This is a draft of a position paper I’m writing for my university, the University of the Arts London, on digital literacy and PLE’s, any thoughts or comments welcome, especially on how useful the 5 ‘c” idea is as a way to simplify the attributes needed #PLENK2010
DIGITAL LITERACY AT UAL
A UAL graduate should be digitally mature learner, equipped with the critical faculties to create their own Personal Learning Environment (PLE) that will assist them to take advantage of the affordances of technology in their professional, personal and creative lives after UAL. The best way to develop this is through a culture of collaborative inquiry that explores the potential of digital scholarship through a range of authentic situated learning experiences that are relevant to the individuals’ area of practice.
They should be able to engage in 5 core competencies of curation, critique, creation, collaboration, and communication
To produce digitally-literate graduates we need to:
• Enable students to build their own personal learning environment/network
• Provide relevant, situated online learning experiences aligned with the core competencies of curation, critique, creation, communication & collaboration
• Focus on attributes and tools that students will be able to use beyond graduation
• Make connections between the social use of digital media and its capacity for developing professional and academic identities
• Lead by example
Developing digitally mature learners
The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application. When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses. George Siemens 2005
UAL gradates with the ability to harness technology to enhance their professional and personal lives are in possession of a vital attribute. The recent LLiDA report highlighted how the embedding of technology into the fabric of daily life means the nature of work in this century is going to be very different to that of the last, with an increase in contract-based, freelance and self employment, and the average worker following several careers in their lifetime. Future employment will demand working in multi-disciplinary teams within a multicultural, networked global society. As the boundaries blur between physical and virtual, public and private, work and leisure, there is an increased need to become ‘digitally engaged’. Within the HE sector the focus is currently on digital scholarship; this needs to be expanded to create what JISC identifies as ‘capable, self-aware learners with the capacity to participate in learning using technologies and approaches of their own choosing’ (LLiDA2010 p9).
Research has indicated that university students’ use of technology is not as sophisticated as we may have assumed. Many fail to make connections between social use of digital media and its capacity for developing professional and academic identities. This struggle to transfer skills between contexts is particularly evident in the application of formally learned ‘analytic’ knowledge to complex real world situations, where ‘tacit situational knowledge plays a vital role in competent performance’ (LLiDA 2010, P10).
It is the institution’s role to enhance, not impede, the process of learners creating their own learning spaces that blend physical and virtual, formal and social. BECTA defines a ‘mature e-learner’ as someone with a ‘can do‘ attitude towards identifying and selecting appropriate technologies to solve problems. Software packages change over time; we should be focused on broader conceptual ways of working in order to prepare learners for life beyond the institution. For this to happen, all the stakeholders in the process – academic staff, librarians, IT services and learning technologists, and of course the students themselves – must recognise that learners need to experiment with different projections of identity, and adopt subject positions through different social technologies and media. These opportunities can only be enhanced by academic staff who are themselves engaged in digital practice (LLiDA 2010, P70).
Don’t teach tools, use tools to teach
LLiDA suggests that digital literacies cannot be ‘bolted onto learners’ existing practices and prior conceptions: [they] must be recognised, incorporated and (if necessary) reconceptualised’ (2010 p14). JISC agrees that, rather than being taught as discrete skills, digital literacy should be deeply embedded in course curricula through a range of situated, technology-enhanced learning opportunities.
Constructivist principles acknowledge that real-life learning is messy and complex. Classrooms which emulate the “fuzziness” of this learning will be more effective in preparing learners for life-long learning.’ George Siemens 2004
‘Literacies emerge through authentic, well-designed tasks in meaningful contexts’ (LLiDA 2010, p5); therefore we need to design situated and flexible learning opportunities where learners use their own technologies for self-direction, personal reflection, progression and planning. Empowering learners to navigate increasingly complex learning landscapes requires continuous evaluation of their techno-social practices, the practices of professional and scholarly communities, and how technologies are integrated into curriculum tasks. Assessment and feedback should reward exploration and encourage innovation in learners’ approaches to study.
HE institutions must develop the capacity to deliver flexible curriculum design processes: innovative curriculum delivery and support that exploits digital technologies wherever appropriate; and management of knowledge resources in an environment where educational content is openly available to all.(2010 p7). Student engagement in the process is vital, sadly however this is not always apparent in actual HE institutional practice:
‘Students were rarely addressed as responsible actors in these strategies and yet many of the activities mandated would not make sense, or be successful, without active student engagement’ (2010 p46)
The recommendations of the JISC report include the iterative acquisition of skills through authentic practice rather than isolated instruction. This requires authentic, digitally mediated contexts, with individual scaffolding and support that recognises and integrates learners’ prior conceptions and practices.
A UAL graduate’s digital literacy
‘The PLE is ‘all about me’ – it’s what each of us personally creates around us as a means to support our lifelong learning.’ Steve Wheeler 2010
A UAL graduate should be capable of ‘learning to learn’; to identify, access, organise, evaluate, interpret, analyse, synthesise and apply. In addition, they should have developed communication and collaboration skills including teamwork, networking, media literacy and critical reading, creative production and ICT/digital/computer literacy. We should aim to equip them with a set of competencies and understandings that they can then build on and adapt as they continue to interact with the world and build up their personal learning network (PLN) and Personal Learning Environment (PLE). A PLE suggests that digital learning should be seen as a flow, using whatever resource is available today to learn, as something else will be along tomorrow, and that wherever possible, activities should utilise tools that learners will be able to use beyond graduation. At the start of their academic career a student may benefit from structured institutional support such as a VLE, but as they progress they should be able to fashion their own set of tools to manage their digital learning; what Stephen Downes has called a personal learning centre (PLC).
Howard Rheingold defines literacies as ‘skills plus community’, and identifies five key literacies as attention, participation, cooperation, critical consumption (or what he calls ‘crap detection’), and network awareness. Together they generate what he calls a ‘culture of collaborative inquiry’. Essentially we should be helping graduates to develop the capacity to direct their own learning and to critically engage with digital media. To do this they need to develop ‘trust networks’ to find and validate the information they seek, and then act as what Jeff Jarvis has called curators in sharing this with others. As George Siemens argues, ‘know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where’; a PLN helps to find the ‘where’. Additionally, as Wes Fryer argues, they need to be able to create, communicate and collaborate in producing new artefacts online.
5 Core Competencies
We suggest that a UAL graduate should be able to critically engage with the following core competencies to create their own Personal Learning Environment (PLE), and that the development of these abilities should be developed through embedded, authentic learning experiences that are relevant to their own practices. Suggested activities and tools are outlined with each competency.
Find – Internet search, Wikipedia, Google scholar, e resources, image textbook, etc
Filter – RSS feeds, PKN
Collate/collect – social and personal bookmarking, mindmapping, online storage
Assess the validity/authenticity of sites/information
Reflect on ones own practice and that of one’s peers – blogs, forums etc
Create – make digital content Inc audio, image, text, website, blog, video, wikis
Protect – copyright, privacy, digital footprint
Collaborate – e.g. wikis, Google wave, blogs, Basecamp
Share /disseminate/ distribute – wiki, blog, discussion forum, email, wave, twitter, facebook/social networks
Promote – twitter, blog, facebook/social networks, and email
LLiDA report (2010) http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/llida/
Siemens, George (2005) Connectivism http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
Wheeler, Steve (2010) Anatomy of a PLE http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/2010/07