Tuesday, 7 June 2011

On being an academic and being a bidder

Warning - Dragon-enabled posting.
(My relationship with this animal is sadly worsening.We haven't talked properly for a couple of weeks now. This is mainly due to the fact that I've been working on the JISC bid that I mention below, and Dragon's habit of playing havoc with the logoff times on my PC, not to mention its random dumping of the contents of the clipboard into my e-mails, makes it rather hard to co-operate with on such fiddly work).

On being an academic, I recently enjoyed reviewing an article for a journal called 'Pedagogies-an international journal', which I hadn't come across before. It's a Taylor Francis/Routledge eJournal but the OU library doesn't have it in its database. I looked through the six volumes that they have published since 2006 and found a handful of articles relating to literacy and higher education. A couple of these I've now ordered through the OU library electronic document delivery service, which involves filling in a form by hand and posting it! (I like doing this -- it reminds me what I have hands for).

The Journal seems to have a bit of critical slant, which comes as a relief after dealing with the 'visionary' discourse of JISC's digital literacies call. The article I reviewed encouraged me to believe that there is an emerging field of research around cultural and critical conceptions of literacy in the Digital Universitythat I might be able to contribute to.

On being a bidder to a JISC e-learning programme ('developing digital literacies') - this has been striking in the way it combines the expansive rhetoric of 'new literacies' with an oddly restrictive set of institutional print-literacy practices required to complete the documentation. For example, JISC's project management guidelines (66 pages of them) contain a set of Word templates to use in the bid which are basically tables setting out required information in columns. Eg: the stakeholder engagement template looks like this:

Tables certainly make the information clearer, but they are quite wasteful of space. Given that the bid document will be automatically binned if it goes over 12 pages, every table considerably reduces the amount of information that can be included elsewhere. I tried to get round this by putting the tables on their sides. But I'm not sure that I haven't lost some of the point of having the tables in the first place by doing this.

It's interesting to reflect on the relationship between these conventional institutional literacy practices (developed in the interests of standardisation and clarity) and the 'digital literacies' that the bidding projects are concerned to develop in students and others. Being able to turn a Word table on its side doesn't make me digitally literate in the terms of JISC's 'vision', but it did enable me to get the bid in.

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