Are these examples of digital literacies? Discuss…

This blog post invites you to consider 3 examples and identify: are they examples of digital literacies? If so, in what way? If not, why not? This task is the one Oxford Brookes’ Rhona Sharpe, a pioneer in digital literacies research (LLiDA, SLiDA),  asked us, the participants of the HEA-organised day, entitled “Changing Learning Landscape —The role of digital literacies in supporting continuing professional development in HE contexts“, to consider, which I attended on the 29th May in Birmingham.

The task worked well on the day to get us into thinking what digital literacies are. Rhona Sharpe’s presentation on the day can be found on slideshare.

Example 1: Baby talks with cat on iPad

Example 2: a student’s writing who uses a blog to make them public

Legoscratch site 

Example 3: iPad Cafe : students from York St John meeting up and discussing useful iPad apps

iPad Cafe , York St John UniiPad Cafe , York St John Uni

iPad Cafe , York St John Uni

Can I ask you to do the same? Please consider:

  • the baby (Example 1),
  • the young pupil (Example 2) or
  • the York students iPad Cafe (Example 3)

Do the examples demonstrate digital literacy? Yes/No? Why?

Please post and share your responses and respond to that of others.

Thank you!


Tünde Varga-Atkins, eLearning Unit, University of Liverpool


PGR View: Taking the Plunge into Social Media

For the 2013 Humanities and Social Sciences First-Year Development Workshop, I offered a new session that explored how academics are using social media in order to raise their research profiles.  The participants were first-year postgraduate researchers and it was clear from listening in to the pre-session chats over coffee that they had some firmly cautious opinions about using social media as part of their research practice.


The session was kicked-off by Lisa Hawksworth, from the Sydney Jones Library, who discussed case studies of researchers who have successfully used social media to highlight their work to the wider public.  The session then became an open forum that focused on questions that I asked participants to explore before the workshop.

Two-weeks before the workshop, I set a task for participants to find profiles of three researchers in their field of study and critically assess how they were using social media.  During the forum, they revealed their findings which offered insight into how academics use social media to both establish and maintain their profiles amongst fellow academics and the wider public.  Some participants were surprised to find that well-established professors in their field were consistently using social media. Reflecting on the profiles they found, the wider group wondered whether such busy academics had assistants to help maintain the high level of engagement with social media that they encountered.  Some even pondered whether PGRs were providing technical support!

Regardless of who is actually maintaining Twitter feeds, Linkedin profiles, blogs or other forms of social media, participants recognised that senior academics value social media as a means of promoting their research areas and individual profiles.   However, when asked whether they would follow in the footsteps of ‘the good and great’, there was a sense of hesitation in defining when and how they would engage with social media.

The majority of responses suggested that time and content concerns were an important factor in their decision to engage with social media.  Some of their responses were:

‘It is something I would have to carefully manage.  It would take up so much of my time and I’m already busy!’

‘I’ll wait until I have something worth saying, but yes I would definitely use it’

For others though it was hesitation to ‘take the plunge’ as a creator of social media:

‘I’ve never tried it in a serious way as a contributor, but I am definitely a consumer’

So what barriers do PGRs encounter that prevent them from actively creating social media?  It might have something to do with their immediate working environment.  According to the authors of the Handbook for Researchers and Supervisors: Digital Technologies for Research Dialogues, the decisions of whether postgraduate researchers embrace social media as a means of sharing information, collaborating and disseminating their research to the wider public and other researchers are often based on the attitudes of their supervisors. [1]   Such attitudes and or preferences for only certain types of social media can have either a facilitating or hindering effect.

The responses I heard during the workshop made me wonder whether workshops that offer a safe environment where PGRs could encounter and explore how to make the leap from consumer to creator would help alleviate the general anxiety that some researchers may feel towards employing social media.  While there are resources available for PGRs, such as Vitae’s The Engaged Researcher and the Research Information Network (RIN): Social Media: A Guide for Researchers it seems that a little handholding to explore best practice would be beneficial.  But moreover, this also suggests to me that workshops for supervisors would also support and shape how the next generation of researchers engage with social media.

I am keen to learn whether any supervisors are interested in such a workshop!  If so, please leave a comment.

Dr Aimee Blackledge, Researcher Developer

Developing Digital Literacies at the University of Liverpool

Libraries, Digital Literacies and labels… LILAC 2013 conference

Digital Literacies

Steve Wheeler

What is the difference  between Digital Literacies and Information Literacy? As a librarian Information Literacy is my bread and butter, although I acknowledge it doesn’t trip off the tongue of those outside the profession. Information Literacy is defined by the Professional body for Libraries, CILIP as:

“knowing when and why you need information, where to find it and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner”

So, where does Information Literacy end and Digital Literacy begin? Is there even a difference? Does it matter?  I don’t think the labels matter at all, and we can waste far too much time navel gazing and agonising over them.

I recently attended the LILAC (Librarians Information Literacy) conference, in Manchester along with 800 librarians, mainly from the UK, but with increasing numbers from other countries. Many of the papers dealt with Digital Literacies – in fact this could easily be re-branded a as a Digital Literacies conference.  The first Keynote speaker was Steve Wheeler from Plymouth University, where I used to work; @Timbuckteeth on Twitter.

His keynote, and others from the conference are on the LILAC YouTube Channel now. The phrase that really stood out for me from Steve’s talk was  “Digital Wisdom”. Isn’t that what we all need? The wisdom not to tweet something stupid, the wisdom to ensure that your digital footprint is accurate and not damaging to your career, and the wisdom to choose the appropriate tool for the job in hand. This is not just “skills”, or even knowledge – it’s a way of thinking in a digital age. I took away some useful further reading from this keynote – a debunking of Prensky (2010) Digital Natives concept from Kennedy et al (2010), which concudes there is nothing special about the knowledge and skills of the so called  “Net Generation”. young people are no more able to learn and live in a technological age than the generations before. Instead of being especially adept at using technology, many are in fact basic users. This chimes with my own experience of students and indeed younger  family members. Just because you are young, it doesn’t mean you automatically “get” technology.

Steve Wheeler at LILAC 2013, Manchester University

Kennedy, G., Judd, T., Waycott, J., & Dalgarno, B. (2010). Beyond natives and immigrants: Exploring types of net generation students. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(5), 332-343.

Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives : partnering for real learning / Marc Prensky ; foreword by Stephen Heppell. Thousand Oaks CA ; Corwin, 2010.