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Baselining researcher Digital Literacy

We would like to say a huge thank you to all the researchers who gave up their time to take part in yesterday’s workshop exploring digital literacy. We are using the valuable information gathered to establish a baseline of attitudes and practicesamongst researchers todigital technology. Representatives ranged from postgraduate students through to early stage researchers, mid-career and senior research staff.  This varied group provided us with a broad range of views and illuminating discussion on the value and application of technology for research work. Unsurprisingly, there was an extremely diverse range of practices described, with some researchers making extensive use of a wide variety of digital technologies whilst others preferred a traditional approach, working with pen, paper and post-its to meet their particular needs.

Concern was expressed that an overly strong emphasis on technology driven (rather than task driven) methods may promote ways of working that aren’t necessarily the most effective or productive. Researchers are acutely conscious of the time and effort required not only to find out about what technologies are available but also change the way they work. A clear message was that researchers need to be provided appropriate and timely information to help them make a considered choice about the relative value of comparative technology for changing their practice; it must be fit for purpose and demonstrably add value. This highlights a significant challenge for the university to identify ways of raising awareness and understanding of technology enabled opportunities amongst researchers and how to target and tailor education and support. Further information and analysis of this workshop along with findings from an online survey will be available early April as the project’s second baseline report.

Supporting Curriculum Design Workshop

The second workshop in PALET’s ‘Supporting Curriculum Design’ programme of activity took place on 24 January 2012. The workshop was facilitated by staff from the Learning and Teaching Support Team and members of the JISC funded Digidol Project Team. In the below video, Dr Sarah Williamson (Head of Learning and Teaching Support) gives an overview of the second workshop.

Bridging tasks and services

This is a working draft of a task-service model to help us position digital literacy. We believe this is important so that we can frame and shape the developing digital literacy project in a way which directly supports learning. It is still very much a work in progress and we aim to refine the model through its application to authentic tasks.We welcome any thoughts and comments.


Bridging between tasks and services

 At some stage, most academic and professional challenges involve basic information tasks. At a simple level these tasks are concerned with:

  • searching i.e.  seeking, locating, finding, browsing
  • retrieving i.e.  getting, obtaining, acquiring
  • managing i.e.  organising, sorting, arranging, structuring, cataloguing
  • manipulating [1] i.e. transforming, re-representing, formatting, visualising
  • creating [2] i.e.  producing, generating, authoring, making
  • disseminating i.e.  publishing, making available, sharing, sending, delivering
  • exchanging/communicating [3] i.e.  dialogue, discussion, conversation[4]

Breaking down complex tasks into constituent activities enables mappings to be made to the services we use to perform them.

Types of service

The service used to perform a task

  • content – providing data/information in the form of physical and digital media artifacts
  • tools – providing physical equipment, infrastructure and resources; digital technologies, software and applications
  • people – providing knowledge, expertise, information
  • processes – work that is done on someone’s behalf either by a person or system (characterised as a business process or workflow)

Example: A complex task, such as giving a presentation, can be broken down into a range of activities[5]. For example: searching, retrieving, creating and disseminating information (are all performed through utilising digital literacy, information literacy and social literacies).

Learning Literacies: the key to bridging between tasks and services

Having broken down a high-level task into basic activities, it is possible to ask questions about what kinds of service might be useful to help perform them. The ability to make informed decisions such as; ‘whether or not to employ digital technology (having understood the options)’, ‘which technology to use’ and ‘how’ is what bridges the gap between a task and available services.

As a project we wish to take a task-based approach to digital literacy and to support the primary aims of students, staff and researchers within the university and to truly embed digital literacy in authentic learning tasks. Therefore we propose adopting this model as a broad task based framework within which we are able to analyse the requirements of our stakeholders.

[1] The data remains unchanged

[2] Creates new data/information

[3] There is reciprocation

[4] This list is inspired by the SCONUL seven pillars model for information literacy, however, for the purpose of this project evaluation, identification, scoping and planning are not included because they are understood to be high-level cognitive activities performed across many of the basic data/information tasks.

[5] Not all constituent basic activities are mandatory when performing a complex task