Monday, 29 June 2009

As someone who has purchased or rated Literacy Theory in the Age of the Internet by Todd Taylor, Amazon thinks I might like to know that Assessing New Literacies: Perspectives from the Classroom (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies) is now available. I can order mine for just $99.95 by following the link below.

Assessing New Literacies: Perspectives from the Classroom (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies) Anne Burke & Roberta Hammet

$100! Any chance that new literacy practices might engender some new publishing practices?

Actually if you read the small print there is a paperback available for $35, but it's still a lot to pay even if the focus on assessing young people's new media practices is intriguing. Any hints as to whether it's worth forking out for would be much appreciated.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Digital Literacies in HE - ESRC Report

I am head down in writing the ESRC report at the moment . A ridiculous task, trying to synthesise the project into 5,000 words, including all the mandatory parts required by the ESRC. Says something about literacy practices!
But I just wanted to flag up the 3 key themes which have emerged from our data analysis:
  • texts, technologies and digital literacy practices
  • digital literacies and the institutional context
  • issues of student identity

more soon.......

LfLFE remarks

I've also been working through Improving Learning in College - Rethinking Literacies across the curriculum from the Literacies for Learning in FE project (£20 from Amazon - I paid for it myself as a contribution to cost-cutting at the OU, hope Martin Bean is grateful).

This is a whole book (200+ pages) reporting on an intensive 3-year research project so I haven't been able to do much more than dip in and out, for the moment, but here are my margin notes so far, for what they are worth:

* p.19 the research focuses particularly on written language - as might be expected from applied linguists - I've been arguing for a view of online communication as written language for some time, mainly in response to the dominant view in online learning of it as interaction (the same as F2F only without bodies). It is getting more complicated though - multiple modes are increasingly prominent (even though, for the moment, written text remains king, in our virtual classrooms at least).

* p.19 Literacy as a 'resource for learning across the curriculum' - yes but let's not forget that resources have constraints as well as enablements. Literacies tie you into power relations.

* p.78 Different constructions put on the concept of 'essay' & the relevance of these practices to students who were being prepared either for further study or for a specific occupation. The differences between the FE and HE contexts recur continuously in this research and make me wonder if we really can talk about the 'Digital University' as an overall idea embracing all contexts of post-school education? Is there a sharp and necessary distinction between preparing someone for an occupation and advancing their education?

* p.88 the 'doubling of literacy practices in order to provide evidence for assessment' refers to adding college-based reading and writing activities which are for assessment purposes only, to the situated literacies of occupational contexts like being a waiter in a restaurant. Do these college-based academic literacies only serve assessment purposes? Haven't they got a learning purpose too - something to do with meta-description (I remember a paper by Diana Laurillard on the different kinds of learning in education and 'real life' - there's a summary of one of her talks on this on the MIT TLL site).

* p.90 'the learning log as a genre that uses features of style and design that are unlikely to be encountered elsewhere' - much like the essay, in fact, once you are out of the study context. But, back to the previous point, these formal literacy practices should surely be serving something other than a hoop-jumping purpose.

* p.121 In terms of changing practice, the research did not find any lecturers developing the 'practices involved in becoming and being a student' - these seems to me to relate to the LLiDA comments about focus on learning development as opposed to learning content.

* p.125 Categorising changes in practice in terms of college-based, work-based and 'border' practices became more problematic as the project progressed. Like the broad distinction between 'academic' and 'vernacular' literacies? In the DLHE project we have also had difficulties with the notion of 'boundaries' between literacy practices and spheres of activity (eg: home and study).

*p.170 ... but some sort of bordering processes are at play... and the interface between formal and informal learning contexts is clearly a framing issue for the digital university and a key focus for the Literacy in the DU seminars.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

LLiDA Arrives!

The Learning Literacies for a Digital Age project (LLiDA) have published their substantial report (84 pages) on attitudes to, and provision for, 'literacies of the digital' in UK higher and further education institutions. You can download the whole thing or just the summary, conclusions and recommendations here.

The title 'thriving in the 21st century' might be a bit glib, but it's a pretty impressive piece of work, and their website with a number of case studies from different institutions also makes interesting browsing. Here are some of the notes I made in the margin while I was reading through:

* p.4 I agree that Digital Scholarship is poorly communicated. I think that is because no-one really knows what it means yet. In the OU (probably like many other universities) it's part of the current strategy jargon, but as we haven't yet satisfactorily distinguished scholarship from research or other kinds of academic practice its hard to know exactly what doing it digitally does or doesn't add. (One thing some of my colleagues seem to be clear about is that it has something to do with getting professional kudos out of writing blogs rather than journal articles - but there must be more to it than that!)

* p.4 (the 'framework of frameworks') Critique doesn't appear in the academic practice box. I think it should (I'm writing something about academic critique in the context of the Digital Literacies in Higher Education research at the moment and the topic is likely to feature fairly prominently in my postings to this blog for a while).

* p.6 they observe that information literacy approaches are mainly to do with evaluation of sources & don't really deal with communicating and sharing ideas - I think this is an aspect of digital literacy that academic practice should be engaging with seriously as 'academic' ideas are the whole point of universities aren't they?

* p.18 the lamenting of learners' lack of criticality makes an important point, even if it does look a bit like another kind of deficit model. It isn't only learners who lack criticality in this managerialist age.

* p.18 the list of present trends in changing technologies has too many established practices 'giving way' to gimmicks (online journal articles are giving way to blogs and tweets? As if)

* p.21 they point out that few of the paradigm-breaking scenarios for the future that they have come across (eg; online reputation may become more important than formal qualifications, or academic knowledge may become irrelevant in a society focused on use-value) are taken seriously in the studies they review. But our colleagues in the Literacies for Learning in Further Education project are making a strong case for the importance of 'useful' (as opposed to academic) knowledge, and vernacular literacies at this level. Thin end of the wedge?

* p.28 a 'key feature of the context for this study' is that learning literacy or learning to learn mean something different from academic literacy or study skills. The difference is located in the gap between formal and informal learning. I'm not sure what this is really saying. Most (not all) of the work described in the LLiDA case studies does seem to be concerned with skills. These cases are analysed on * pp.41-42 and one of the conclusions of the analysis is that 'literacies are more prominently or more self-consciously applied by teachers of applied subjects and applied skills' and that there may be other areas of relevant practice where the term literacy just isn't used. Very important point in my view. Like other dimensions of ideology, literacy appears as commonplace, everyday, taken-for-granted.

* p.48 the 'real world' differentiation between learning support and academic practice is associated with the relative absence of input to learning support from academics in specific modules or courses. Writing across the Curriculum and Writing in the Disciplines researchers have been pointing this out for years, haven't they? It's interesting to me how little writing features in the discussion of new literacies - almost as though we are afraid to tar our shiny digital focus with the old-fashioned biro of academic literacy (or, god forbid, composition!)

* p.55 'academic staff may be used to giving feedback around course content but not around an individual learning development agenda'. Indeed, the OU used to have distinct 'tutor-counsellors' whose job was to to do this, supplementary to the teaching provided by associate lecturers who mainly marked essays.

*p.55 a 'discourse of scholarship, innovation and reflective practice' IS a literacies agenda isn't it?

* P.71 'the idea of academic communication as taking a stance' - yes this is definitely something I'd like to follow up as it's clearly not just about taking a stance but about the kind of stance it is and who may be convinced by it. The question what is the distinctive contribution that academic knowledge(s) and practice(s) might make to the shaping of communications and the workings of power in the digital age is a key issue in the emergence of a new literacy for the digital university.