Breaking the ice and digital literacies at DigiPedLab 2017


Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

 

 

 

DigiPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day 1

Beccy Dresden was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Breaking the ice

(One minor quibble though: not enough coffee on Day 1!)

At any really cool educational event these days, there has to be Lego, right? Well DigPedLab was no exception. As an icebreaker, each table was given a box of bricks and bits, we were instructed to introduce ourselves to our neighbour and, based on what we said and the available Lego, they had to create an avatar for us. The lovely Greg Chan gave me abundant shiny hair and a dog: what more could I ask for? NB My less-than-beaming smile below is due to horrific jetlag and a dislike of being photographed, not dissatisfaction with my avatar!

 

I can’t resist sharing this one with you too…

A speech and a song

To formally kick off the institute we were treated to an amazing, inspiring speech and a traditional song from a Kwantlen First Nation elder (the institute was sponsored by and held at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Richmond campus, just outside Vancouver).

DigPedLab co-founder Sean Michael Morris then made us laugh by commenting that this event wouldn’t have happened without Trump – the Virginia Institute,  which took place a week or so after Vancouver’s, was meant to ‘bring everyone together in one place’, after three separate DigPedLabs in 2016, but the President’s travel ban made it impossible for some key participants to get to the USA in 2017.

Morning session – Literacies track

Bonnie Stewart kicked off the digital literacies track with a bit of activity: getting us to vote with our feet (Runaround style!) on a digital literacies ‘survey’ and emphasising (with reference to Lisa Simpson) that there were no ‘right’ answers.

 

(Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

These were my favourite questions/answers…

I need to find resources to teach/write with. I do the following:
0=nothing. Last year’s notes are fine.
1=check the library
2=Google stuff
3=crowdsource my digital network

I know what the following mean/do:
command f
404
PLN
swipe right
LMGTFY

When I Google myself I find:
0=Google myself?
1=An ax-murderer with my name
2=Vaguely embarrassing pictures my buddy tagged on FB  3=Traces of my work on the first search return page
4=A fair & cultivated representation of who I am and what I do.

As you can probably imagine, this activity caused lots of laughter and a few revelations.

We then sat down and went round the room briefly introducing ourselves and explaining our experience/interest in digital literacies. The Literacies track had proved extremely popular, so rather than being a small group, there were actually nearly 30 participants for Bonnie to wrangle. Two Brits apart from me – David White from The University of the Arts London, and Penny Andrews, a PhD student at the University of Sheffield (and a brilliant follow on Twitter) – a professor from Puerto Rico, an educator based in the Austrian Alps, and the rest from North America, a mix of librarians, academics, educational project managers, IT folk, and even a practising attorney. This diversity was one of the many things that made DigPedLab so attractive to me: I wanted my western European, middle-class, middle-aged, cis white female perspective to be thoroughly challenged. Over the course of the weekend, it certainly was.

Digital literacies defined?

Having let off some steam and started to get to know one another, the teaching began in earnest. As I write this, I’m looking at Bonnie’s PowerPoint, and wondering what I can possibly say that’s more useful/informative than just sharing her slides verbatim, but I’ll try to limit myself to just a handful, and share my observations/responses to them.

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart. Click on image to enlarge)

The cluster at the top left represents the institutional model, whereas the bottom rightish cluster is the present. The idea of education as market is not necessarily progression, and these shifts are only loosely tied. Dealing with data/ information/ knowledge abundance is arguably the biggest challenge for digital literacies to overcome.

 

 

 

Key points to remember in the context of digital literacies:

  • (access to) content does not equal literacy
  • web does not equal digital
  • tech does not equal digital literacy.

The concept of ‘literacy’ is changing, because there’s so much more than literature now, and the goal of education is handling data, rather than just accumulating it.

Bonnie then summarised what she planned for us to explore over the next three days.

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart. Click on image to enlarge)

She gave us a timeline of literacy: from considering it as a threat to the knowledge of classical scholars in 400 BCE, to the control of knowledge via the spread of printing presses throughout Europe in 1500 CE, to the management and synthesis of knowledge we’re dealing with in the present day. A quote from educational researcher Doug Belshaw neatly encapsulated this:

 

 

“Digital literacies are not solely about technical proficiency but about the issues, norms, and habits of mind surrounding technologies used for a particular purpose.”

Or, as I noted it down at the time, thinking about technologies vs being a techie!

Bonnie highlighted more benefits of developing your digital literacy:

  • improving your capacity to analyse a medium’s affordances
  • identifying ‘thinking tools’ to help you manage knowledge abundance – I think this is a particular challenge for those of us working at the interface of education and technology, where abundance can all too easily become overload.

This led us on to thinking about networks…

The power of networks

 (Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart. Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

…and another fun stand-up activity about one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many interactions, and how we become network nodes, forming webs of visible (and invisible) connections.

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart. Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

Finally, we discussed the ‘price of admission’ to these networks: public identity. Bonnie’s references here ranged from Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed to Walter Ong’s work on oral traditions vs literate traditions:

  • oral traditions – participatory, situational, social, formulaic, agonistic (conflict based), rhetorical (vs the ‘artificial memory aid’ of writing)
  • literate traditions – interiorised, abstracted, innovative, precise, analytical, indexed.

If I understood correctly, how this relates to social media is that we experience the instant message, the tweet, in an oral way – although they are textual verbal exchanges, they register psychologically as having the temporal immediacy of oral exchange (Ong, 1996). But the flipside of this is that because these ‘speech-based activities’ on social media can be captured as if they were print literature, we end up with a call-out culture that treats flippant remarks like gospel.

 

(Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

The takeaway from this session for me? Digital literacy is about knowing how to manage audience, visibility and publics.

 Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

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