Guardian live chat: Developing digital literacies in Higher Education

Guardian live chat - Developing Digital Literacies in Higher Education

Last Friday a number of those involved with the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme participated in a Guardian live chat online event.

Comments are now closed, but it’s worth going through the whole transcript. Some highlights are included below.

Helen Beetham, a consultant for the JISC Digital Literacies programme commented:

It’s easy to get hung up on terms, and I think we can agree that what we are talking about is the interface of academic and digital practice – and the personal capability to engage in both. For me, ‘literacy’ has some currency as a term for describing foundational capabilities that have a lifelong, lifewide impact.


It’s always useful to have different terms in use – I think it’s a sign of a healthy, developing field of interest!

Sarah Knight re-iterated JISC’s reference point for a definition of ‘digital literacy’:

Digital literacy defines those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society.

Gwen van der Velden raised an interesting issue:

I am struggling to see digitial literacies as a separate subject. I’d rather assume that digital literacy is an embedded characteristic of so much of what we do, that it would be hard to keep it separate.

In terms of simply getting started with digital literacies, Josie Fraser provided some advice:

My top tip is to begin by exploring the ways in which the group are already using mobile and web based technologies. Many of them will already engaging with tech for personal use – Skyping relatives, keeping in touch on Facebook, using mobile phones etc.

Dave White was interested at the point at which we can consider a skill, competence or attribute no longer part of digital literacy:

When does a Digital Literacy become a Traditional Literacy? Is texting a Traditional Literacy yet?

There’s much to read, think about and discuss in the exchanges over at the Guardian live chat. In addition, at least a couple of those involved have blogged about the event:

Guardian article on JISC’s Digital Literacies work

Digital Literacies wordle

An article by JISC Programme Manager Sarah Knight in last week’s Guardian highlighted the work of JISC in the digital literacies arena over the last few years:

Work by the JISC/British Library commissioned Researchers of Tomorrow team shows that there is little difference in the capabilities of younger and older students when it comes to online research. Most learners use only basic functionality and are reluctant to explore the capabilities of technology, preferring to passively consume content rather than create or curate it. The same study into young post doctorate researchers’ behaviour shows that they are unaware of some of the digital tools available to them.

Looking at the other side of the coin, universities and colleges do not always take sufficient steps to help their students acquire these skills. A JISC report, Thriving in the 21st century, found that there is poor support for learners to make effective use of technologies for learning, and in some institutions there are still barriers to the use of personal technologies, such as mobile phones, and social networks, such as Facebook. Tutors are still insufficiently competent and confident with digital technologies for learning, despite evidence that tutor skills and confidence with technology are critical to learners’ development. There is also often a lack of opportunity and motivation for learners to integrate digital literacy in authentic tasks.

The article goes on to flag up the current JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme.

Read the article in full at the Guardian website.