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.


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