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Author: crumphelen

It’s your text life – digital literacies in the digital university

 

 

Context: higher education, general 
This blog post has been prompted by my attendance at the 10th Galway Symposium on Higher Education (#celt12), which focused on the written word in the context of higher education and where, in the opening plenary entitled “Literacy in the Digital University”, Mary R. Leaentreated us to “step back and take a critical lens to changing knowledge making practices and the implications of these for understanding academic literacies in today’s digital university.”

 

In the first instance, it must be acknowledged that literacy can be variously conceptualised, with each conceptualisation signalling different concerns and approaches:
  • literacy as cognitive/transferable skill – reading and writing
  • literacy as capability (in anything) – e.g. computer literacy, emotional literacy, scientific literacy
  • literacy as situated/social practice – cultural

And further, that literacy is always changing, becoming redefined through historical moments of technological change. 

Indeed, largely to beget the production of texts, technologies have always been involved in learning. Thus, within higher education, an institution whose primary function is to produce and validate knowledge, textual production and the practices that support it are of paramount importance (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007). However, with digital technology now integral to society and valued knowledge becoming increasingly communicated in digital forms (Beetham et al., 2010), the nature of texts is changing and the concept of ‘digital’ becoming increasingly significant to higher education. Even so, given the centrality of texts, it seems to me that caution needs be exercised so as not to unduly valorise technology as the driver of change.

Moreover, an academic literacies perspective (Lea and Street, 2006) positions reading and writing as a set of social practices pertinent to the situated context of higher education and what is more, considers the relationship between texts and how both academics and students make meaning through these practices. Texts, and the technologies that produce them, embed ideologies and epistemologies. After all, knowledge is not just out there; it is always represented in and through the choices made in the production of texts. Consequently, the texts and supporting practices that become valorised within higher education must by implication valorise the ideologies and epistemologies therein. 

Thus, digital literacies are as much about one’s “text life” and what this represents as they are about one’s technology use. 
References: 
Beetham, H., Littlejohn, A. and McGill, L. (2010) Beyond competence: digital literacies as knowledge practices, and implications for learner development. LiDU (Literacy in the Digital University): Seminar Programmes, Seminar 2. 
Goodfellow, R. and Lea, M. R. (2007) Challenging e-learning in the university : a literacies perspective. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.
Lea, M. R. and Street, B. V. (2006) The “Academic Literacies” Model: Theory and Applications. Theory Into Practice. 45(4), pp. 368–377.

 

Connection and Digital Literacies at PELeCON 2012

PELeCON  is the Plymouth Enhanced Learning Conference #pelc12 @PeleCON. I have just returned home from attending it for the first time and would like to share my experience of how I came to be at PELeCON, what I learnt from it and how much fun it was to be there.
Fairly and squarely I have Twitter to thank. Just over a year ago, through either random or astute following, I discovered Steve Wheeler @timbuckteeth whose tweets opened up mind-blowing access to resources, current information and a network of people interested in Web 2.0 technologies and digital literacies. This was in tandem with Jane Hart from the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies @C4LPT and her advocacy of Twitter as a tool for professional development. So how lucky was it for me that these two forces came together at PELeCON 2012.
The conference theme, importantly for me, was create, connect and collaborate with digital literacy and literacies presenting a strong influence on the programme. It was this call to connect and the role of digital literacies that greatly resonated with me during the conference. For me digital literacies are not simply skills or the competent use of technologies but social practices embedded in contexts that carry meaning for those involved. This was brilliantly highlighted by David Mitchell @DeputyMitchell who spoke about the impact that blogging has had in his school, transforming reluctant or ambivalent classroom writers into enthusiastic bloggers. The reason for this, one insightful and honest pupil explained to him, was the he, the teacher, “wasn’t real”. They wanted to write with purpose for a real audience. In matters of literacy, it must be acknowledged that power, access and identity are ever present considerations.
The desire to connect with a real audience, I feel, chimes with sentiments expressed by Alec Couros @courosa in the conference’s closing panel discussion. He sees the central challenge to learning as being “the movement of education to life”.
The call for improved connection was also made by Nick Laycock @alc47 and associates in a panel discussion looking at the disconnect between learning and the workplace. This was re-inforced by Jane Hart’s keynote, which highlighted the learning practices that smart autonomous learners/workers are increasingly turning to.
Connection amongst delegates was a key feature of the conference as plenty of time and space was made for networking. Here I must thank Catherine Cronin @catherinecronin and Sharon Flynn @sharonlflynn, my travelling companions, who helped with introductions allowing me to settle in to the PELeCON swing and make connections of my own.
Useful Websites:
David Mitchell’s keynote – http://prezi.com/stshpctwm3ag/pelecon-keynote/
QuadBlogging _ a leg up to an audience for your class/school blog. http://quadblogging.net/

Why Literacy – My introductory blog!!

Hey ho, here goes.
I suppose it’s no surprise that I became interested in literacy. I’ve been interested in making sense of the world ever since the world began, for me that’s 1967 (now the cat’s out of the bag), and later on how different people make sense of the world. My interest in literacies* stems from my family and working background in pubs and the hospitality industry and observing the meanings people attribute to reading, writing and oracy therein.
Although I am now an adult literacy tutor, this is very definitely a view of literacy as social practice (Street, 1984, Barton & Hamilton, 1998) as opposed to the traditional skills-based view. Understanding literacy as a social practice used in particular contexts for specific aims for me is very important, not only can it help to bring everyday life into educational contexts but it can help inform practitioners and policy-makers about aspects of motivation, new uses of literacy and/or technology and any difficulties that might be encountered.
What’s more, the advent of social media technologies has provoked new digital literacy practices, and this fascinates me greatly as they are embraced, shunned or treated with ambivalence by different people in different contexts. Whilst studying for an MA in Technology, Learning, Innovation and Change I started to perceive lecturers’ different dispositions towards adopting some of these new digital literacy practices and subsequently have begun to explore the context of Higher Education and digital literacies.
I hope to use this blog to ruminate, cogitate, grow, chuck in my two pence worth, showcase, signpost and share my excursions into literacy, digital or otherwise and always as a social practice. It is after all a Literacies Life.
*  literacies being pluralised represents the fact that different individuals require different literacies in different contexts, which is different over time.
References:
Barton, D. & Hamilton, M., 1998. Local Literacies: Reading and Writing in One Community 1st ed., Routledge.
Street, B.V., 1985. Literacy in Theory and Practice, Cambridge University Press.
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