Friday, 26 February 2010

Materiality, literacy ...and my Glasgow seminar pack

Whilst I was spending an hour (until 7.30pm) yesterday, putting papers into seminar packs for Monday's symposium in Glasgow, I fell to reflecting on two themes:

1) Is this what I'm being paid a senior lecturer's salary for?
2) why does a seminar on digital literacy need seminar packs?

On the first theme, suffice it to say that it seems to make sense in the odd logic of university finance that if there is not enough money in a budget to buy secretarial support then the work must be done by an academic paid at several times the same rate.

On the second theme, I think the answer is that we probably don't need seminar packs - the programme and all the papers are on the web and lots of the participants will have networked laptops with them and half of them probably prefer reading off the screen anyway. The truth is that I LIKE seminar packs and would probably have put one together for this event even if the ESRC had specifically told me not to.

What I like is the materiality of them: the shiny white cover, the feel of the A4 paper in my hand, the little inside pocket where the sheets fit, the stapling, the little cuts you get from the edges of the paper if you're not careful (well maybe not that last one). For me, the embodied nature of the literacy event (it is face-to-face after all) demands an appropriately materialised agenda. As a quote from Bolter that I found in an article on the Kairos website has it: the technology of writing = the sum of the technical and social interactions that constitute a writing system. The technical interactions constituting the 'writing system' that is our seminar (presentations, note-taking, tweets etc.) include giving each other pieces of paper (business cards, expenses forms, seminar packs) as well.

...and here is the seminar pack in question - what a pity you can't see it in all its materiality (come to the seminar!)

Monday, 22 February 2010

LLiDA presentation at next LiDU seminar

Helen Beetham's paper for the 2nd LiDU seminar at Glasgow Caledonian on March 1st: 'Beyond Competence: digital literacies as knowledge practices, and implications for learner development' (co-writtten with Alison Littlejohn and Lou McGill) should serve as a kind of keynote for the day.

The paper, which draws on the work of the JISC-funded project 'Learning Literacies in a Digital Age' (LLiDA), picks up on a number of themes that other contributors will be elaborating on later in the day: the 'participative' multimodal and agentic literacy practices that characterise learners' everyday lives (Mary Hamilton and colleagues from the ESRC-funded 'Literacies for Learning in Further Education' project); the challenging of assessing student work developed through a range of media (Sian Bayne and Jenn Ross on Edinburgh University's MA in Elearning programme); the role of knowledge practices in the creation of academic identities (Mary Lea and myself from the OU); knowledge practices in employment contexts (presentations from Dane Lukic and Elena Golovushkina of GCU); and the role of competence frameworks for information literacy (Alison Mackenzie of SCONUL).

The day promises to give Alison and Caroline Haythornthwaite, the discussants, quite a bit to get their teeth into.

Details of venue, programme etc. can be found at: (please contact me if you are not already in our list and would like to attend.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Blogging the higher education leaders

I found the task of maintaining a live blog of the conference physically difficult (low lighting, lots of room changes, occasional connection failures, my own RSI problems) and rhetorically perplexing (who was I doing it for, what was the purpose, how should I avoid doing exactly the same as the other 'official' bloggers?).

(If you look at the Cloudworks record of the conference in a new browser window the following will make more sense)

Patrick McAndrew's Extra Content is an account of what Martin Bean was saying. I was sitting next to Patrick typing pretty much the same, but I didn't post it directly because I could feel a critique coming on and wanted to interpose some comments of my own. There wasn't time to do this and get down what he was saying, at the same time, and maybe I wasn't supposed to be interpreting, just reporting. I wonder if there are experienced live bloggers skilled at doing both at the same time?). I wrote my account in a Word document, intending to copy/paste from it into the blog later. Patrick has not worried about correcting his typos (he might go back and do this later of course), whereas I was constantly backspacing to make corrections. At the end I decided not to bother to upload my version of the speech as content, but to save it for even later (and elsewhere), when I could use it to examine what MB was actually saying, behind the jokes and the rhetoric.

The Discussion boxes below the Extra Content are Patrick's record of the questions that the audience asked Martin. They look like a different type of content, but in fact they just ran on from the speech and it's simply the software that makes them look like a different kind of record. Again, I wrote much the same, only in the same Word doc that I used to record the speech.

At a later session, Patrick and I agreed to share roles. Have a look at the Dragon's Den session. I wrote a more detailed account (in the Extra Content space) of what the 'pitchers' were saying (and here I didn't feel a need to comment), and Patrick concentrated on using the Discussion boxes to record the questions the 'Dragons' and the audience put to each pitcher, and their answers. It makes slightly more sense in the way the page is laid out, because the session was a bit more interactive, following the pitches.

There's still an anomaly where both of us have recorded the vote, however, me in the content space where it is read before the Q & A account that preceded it. All this is assuming a reader would be going down the page in normal reading fashion of course.

We tried another approach for the final session - a talk by Susan Greenfield. Patrick recorded the talk in the Extra Content space, and I simultaneously made my own subjective comments in the Discussion boxes. The page that represents this does not, of course, capture the simultaneity, but it does at least represent 2 different styles of comment in the two differently formatted spaces.

So what? I'll have to think a bit more about this. I had a lot of questions about the point of this exercise, and I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who feels they can make any kind of textual or circumstancial sense about the event, out of reading what we produced. As a new academic literacy practice live blogging still needs to explain itself I think.

Other than that, though... here is a bit of visual representation produced by 2 artists who were working on a wall throughout conference...

The Renegade New Literacy Critic!

Here I am at the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education summit in London, live blogging in blatant defiance of my own earlier critiques of this kind of intrusive practice! This event is being blogged officially by several people, so I'm using this space to record my unofficial views...

The conference is about agility in HE, symbolised like this (honestly - whose idea was that?):

...and Ewart Woodridge the host is being very agile in dealing with the continuing absence of keynote speaker Martin Bean, who is still stuck in a car somewhere. He has encouraged the audience of 260 to explore the blogging environment for themselves. (I've got some things to say in a future post about the confused role for blogging in the context of an event like this)

Now Martin Bean has arrived and given his usual dynamic (and funny) speech. His overall theme is that HE institutions will have to meet the needs of informal, critical, mobile and engaged learners who have the resoources of the world's experts, mentors, and free content providers, to select from. (See Patrick McAndrew's live blog of the speech - which he posted while I was busy making notes - most of which are the same as what he has written- so now I don't see any point in posting mine).

Now I'm in a breakout group discussing the relationship between research rigour and impact. Blogging it here. (..actually finding live blogging quite difficult - my instinct is to stop and think before I publish something - but my role is to produce a record of what is being said - and sometimes I just don't understand what someone has just said - and I find myself writing in disjointed phrases like this - and losing my concentration as I go back to correct typos etc...)

(here they are discussing the leadership implications of the rigour vs impact challenge while I work out how to upload images from from my new mobile phone...) it's lunch

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Seminar No.2 Glasgow March 1st

The second LiDU seminar 'Digital texts and practices: learning across boundaries' promises some new perspectives from doctoral student colleagues at Glasgow Caledonian researching in workplace learning and the knowledge economy, as well as updates on ongoing work around this theme from our core group members at GCU, Lancaster, Edinburgh and the OU. We will also have the benefit of input from Caroline Haythornthwaite from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who is currently Leverhulme visiting professor at the Institute of Education, and Alison MacKenzie, Chair of the SCONUL working group on information literacy, who have agreed to act as discussants for the day.

The programme for the day follows the same structure as the first seminar last October, which is: two main presentations and a group discussion session in the morning, and two doctoral student presentations and a plenary discussion session in the afternoon. The main presentations this time will be from the Learning Literacies in a Digital Age group at GCU (Helen Beetham, Alison Littlejohn, Lou McGill), and the Literacies for Learning in Further Education group from Lancaster (David Barton. Mary Hamilton, Candice Satchwell). The group discussions will be led by Sian Bayne & Jen Ross from Edinburgh, and Mary Lea & Robin Goodfellow from the OU.

As well as discussing issues raised in the individual presentations, the seminar will be a chance to see if any of the contact/contest points between Literacy Studies and Learning Technology perspectives that emerged last time have expanded our thinking. Some of these points were discussed in this blog following the October seminar, see for example Helen Beetham's Lit vs TEL - a response to Robin in which she argues that practices are 'technical' only in so far as they haven't yet been socialised; Mary Hamilton's Thoughts from the first seminar where she proposes a role in TEL studies for the 'the techniques of micro-analysis of practices and events that literacy people bring to the table'; and Mary Lea's 'Literacies and Technologies' or 'Why I think we need to keep talking' where she suggests that there is a potential commonality for both literacies and learning technologies perspectives , in a focus on institutional conditions framing students' practices in learning with technologies.

Amongst other developments since the Edinburgh seminar, a new report on Digital Literacies has been produced by the Technology Enhanced Learning phase of the ESRC's Teaching and Learning Research Programme, co-written by David Barton (with Julia Gillen). Helen Betham has co-presented (with Fred Garnett & Richard Noss) a workshop on What does the Future hold for Digital Literacy? at Leicester University's 'Learning Futures' festival. And Sian Bayne's talk on 'Uncanny Digital Literacies' has been the subject of discussion on a blog called The Popular Uncanny .