An introduction to digital literacy: what does a digitally literate student look like?

Tuesday 30 January 2018, 12.30pm to 2.00pm

Speakers: Susan Halfpenny and Michelle Blake, Library and Archives

Workshop Summary

As technology becomes an ever more ubiquitous facet of modern work, education and entertainment, the ability to effectively use, manipulate and develop digital technologies is fast becoming a requirement for operating successfully in society.

Digital literacies need to be continuously assessed, progressed, and supported, across the students’ learning journey. Capacities acquired iteratively — progressively, through practice of authentic tasks — are better retained than those gained one-off, in isolation and through instruction.

You don’t need to radically change your approach to teaching and learner support to foster the development of students’ digital capabilities: you could begin with considering how your current approaches to teaching and learning might enhance students’ digital capabilities through the introduction of relevant digital tools. This way you can intertwine the use of digital forms for core tasks progressively across the programme, encouraging students to adopt digital practices and critically evaluate them.

In this workshop we will consider what we mean by digital literacies, why this is important to our graduates, and how we can start to embed these skills in the curriculum. It will showcase some of the work undertaken by Information Services, in collaboration with academic departments, to integrate digital capabilities across academic programmes. We’ll showcase some of the materials that we have created that can be reused and embedded in the VLE to support digital skills development for your academic programmes and modules.

Workshop Report

by session chair, Sally Quinn, Psychology

Susan and Tony delivered a really useful session challenging our concept of what a digitally literate student is and how we can think about including digital skills training at programme level. The session involved group discussions of key questions we should be asking ourselves as well as an example of how Tony has been working with the Education department to integrate digital skills training within specific modules.

How do we define a digitally literate student?

The discussions centred on how students should be able to do ‘higher level’ skills such as evaluate content, use complex systems, and apply digital knowledge to different systems. Concern was also raised about making assumptions about students’ existing digital skills, especially when we have such a diverse student population. Although different people had different views on what ‘digital literacy’ actually is, Susan shared the definition provided by JISC and the definition outlined in the UoY IT strategy which might help to inform us about the range of digital skills prospective employers of our students might expect from graduates. One of the challenges we might face however is that students may be unaware of what they don’t know so it’s important to spend time exploring students’ existing skills.

What skills will our graduates need to succeed in a digital world?

In our groups we discussed some of the key skills our own graduates will need. These ranged from using different platforms for collaborative work and presentations, to being able to communicate on a formal level. It was suggested that one of the main challenges here for students is to successfully choose the appropriate tools, and learning where they can find help (both online and offline help). We also discussed how students will need to use technology in a professional manner which includes consideration of privacy and security issues.

How can we embed these skills at programme level?

Tony outlined how he has been working with the Education department to help their students with their digital skills. For this type of intervention to be successful, we need to think how existing modules can incorporate digital skills training as part of the curriculum. Tony used this approach and working with relevant staff in the Education department, they worked together to identify how existing activities could feed into digital skill development of students. An effective format was for Tony to visit specific sessions to teach students digital skills that directly linked to the activities of the module (e.g. presentations).

Where can you get support with integrating digital skills training into your teaching?

Tony and Susan provided a list of sources of support for staff:

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