Tag Archives: information

Educating students for media literacy

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
Open University

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day Two

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

Back to the classroom on Day Two of DigPedLab 2017 and Bonnie Stewart, Co-ordinator of Adult Teaching, University of Prince Edward Island and leader of the Digital Literacies track, warmed us up with a couple of images that generated horrified laughter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

These images illustrate all too clearly that media messages are constructed, so rather than accepting (mis)information presented as fact at face value, as media literate educators (and/or students), we need to be asking the following key questions:

  1. Who created this message?
  2. What creative techniques are being used to attract my attention?
  3. Who is the audience?
  4. What values and points of view are represented and omitted?
  5. Who gains profit or power if I accept this message?

These prompted a brief sidebar about snopes.com an on-line fact checking site – a site that, I confess, I only became aware of en route to Canada when various people I follow tweeted about it. (UK readers, is it more of a North American resource? I don’t recall ever hearing about it over here.)

Two more important questions to ask about the ‘news’ we’re served up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

What’s interesting to me about this is the language: any news report that includes the phrase ‘hulking brute’ immediately sets off my credibility-questioning alarm! It takes me back to one of my favourite undergraduate English modules on stylistics, an area that I don’t hear mentioned much these days, but one that I think has a lot to offer media literacies

The aesthetic fallacy

Next Kris Shaffer talked to us about the aesthetic fallacy. My notes on this are a bit thin, so I just Googled the term and found this:

Put simply, the aesthetic fallacy is the belief that if it looks convincing, it is convincing; or, to refine it slightly, if it looks scholarly, then, agree or disagree with it, it is scholarly and must be taken seriously and allowed a place at the scholarly table.

(Source: Trueman, Carl R. (2010) Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, Illinois, Crossway)

I’m not sure if this is how Kris would describe it, but certainly looking beyond plausible surfaces, using the questions noted above, seems like a key aspect of media literacies. Or, as Bonnie put it: ‘what does this do to our democracy if we don’t educate students to recognise and deal with the crap?’.

Another new-to-me angle was that of ’empire literacies’ – empires are constructed from money, territory and information. Consider…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

… and then ask yourself, who owns them? Follow the money! In relation to that, Penny Andrews talked us through a slide that showed how the neutral-seeming information provider you rely on for your work could actually be funded by rather less benevolent backers…

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

(I’m pretty sure that in the midst of that Penny explained why Ashton Kutcher may be evil – hopefully I’ve expressed that vaguely enough to avoid either of us being sued – but I was too busy laughing to note the detail, so you’ll have to ask Penny if you want to know more!)

 

 

 

 

 

The point is, some messages have way more power and money behind them, and way more reach than may initially be apparent (e.g. you and Trump both have twitter accounts, but…). However, there is a degree of democracy on some media platforms, e.g. Twitter may be the only space where you can directly speak back to Rupert Murdoch.


(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Contribution literacies – e.g. how to use Twitter for activist public speaking

 

 

 

(Screenshot courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Catastrophe literacies – e.g. the ‘breaking news consumer’s handbook’

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this might be my favourite…

Crap detection literacies

Another participant, Sajni Lacey Learning and Curriculum Support Librarian, University British Columbia, Okanagan, talked us through an activity she runs in her first and second year classes when she is asked to come in and teach ‘the library stuff’. Rather than giving a traditional point-and-click session on accessing Library resources, she likes to try to get students thinking about the information that they consume in their own lives, and how that relates to what they are being asked to do for academic research.  She kindly shared this activity on the DigPedLab Slack channel, so these are her words.

Activity

“I start by having students get into small group, anywhere from 2 to 5 depending on the size of the class and come to consensus in their groups of the top 3–5 places they go in their personal lives to get information. I stress to them that I would like to see where they actually go for information not where they think I want them to tell me they go (i.e. the library website, books etc.). I ask them to rank these places from the most frequented places to the least. I then, when possible, ask the students elect one person to go to the board and write out the list. You could easily do this in a Google Doc, or Padlet if you have a large group or want to start keeping a record.

I then ask the entire class to tell me what stands out for them on these lists. Usually this is that Google and Wikipedia are at the top, followed by YouTube and various social media sites; currently the most frequent is Instagram.

I then ask them (depending on time) what it is they like about getting information on these platforms. Sometimes I do this in groups, and sometimes I just have a class discussion about it. I use their responses to get an idea of what, how, and why they like to consume information in this way. I use this to start the conversation on thinking about how they smell the crap in the information they are getting. Here I ask them to get back into small groups and list 3–5 criteria they look for in ‘good’ information on the sites they had previously listed and how they ‘smell the crap’ of bad information. Of course, this is very subjective as to what is ‘good’.

I bring the groups back, and through a class discussion start constructing a list of what they identified in their groups as good and bad information. These lists are usually pretty good, and I can use this to start a conversation about why we need to be critical of the information we consume, any authority structures that appear here (depending on what pops up in the list), and how this applies to academic research as well as their own lives.”

One point Sajni made in our class that stuck with me was that, as a librarian, she can’t professionally recommend Wikipedia, but actually it’s a really good resource for gaining broad context on an unfamiliar subject.

Incidentally, some of the things that Sajni’s students question are:

  • Breadcrumb trails
  • Location/domain
  • Media bias
  • Adverts
  • Visual literacy – aesthetic fallacy.

Deepening media literacy practices

The session ended with Bonnie asking us which media/digital literacies we could deepen in our own practices or classes.

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Within our table I said I was struggling to link a lot of this stuff to the Open University context. David White from The University of the Arts London, challenged that and I said it felt like we were often ‘hiding the vegetables’, when I wanted us to more explicitly acknowledge that students should be ‘eating their 5 a day’, and to find engaging ways to support them in that. Is that a challenge at your institution?

Après ski

In the evening I sampled the delights of Seto Sushi. If you ever find yourself in Richmond, I highly recommend it: wild salmon for the price of the farmed stuff in the UK, yum!

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

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.

HEDIIP – changing the information landscape

The Government White Paper Students at the heart of the system (published June 2011) emphasised the need to improve the quality and timeliness of data provided by the sector and sought to reduce the data burden on institutions. Specifically, paragraph 6.22 of the Paper called for the Higher Education information landscape to be redesigned in order to arrive at a new system that meets the needs of a wider group of users; reduces the duplication that currently exists, and results in timelier and more relevant data.

The Regulatory Partnership Group was formed to advise Government and other national agencies on issues arising from the development of the new funding and regulatory regime for higher education in England. The Group commissioned a feasibility study into redesigning the information landscape. The report A pathway to reform made a number of recommendations including that the key stakeholders should establish a collective oversight of the information landscape to achieve a more efficient and effective system of governance. The report called for programme of work to be established to create a more coherent set of arrangements for the collection, sharing and dissemination of data and information about the HE system. The Regulatory Partnership Group accepted the recommendations in the report and commissioned a series of projects to carry them forward.

The Higher Education Data and Information Improvement Programme (HEDIIP) is being established to manage this work. The first outputs from the projects, roadmaps to a new Joint Academic Coding System and implementation of the Unique Learner Number, have now been published on the HEDIIP website. As HEDIIP evolves, it is likely that new interfaces between institutional systems and the new information landscape will have to be developed. UCISA will seek to ensure that these are specified in a timely manner to allow systems suppliers to be able to plan the development, testing and roll out to their customers.

Andy Youell, HEDIIP Director, is speaking on the Programme at the CISG Conference in Brighton in November.