Digital natives? Not at all! Digital afraid I would say

Personal thoughts to start

I am writing for my progression assessment, which has been a real struggle. Writing is for me a difficult act. I have been identifying some aspects of it so I can improve. It might be because I need to stop, find silence within me, and try to find words and a way to structure them so they make justice to my ideas and all the bits and bops that float around but are an important part of the process of ideation. So yes!! It is an agony I am afraid. But here I am, holding the space of struggle and moving forward I hope! Courage is not missing, so I guess, there will be a productive outcome, in what form, that is still to come 🙂
I am receiving an incredible support from @gconole, my supervisor Grainne Conole. Thank you for that!

My research interest and reflection in relation with exploring the present and not so much predicting the future

Reflecting on my work through my writing and some reading (@DonnaLanclos and @Lawrie) I did this morning I came to realise how important the first phase of my research is. To give this reflection a context let me summarise my research and then explain what I am saying.
My research is about finding ways in which the university, through its members of staff and their institutional vision, can support students to enhance, improve and sometimes even learn about digital literacies. I think digital literacies will and indeed already are, in some occasions, taking the place of literacy as we know them, but I will develop this idea in another post, although I already started to reflect on it here.
When I was thinking about the idea of my research I had already a potential answer or hunch solution if you will. Then came all the process of thinking about how this question could be answered and planning the design research that goes with it. In this process something was not feeling right, I was very uncomfortable, still at an intuitive level, with the idea of how to implement this ‘hunch’ or idea about improving students’ digital literacies. It was definitely not standing in front of a group of students and presenting to them “my idea”! Who am I to present to them ‘The Solution’ without asking them. That felt very uncomfortable, so much so, that I decided to stop for a while and give it further thinking and time to  mature.
I then had the chance to give a talk about my research in the National University Galway with @catherinecronin in CELT (Centre for the Excellence of Learning and Teaching), where I had very good feedback and a rich and fruitful 1:1 discussion with Catherine to share our research ideas and the literature we had been looking at. The result of both, the feedback and the discussion session was a CLICK, an AJA moment. It all suddenly fall into place and I saw the piece that was missing: Students voice, their current digital practice, where they are at in this particular moment in relation with their digital literacies. What was missing was the ‘present moment’ which Donna Lanclos describes very nicely in her article (referred and linked above). An interesting point she makes is not to base our research in an imagined future, instead we need to explore the messy and not so sexy but indeed interesting present.

Future thinking is unfortunate because in part it encourages a neglect of the complicated and messy (and interesting!) present. It’s easier to think and talk about a future where the current problems with which we wrestle are fixed (jet packs!). It is more challenging to confront the present.

This idea of the problems of the future being fixed is relevant and more so the challenge that lies in exploring the present -not an imagined present she says- in order to see what is really possible to do. The core of her article is how the ‘digital native’ cliche does exactly that, hands us an imagined present where young people, all in general, do technology, are experts, hence there is no need to improve nothing, there is no need to teach nothing but only let them do what they know best and in a way we are liberated of all responsibility not only with them, but more over with our own improvement of digital literacies.
This idea of exploring the present is also encouraged by critical thinkers of ed tech like Neil Selwyn and Martin Oliver. They are also informing my work. They argue that there is a need in ed tech to explore more the ‘state of the current’ how they call it in order to attempt to bridge the existing gap between the enthusiastic rhetoric and the not so happy reality happening in the classrooms. And this is exactly what I am doing in phase 1, mapping students current digital practice so I can understand what is what they can and cannot do with technology and where is support really needed. I am using the V+R approach (another explanation here) to map students’ digital practice and it has been eye opening for my research. It shows exactly the opposite of what Prensky has established. From 20 students I worked with only 3 have located digital tools for academic purposes in their V+R Map, and less than 1/4 of the participants feel safe and confident with the idea of exploring new tools in order to work in formal settings and improve their academic digital skills. I also had a big discussion with a  group of 30 students (between 23 and 45 years old) and only 3 knew the meaning of digital literacies. In my case the evidence contradicts Prensky’s assumption totally, and it reveals how passive this cliche results.
Next step will be looking at the different factors that are hindering students to use more digital tools for learning and studying available in the Internet. As Lanclos argues, there is a need to look at the complex interactions of factors that are restricting students from being masters of the Web and its tools for academic purposes. The idea with phase 1 is to be able to extract  relevant elements from the data in order to design a scaffolding structure that supports students to improve their existing and informal personal learning environments reflected in their V+R map.
It is only exploring and knowing how their present practice looks like that anything relevant can be designed  in order to support them in the process of improving and teaching the so demanded digital literacies.

What’s Happening in ‘Their Space’?

It is so nice to come across like-minded researchers with whom I share with out knowing it my own ideas about education and learning.
Article: What’s Happening in ‘Their Space’? Exploring the Borders of Formal and Informal Learning with Undergraduate Students of Education in the Age of Mobile Technologies
Source: What’s Happening in ‘Their Space’? Exploring the Borders of Formal and Informal Learning with Undergraduate Students of Education in the Age of Mobile Technologies

So close and so far away

It has been some time that I haven’t been able to write in my blog, although I have been writing so much in my private space.
I have been working very hard in my research design (the image above is the result of that work) which is about all the logistics that I need to follow to connect my findings to the research question. It provides also a blueprint for success 🙂 It guides the process of finding the evidence or the data that will possibly answer the research questions. I also have been thinking about fare ways to invite students to participate in the project not using or taking advantage of my position of lecturer. I already have green light to address them in the core modules discussion time. I am thinking and writing about the benefits students will take advantage of when taking part of this study. I had a good conversation with my former external supervisor Jan van Maanen, a Dutch mathematician, teacher and historian. His advice was very dutch: think about having fun and providing them with time afterwards to have good conversations and a nice snack with drinks. So we decided to call it “the week summit”, I have thought to organise the activities near the end of the week in the student union launch in order to work first and then chill and enjoy the rest of the evening.
We coincide in using the summit in an arithmetic way –> sum-it a sum of activities that will bring us to know more about how students would like to be involved in re-shaping their own informal personal learning space which is the aim of the second phase of the project.
So my design research, the blueprint version 1.1 is ready to go and the idea is to brake my study in two phases. Phase 1 is about mapping students’ current digital practice. Understanding what motivates them when engaging in the Web with different platforms and tools in formal and informal settings. To explore their expectations, views, fears, anxieties in relation to their digital experience within the university and also when they are working from elsewhere.  My potential participants are going to be y-1, y-2 and y-3 students in educational studies, many of which are then taking the PGCE -postgraduate certificate in education-.
The methods I am using are:

  • focus group to start the conversation with students in relation to their experience and expectations,
  • the V+R continuum  approach which will give me an idea of what motivates students to engage in the Web both, in formal and informal settings and how does their informal digital space looks like
  • the day experience adapted by Dr. Mathew Riddle and Michael Arnold (university of Cambridge and Melborune respectively). It was inspired by social and behavioural science methodologies including the Experience Sampling Method (Hektner et al, 2006, Intille et al, 2003), the Day Reconstruction Method (Kahneman et al, 2004) and work on Cultural Probes (Gaver et al, 1999, Arnold, 2004).  The day experience was used on the Learning Landscape Project at the University of Cambridge in 2007. The method is attempt to reduce recall distortion and the ideological biases of other sampling methods such as interviews, surveys and focus groups. It can record temporal and situational information in qualitative and quantitative detail, and may be extended to a longer period if needed. The authors suggest It is particularly suited to those who wish to use a novel qualitative method to examine every day life situations.
  • An online survey

The aim of phase 1 is to capture how are students engaging with the Web, what platforms and tools do they use and for what purpose. Explore into their digital habits. Other aspects to explore are the views, expectations, vision, fears, needs and blocks students have in relation to the digital world and their experience in formal and informal settings. For that I am using Jisc’s cards and posters, both are already tested by other researchers and they seem to work well for starting a fruitful conversation about the topic.
One of the things I am also interested is how can the university digital literacy policy and culture include students’ informal digital habits and in doing so look at ways the university can match students’ digital literacy expectations where possible. Once all this data is collected it will be analyzed looking at what digital skills are revealed and what digital habits emerge. It will provide the study with a comprehensive view, a typology of students in relation to their digital literacies.
I am not only interested in the term “digital literacies” but also in “web literacy” which is an initiative of Mozilla Firefox in order to provide people with tools that will allow people have a proactive and informed attitude towards the web, teaching them the necessary skills to read, write and participate in the Web. How I will integrate both terms, digital and web I am still not sure. Intellectual work that needs to be done but what is clear to me is that both complement very well.

Key note in CELT conference at National University of Ireland (online streaming)

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Some notes to reflect on while seeing Doug’s presentation via online life streaming

  • digital literacies (the ies ending is an idea of Doug Belshaw while doing his dissertation, which can be found here) are contextualised, there is not such ‘A THING’ that defines it. It will depend on the context.
    I am relating this to the presentation I just saw from All Aboard were they aim -via wide consultation- to create a digital road map to help and guide institutions and organisations in the development of local and national digital strategies and to ensure alignment, coherence and a sense of common endeavour at a sectoral level.
    In relation to the contextualisation of digital skills that Doug mentioned, I think if it would be worth thinking about mapping the digital skills needed in my institution and see how can we provide students with opportunities to acquire those skills during their course at the uni.
  • Badge seen as a scaffolding aid for learning paths? Still not sure but I think this what Doug was explaining when he showed the inner structure of a badge

The idea with this anatomy is to understand what information is important in order to issue a badge and the process involved in issuing and getting it.

Taken from the Serve Ravet slideshare on Open Badge and e-Portfolio

This image is about this process. There is the person or institution, let us call it X, who is issuing the badge and the person, Z, who is interested in obtaining it (people need to get some external recognition for what they have learned outside formal academia, is part of the things you need to account for to get a job); Z needs to know what is wanted from her/him, what is the criteria that she/he needs to know in order to plan what is needed to accomplish the task. Z then needs to collect evidence that respond to the criteria. Once the evidence gathered is assessed the badge is issued. So in order for a badge to be a scaffolding aid for a learning path the idea would be to point out to some of the milestones that a particular learning path should accomplish and those milestones could be the evidence upon which the badge will be issued. Or maybe to design your own learning path and start to gather evidence for it with badges. I think it depends on the experience of the learner among other things.

Another point to reflect on is the difference between digital literacy and web literacy. Doug said that for him the difference is that web literacy is more tangible and bounded hence easier to work with and towards it. Web literacy is defined as the ability to read, write and participate in the web. Whereas when one asks what does it mean to be digitally literate, the answer can get very broad and very much context dependent. I am not very clear about this. Web literacy is definitely contextualised within the Web but what happens when you are trying to read and write in a year 4 class or in the last year course in HE? is this the same? Are the skills needed the same? I do not know…
Working with personal learning environments (in HE setting) as an aid to improve digital literacy I need to be clear about what am I referring to when I talk about digital literacy and secondly I need to define what do we mean with the word technology in the educational context. Those are 2 key ideas that need to be bounded and defined at least in the context of my thesis.
Questions like what is the difference in relation to learning for a student in 1815 and one in 2015? What was revolutionary in the class of 1815? What was the newest technological device of that time? Was the use of the slate a revolution then? and the big blackboard in the center of the wall, how does this invention impacted the learning experience of students and also of teachers? How did they adapt to such a revolutionary technique?  What did it change in the learning experience? What could students do with the slate they could not before it? What was the impact on reading and writing for society? How did this impacted humans way of thinking about different subjects?
 Some more random points:
  • Digital literacy is a contested term –> Literacy as a word has meaning and relevance, it is difficult not to fall in the trap of putting literacy behind any word to make it sound relevant 🙂
  • Digital literacy should not be a dead metaphor (Rorty). THIS is it and THIS is not it doesn’t work (I need to check Rorty’s idea of dead metaphors and Doug Belshaw ambiguity chapter in his thesis)
  • Digital literacy is a way of approaching the world, an attitude towards the digital environment
  • Work with other people, don’t take just authors. Work what is means in your context
  • co-created definitions–> every body has the power. Don’t sit there isolated, work with the people involved in the digital literacy project
  • link the badge with the web literacy map
  • Badges are Trojan horse in education (need to think more deeply about this)
  • Open Badges–> is different from digital badges
  • Make a Mozilla account to create badges. They are like endorsement
  • Finland has a badge initiative and Pearson as well. (check them)
  • Integration of badges into your web page or wiki or any web artefact you are creating to show your skills
  • System of currency with open badges
  • agile currency–>badges.
  • Check the Department of education in relation to badges
  • Learning pathways, how to design them? With students?
  • Check the startup design template. download from (link is in the slideshare)
  • Scaffolding–> how do we scaffold people’s skills?
  • check the open badges’ google group
  • Prescriptive or descriptive badge: we don’t have to be prescriptive don’t need to go ahead of time. Follow what students are already doing because they are doing!
  • why would you (student) bother with the formal ways of learning if there is other ways to learn things in a more open and integrative way

Dana Boyd's book: It's complicated

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Danah has a powerful combination, her interest for teenagers and her work in the social media industry. It seems to me she knows, as she says in the audio, the industry from the inside and I can imagine in her interviews she must be very sharp in what questions she asks and what she can identify in the answers. I have read parts of the book, it is very informative and illustrative of teenagers reality and dissonance with adults and sometimes parents that in some cases as not understanding teenagers life tend to punish it making them quite anxious.
You can buy the book or download it here