.
For me, the iEthiCs simulation has more obvious value and I can see how it could be a useful tool for staff and students involved in medical ethics education. I have seen other examples of gamified learning which I also think are worthwhile: e.g. The WW1 Poetry Archive in SL, Inanimate Alice , or Preloaded – but these all take a lot of money, time and expertise to produce. Not quite the same as a Hot Potatoes quiz…  With a background of language teaching, I’ve been used to ‘gamifying’ my teaching practice for many years – making activities competitive, quizzes, word searches and that sort of thing. The question for me is, how can we bring the positive aspects of game-based learning into our practice in relatively easy ways without needing to be a developer to do so? And is it really worth our while trawling through endless badly-produced and or irrelevant e-learning games in an effort to motivate our learners? What is the best way to find examples of game-based learning which we might actually want to use?

WW1 Poetry Simulation in SL (Oxford University)

We also need to beware of making assumptions about what learners want. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon by saying we need to build in elements of game-based learning to make engaging and effectivelearning materials, but when did we last stop to ask OUR learners what they find engaging and effective?

In the final activity we were asked to look at various tools which could be used to create learning resources. I had already used some of these (Camtasia, Screencastomatic) and generally found them quite straightforward to use. I had a look at Xerte. If you want to create a learning object with all the bells and whistles this is probably an excellent t
ool to help you do that job. My one issue with this (and GloMaker which I’m familiar with) is that many lecturers simply won’t have time to develop the required skills to use these tookits properly. A combination of lack of time and lack of digital literacies means that these type of tools will probably only ever be used by a very small proportion of teaching staff. As an example, if we take an introductory paragraph about Xerte online toolkits:
 “Xerte Online Toolkits 2.0 is a server-based suite of tools for content authors. Elearning materials can be authored quickly and easily using browser-based tools, with no programming required. Content can be delivered to all devices using HTML5.” Many teaching staff I know would look at terms like ‘server-based suite of tools’ or ‘HTML 5’ and say “Eh?”. Also, as it says, the toolkit is designed for content authors – in an ideal world, teaching staff would work alongside learning technologists who could help them with this, but this isn’t always (often?) the case.
Apologies for straying off task, and raising more questions than answers.. 😉

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ocTEL Week 4 – If you only do one thing..

I’ve decided to ‘freestyle’ this week as I’ve just been looking into OER repositories as part of the H817 OU Open Education MOOC. In the spirit of reusability, I’m linking to those blog posts here: I looked at creating a mini-course based on resources sourced from some of these repositories, and also found the concept of Little vs Big OER quite interesting.

To summarise my thoughts about OER repositories, I’ve found them very inconsistent. While I’m sure that they all have a few gems hidden away, I experienced some kind of difficulty with all of them – broken links, irrelevant results returned, inability to preview content, packages which I couldn’t download or did not seem to work, bad quality materials, obscure labelling and so on. Some of this was undoubtedly my own lack of experience using the repositories and I guess I would be able to use them more effectively with practice – the problem is, if the initial experience with a resource bank is frustrating and wastes my time, it is unlikely I will return or spend the time learning how to use it more effectively. In my view, one problem is that they spread themselves too thin, trying to cover every discipline – if there was an OER repository specifically for my area of interest then I’d probably persevere with it. As it is, a well-targeted Google search still seems a better option.

I revisited YouTube and investigated whether using the ‘Filters’ on my search would enable me to find relevant resources quickly.

Searching for the term “digital identity” (following on from the activity I started in Week 3) I applied the filters ‘this year’ & ‘creative commons’ and this reduced the results to 18. Some of them were bafflingly irrelevant (e.g. building Windows 8 UIs??), but there was some good stuff in there as well, and some names I recognised from previous research I’d done. Interestingly, a TED talk about digital identity came up which didn’t appear when I used the same search term in the TED search box. So it looks like, for the moment, Google (YouTube) is the clear winner in all this…

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Octel Week 3: What is learning? + Activity 3.1

CC-BY-SA: Bill Moseley

This week, we were asked to:
Here are a couple of examples: 

Know that: 
I went to a photography exhibition and learned that in Ethiopia, in the 13th century, churches were carved out of rock.
I learnt the meaning of ‘heuristics’ – this is one of those words that I’ve frequently come across, but always forget what it means. Therefore, it’s probably fair to say that I haven’t really learnt it and will probably soon forget. Which is what Google’s for right? (my learning resides in the machine…)
Know how: 
I went to a bicycle maintenance workshop and refreshed my knowledge of how to maintain brakes, check for chain wear and so on. This type of thing is available online through numerous articles and YouTube videos, but I found that going to a physical space, seeing somebody going through the processes on the bike in front of me and having the ability for hands-on practice improved the experience and made me more likely to retain and build on what I learnt.
Know how + knowing in action:
Being involved in a couple of MOOCs, I’m constantly learning something at the moment. If I sit down for an hour or two to browse content links, read other participants’ posts, look at the Twitter feed and read a few forum posts then this is all part of the learning process. But to answer the question ‘How did you go about learning it?’ is more difficult. Looking at the Week 2 learning outcomes, I should now be able to define, identify and propose various things, which is I guess what I was trying to do with my previous blogpost.

As for this week’s activities, I’m being asked to describe and critique, situate, design and recognise. I’ve been skim reading some of the learning theory resources, quickly rejecting some as irrelevant or uninteresting to me and focusing in more depth on those that seem more pertinent and useful. I read through and make notes, building on what I think I know already, being exposed to new ideas and trying to relate these to my own experience and prior knowledge. The next step will be to share these and hope to benefit from other participants views and contributions about them, and thus continuing to refine and build on my own knowledge.

To give a concrete example of this, I’ll go on to Activity 3.1 ‘Theories of active learning’.
How did I choose which theory to look at?

If it is the case that “it is the goal of the learner that is central in considering what is learned.” (Savery & Duffy, 2001), then it’s probably worth asking how I chose which theory to look at. I wanted to look at some of the more recent theories related to learning, but I’ve been reading a fair bit around Connectivism recently so decided to discount that option. I didn’t see the benefit of going over the same old behaviourist, cognitivist, constructivist paradigms and I clicked on some of the other links and just didn’t like the look of them. I found the PBL, Enquiry-Based Learning and Communities of Practice links interesting, but in the end I decided to look at a theory which I’d heard a bit about, but hadn’t looked into in detail – Heutagogy.
Blaschke (2012) defines heutagogy in the following way:
“Heutagogy applies a holistic approach to developing learner capabilities, with learning as an active and proactive process, and learners serving as “the major agent in their own learning, which occurs as a result of personal experiences” (Hase & Kenyon, 2007, p. 112). As in an andragogical approach, in heutagogy the instructor also facilitates the learning process by providing guidance and resources, but fully relinquishes ownership of the learning path and process to the learner, who negotiates learning and determines what will be learned and how it will be learned (Hase & Kenyon, 2000; Eberle, 2009).”
This seems to resonate with my own experiences of learning in a MOOC environment. I do feel that the emphasis for learning is very much on me, the learner, and that this is an active process where I am deciding which activities to engage in and when, who I engage with and also one in which I consider the way I’m learning and build up my meta-cognitive awareness. This puts it very much at odds with the current models prevalent in Higher Education, which still largely rely on transmission models.
In terms of being aware of my own learning, as I was reading an article on heutagogy (Does Pedagogy still rule?)I realised that some of my assumptions were being challenged and that some of my thinking was altering as a result. For example, the author describes how the current context of high student – staff ratios and the amount of content in many courses is leading, if anything, to a move back towards transmission models of education as a coping mechanism. Heutagogy is therefore not so relevant to an undergraduate context which is heavily dependent on conveying a set amount of information which then needs to be assessed in reasonably standard and transparent ways. This idea that the current Higher Education context is actually a barrier to the development of more progressive education strategies (and heutagogy is particularly appropriate for a Web 2.0 type environment) and may result in a shift back towards more traditional models was a very interesting, and also worrying, idea. This, in turn, led me to wonder:
If this MOOC was assessed, what would the assessment look like? Does the cMOOC model not lend itself very well to assessment? Is it therefore more relevant to lifelong learning and CPD than to more traditional Higher Education contexts?  Would embedding assessment in this type of course necessarily affect/change the type of activities suggested? Lots of questions, fewer answers, but then I guess that’s the learning process.

References: See Diigo Octel group

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ocTEL Activity 2.2 – Researching themes in learner needs

For this task I’ve chosen to consider the ‘Implications of Digital Literacy’. My current work supporting staff in developing their use of technology for teaching and learning, along with some student experience research I’ve been doing, has brought home the fact that for Higher Education, this area is hugely relevant, extremely complex and routinely ignored and/or misunderstood by senior management.
Initially, I investigated the two suggested resources: the JISC Design Studio pages on Developing Digital literacies and Howard Rheingold’s presentation about 21stcentury literacies.
I was familiar with the JISC pages, as I’ve been doing a fair bit of research into DL recently and I’ve previously used some of the resources from the site. Nevertheless, this was a good opportunity to take a fresh look. The site provides links to activities and outcomes of the 2 year ‘Developing Digital Literacies’ programme. (July 2011 – July 2013), and it is very usefully divided into Themesand Resources. I found that by looking at the various themes, I was able to break this very broad area down in my mind into more manageable concepts.
The first thing we see on accessing the page is their definition of DL:
By digital literacy we mean those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society. For example, the use of digital tools to undertake academic research, writing and critical thinking; digital professionalism; the use of specialist digital tools and data sets; communicating ideas effectively in a range of media; producing, sharing and critically evaluating information; collaborating in virtual networks; using digital technologies to support reflection and PDP; managing digital reputation and showcasing achievements.’”
The first sentence is often quoted as a very broad definition of Digital Literacy, but the examples given are also useful. The issue of defining DL is  a very large can of worms which, in my view, is not necessarily worth opening… Gillen and Barton (2010) suggest in the introduction to their Digital Literacies Research Briefing Paper:
The term captures an arena of rapidly developing practices, as humans interact with technologies in new ways and for innovative purposes. Many time-honoured distinctions such as between producer and consumer, writer and reader blur or virtually disappear as new syntheses emerge. There are a number of valuable approaches to digital literacies that overlap with one another. Rather than look for clear distinctions to demarcate them, it is perhaps more helpful to look for continuities and commonalities.”
Just as there are different approaches to digital literacies, there are also many different definitions of the term. Instead of getting stuck in a semantic soup, it is probably more productive to simply acknowledge that there is no one size fits all definition, and that for each individual, and each learning and teaching context, there will be some digital literacies which are more relevant and meaningful than others.
Below is a list of points or issues which I came across on the JISC website which chimed with my own experience or views:
  • Digital literacies need to be situated and embedded in the curriculum, rather than introduced in isolation.
  • Discipline-specific digital literacies need to be explored and, where possible, co-created with relevant staff and students.
  • For staff, a focus on Digital Literacies can function as a ‘trojan mouse’, encouraging them towards a broader reconsideration of their teaching and learning practices.
  • Digital Literacy development needs to take in not just teaching staff and students, but also administrative and support staff and senior management.
  • If the focus is too subject-specific, there is a danger that attention will only be paid to particular technologies used in that discipline (e.g. SPSS, CAD etc.) and the more generic, but nevertheless crucial skills will be ignored.
  • Both bottom-up and top-down approaches are necessary in order to develop digital literacies in an institution
  • Building bridges between different departments, faculties and services within the university can enable the sharing of expertise and exposure to alternative views and approaches.
In a teaching context, if we are using a particular technology with our students, I think it is always important to be explicit about why we are using it, how it relates to the learning outcomes and objectives of their course and/or particular graduate attributes. Having a conversation about digital practices can help us to understand more about our learners’ uses of technology and perhaps some of the obstacles they face, and we can also learn from our students. Digital literacy should not be assumed or ignored but should be part of an ongoing dialogue we have with both our students and our colleagues.
Once it becomes clear the extent to which issues around digital literacies affect an institution, its staff, its students, its strategy and its practices, then it should also be clear that it will take more than a few ‘workshops’ to begin to address some of these issues. What we’re talking about really is wholesale cultural change throughout the university. These Seedpodrecommendations give an idea of what I’m talking about.
‘Hub and spoke’ models can be useful, but the problem is, if some of the spokes ‘break’ (i.e. leave the university or are given increased teaching loads), they become less effective. Collaboration between faculties, departments and library services can be very fruitful, as can involving students in co-creating digital literacy agendas. The greatest obstacles in many institutions seem to be time and money (as always) but also a lack of vision and understanding among many stakeholders, especially senior management, of just how fundamentally technology is altering the learning and teaching landscape, and of what it will take to address these seismic shifts in a way that can both benefit students and allow staff to develop their own practice in meaningful ways.
I had to temporarily suspend my critical faculties to get past Howard Rheingold’s jacket and shirt combo in this presentation, but once I did I found that he had a lot of interesting things to say. While the JISC pages are particular relevant to my own sit
uation as a Blended Learning Facilitator and EAP Lecturer at a university, this presentation was of less immediate use, but nonetheless highlighted some pertinent issues. For example, what is the relationship between skills and literacies? 
Rheingold puts forward 5 areas of literacy: Attention, Participation, Cooperation, Critical consumption and Network awareness and suggests that these all work together. He also says that we have gone beyond skills and that it’s necessary to talk about literacies which are ‘skills plus community’ (by which he generally means social media). The community aspect is certainly key – the hype around ‘social learning’, the importance of PLNs and PLEs (Personal Learning Networks/Environments), the crowd and the cloud all mean that we are all connected and members of an increasing number of large and small networks which cut across many aspects of our lives.
Can we consider digital literacies as a set of fairly abstract concepts which contain a subset of more specific skills? Perhaps the literacy remains fairly constant while the skills can shift with the technological landscape? If we use the OU DL framework as an example, one of their 5 literacies is ‘Critically evaluate information, online interactions and online tools’. It is possible to outline a set of skills pertaining to this literacy. E.g. ability to find information about the author of web content, make a judgement about the reliability of content based on further information about the author (e.g. where they work, publications, online profile, mentions by other academics etc.). The tools used to realise these actions could be Google Scholar, Twitter, library resources or any number of others, but the point is, the tools and indeed the skills themselves may change, but the underlying literacies will remain the same.
Digital Literacy Frameworks
OU Digital Literacy Framework Level 0
Finally, I do think that digital literacies frameworks serve as useful starting points. However, ideally there is probably a need to have students and staff working together to produce a DL framework for their particular discipline. 
Perhaps there could be one central framework which attempts to outline a set of generic literacies, but this would be designed to have discipline-specific literacies added to it. I also see no reason why this framework could not include literacies relevant for both students and teaching staff. In fact, I can see merit in identifying, for example, the areas of the framework where teaching staff perhaps have difficulties, and then involving students in helping them to address this gap and vice versa. For example, an informal session run by students on how to create and upload a YouTube video in return for a session run by a lecturer on how to engage your critical faculties in an online search. I can see a place for a type of Digital Literacies Exchange between staff and students which simultaneously looks to co-create more discipline-specific DL frameworks in particular subject areas. But perhaps that’s just me being idealistic….
Here are a few resources which I’ve found useful (also on Diigo #ocTEL #diglit):   (Deft Project – SheffieldHallamUniversity)
Digital Literacies Research Briefing (TLRP) (introduction gives a succinct overview of digital literacy)
Situating Digital Literacies  (useful models from Helen Beetham)

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