Saturday, 19 May 2012

Supporting Academic Practice in a Digital Age

I attended this on Thursday (17th May) at University of Exeter. I won't go into too much detail on this as I've created a Storify which covers the important themes for me in a much easier way than re-writing the whole day as a blog entry.

I think I'll be making more use of Storify - I like to capture thoughts from conferences by tweeting and Storify makes it easy to capture these (and tweets from others) as well as adding links to anything else web-based.

Overall, I got a lot from the day. I think it challenged my views on what digital literacy is. There was much more emphasis on the concept of academic and digital practices rather than looking at specific digital tools - and I think this is a helpful approach. Rather than thinking (for example) "we've got to teach all students how to use Facebook properly" there seems to be an emerging approach on looking at students practices and facilitating use of tools that help them to engage in those practices.

I think the most important change in my mind was that the tools themselves aren't really the issue - the practices are. The best example for me came from a discussion on Twitter use for note taking in lectures. We came up with many good reasons to use Twitter (that you can tag items to organize thoughts, use it to summarize information and that it's social so notes can be shared) but actually it's these practices that are important. Any tool that enables a student to do these things is potentially useful and we should be facilitating student's abilities to find and evaluate these tools based on their current academic needs.

I think the other important theme to come from the day was around the potential of technology to shift the power dynamic in education. Online spaces tend to be more democratic and allow collaborative approaches rather than hierarchical or top-down education. A good example was the move from lecture halls where the "expert" is elevated by the physical space to online spaces that can be more democratic and enable everyone to have an equal voice. I like this idea of a more social and equitable construction of knowledge, but I can see that it's probably threatening to some. Another good example is around using digital tools. There is a tendency to think that, as the educators, we need to be expert in all digital tools used for learning. Actually, this is impossible and forces students into a prescribed practice that may or may not work for them.

Wouldn't it be better to facilitate their use so that they become the expert and use technology in a way that works? I thought a good term that was used was around developing "resilience" - that students can transfer and adapt their use of technology (which is maybe at odds with IT Skills frameworks such as ECDL). Another useful term was "repertoire" - that the students have a range of techniques and tools that can be flexed depending on the current need.

p.s. The picture is from the excellent followthethings.

No comments:

Post a Comment