Musings on digital literacy

3 05 2013

Week 2 of the OCTEL Mooc deals with understanding learner’s needs.  I am particularly interested in the one of the themes for this week, which is digital literacy because in my institution we have recently convened a working group on this topic which aims to come up with some strategies for improving digital literacy for our students (and our faculty members).  As an aside, I’ll just mention that it’s good to see consideration of digital literacy being included under the topic of “understanding learners’ needs”, as this places the focus on the learner and their needs, rather that approaching digital literacy as another “topic” that we have to include somewhere in our curriculum, or in our student support practices and resources.

The more I have thought and read about digital literacy, the more complex it appears.  For example just the JISC resources (Developing Digital Literacies (JISC Design Studio) http://bit.ly/diglitds) are extensive and complex and these are only one example of wht is out there.  It seems that there are multiple approaches and little agreement on what are the key elements of digital literacy.  Perhaps this is partly a result of the times we are living in, with the explosion of technologies and social media that has changed the ways in which we communicate, learn and teach.  Perhaps too, the plethora of different ideas and resources out there reflect the diversity of our learners.  This diversity is one of the issues we have been struggling with in our working group.  My institution is made up of a number of separate colleges, each with their own student groups and demographics.  Mostly the range of digital literacy among these various student cohorts is enormous – from very savvy digital and technical competence to virtually nil.  As institutions how do we cater for this diverse range of learning needs?  And to what extent is it our responsibility as teaching institutions, or the responsibility of the learners themselves?

We don’t have answers yet, but we have come up with the idea of creating a digital literacy toolbox which will contain resources for a range of target groups.  We have identified 7 target groups which will serve as foci for the development of our resources:

  1. Pre-enrolment/study orientation
  2. First year/beginning students
  3. Later year/experienced students
  4. Postgraduate and research students
  5. ESL students
  6. Students with accessibility issues
  7. Faculty members

The identification of these target groups will hopefully allow us to more carefully focus our digital literacy support resources to the varying needs of learners.  I’d be keen to learn of whether others have successfully targeted particular groups or types of learners and what resources might be available.

 

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