Think Digital

The Digidol team have been continuing to work  closely with Amy Stackhouse from Communications following on from the successful Digital and Social Media Strategy and Action Plan. Communications have produced a website called Think Digital to raise the profile of this work which is accessible from here.

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Digital Enablement: Exploring the future role of front-facing service staff in developing digital literacy

Presentation given by Joe Nicholls at the Gregynog Colloquium 2013. ww2.glyndwr.ac.uk/gregynog2013/index.asp?page=programme

The Jisc funded Digidol Project (digidol.cardiff.ac.uk/) adopted a whole institution approach to establishing sustainable and scalable approaches to developing the digital literacy of all staff and students. The role of front-facing professional services staff, in particular those in the library and IT services, was identified as pivotal in enabling academic staff and students to develop knowledge and skills necessary to make effective and appropriate use of digital technologies. The question is, what changes are required in order to help learners, teachers and researchers fully realise the benefits of these new tools? A number of issues will be explored concerning the potential future working practices of professional services staff.

Digidol at LSE

On 6th February we visited the Centre for Learning technology at LSE to present our work as part of their NetworkED seminar series. The talk was live streamed and recorded and summarises both the context of the project at Cardiff and our current work, including how we are using and extending Beetham and Sharpe’s Digital Literacies Development Framework and how this relates to the Knowledge Hub.

The recording is available here: http://clt.lse.ac.uk/events/networkED-seminar-series-08.php

Unfortunately the slides are not synched with the video but hopefully you’ll be able to follow along.

Getting started with Digidol

Today marks two weeks since I started as interim project manager on the Digidol project and I am starting to get a handle on things so I thought it was a good point to reflect on my first impressions of the project, progress to date and where we are heading.

In terms of project management, things couldn’t have been made easier. When Joy went on maternity leave, she left things well organised and documented, making it straightforward to find everything and see what has been happening and who does what. This has made the first fortnight a lot more productive than it might otherwise have been so thanks Joy!

I have joined the project as it enters a new phase. Extensive baselining activities looking at the current extent of digital literacy among academics, students, admin and researchers is complete, providing a picture of a mix of both enthusiasm for and uptake of technologies. Digital literacy has been recognised at an institutional level as an important element and is embedded in core strategies as one of the essential “learning literacies” students and staff need to possess. An initial organisational model to support change management has been proposed. So far so good. The project is on target and there is the essential institutional will to see it succeed.

The new phase focuses on facilitating and supporting that process of change to enable staff and students to make appropriate use of technology to enhance their work practices. Facilitation is happening both through workshops and online resources but therein lies the challenge. Such support – whether provided in the short term by the project – or longer term by services – needs to be contextualised to practice in order to be meaningful and relevant – and digital literacy means being able to identify and exploit the right technology at the right time for the particular job. So traditional generic, technology-focused interventions are not enough.

Our challenge over the second phase of the project is therefore to develop a working and sustainable process that can be taken forward by our service providers to enable staff and student to understand when and how technology would make their work more effective and provide them with the support they need to be able to take it forward. We have started trialling a mixed-media workshop process, which combines short, focused face to face interactions and an online community to explore detail. We are also developing a resource bank, which can be accessed via multiple views to help to surface the possibilities offered by technology for different practices and tasks.

Attempting this for the whole institution and all the possible practice and technology combinations is not feasible so we are concentrating on illustrative exemplars: working with a handful of different disciplinary areas and focusing on a number of representative task areas (such as presentations, meetings and assessment). These will allow us to demonstrate proof of concept and evaluate our model and process.

All this is happening in the context of institutional change so we are mindful that we need to keep one eye on that and how it may change things for us. But all the signs are that the new leadership team will be supportive of our aims.

So an exciting time to join the project and I am looking forward to working with Joe and the team on the next phase.

From strategy to action

We’re coming towards the end of what has been an interesting and challenging phase of the project. From the outset we were acutely aware of the need to win over hearts as well as the minds of those in the University who are best placed to catalyse and promote the development of digital literacy. With this aim we focused our efforts on engaging and meeting with key individuals and groups across the University to identify how we could embed the development of digital literacy into relevant processes and mechanisms. Progress to date has been very encouraging indeed, with a number of strategies, action plans and initiatives now incorporating digital literacy as an integral component. This success will ensure that digital literacy remains in forefront of people’s minds and continues to be an agenda item for some time to come.

We took our initial lead from the University’s Education Strategy, which was invaluable in highlighting digital literacy in the broader context of Learning Literacies. This provided us with the impetus to be able to ask questions of the other University strategies as to how they could engage with this as a driver. We have had extremely positive and fruitful collaborations in such areas as Careers and Employability with the opportunity to feed into their action plan, with the Equality and Diversity group contributing to the Strategic Equality Plan, also close involvement with the development of the University’s Social Media Strategy and the Information Services Digital and Information Literacy Strategy, which was recently fully endorsed by its Board. Work now continues with these various groups to identify from a practical standpoint how Digital Literacy can best be realised in the short to medium term.

This is now leading into more grassroots and hands-on engagement with teaching staff to help them detail appropriate learning opportunities. Examples of this are our collaborations with academics responsible for planning and developing the new C21 Medical Curriculum to specify how both Information Literacies and Digital Literacies can be integrated in an evolutionary way throughout the 5 year course. We are also working with people leading the Cardiff Award scheme to specify content and activities for undergraduates to develop their digital literacy with a view to future employability. And workshops are planned with front-facing staff in Library and IT Services to explore how their own digital and information literacy might be developed and also how they in turn might better enable its development in others.

So, looking back over the first year of the project, much has been achieved in terms of raising people’s awareness about the significance of developing Digital Literacy and making the conversation happen. This has proved invaluable in helping to clarify where and how the project can best contribute to facilitate practice at the ‘coal-face’. This nicely leads us into the next phase of the project which is all about developing and gathering resources and running workshops to give staff and students an opportunity explore what developing their digital literacy actually entails when doing their work and learning.