Challenging assumptions about IT skills in HE

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The presentation challenges the idea of 'the digital native' and the subsequent assumption of digital literacy skills amongst HE students. It provides a brief summary of the author’s experience as an …

The presentation challenges the idea of 'the digital native' and the subsequent assumption of digital literacy skills amongst HE students. It provides a brief summary of the author’s experience as an IT tutor over the past seven and a half years, matching the author’s own findings to those within research and describes alternative evidence indicating that current student populations are far more complex and with varying levels of digital literacy experience and that treating students as a homogenous mass is problematic. It then explores digital literacy skills for academic purposes compared to social use of technology and asks whether generic technology skills are always instantly transferable to academic study. The presentation concludes with a warning that we're letting down some of our students by the ‘IT barrier’ within HE and that IT should be considered a core study skill along with maths and academic communication rather than something that students can ‘easily pick up’. It also suggests that we test for IT skills rather than assume.

This is an accompanying presentation to the academic paper ‘Challenging assumptions about IT skills in HE’

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  • B4 I start, background – now tutor, before network technician, before helpdesk supervisor. One of few tutors in core study skills team.Did my undergraduate degree in prehistoric times when pen and paper still roamed the earth. Could handwrite your essays. Printed journals, photocopy queues, appointments to see tutor and you took notepad. Teaching degree - technology was quite advanced. Online journals, VLE, URLs direct to academic articles Did my MA mostly online – ‘live’ classroom discussions with me at home and the cat happy on my knee. E-books by the bucketful and group work by people from five countries. And hardly any queuing for anything.that I update from time to time. And I had a PC at home.Technology can be wonderful – and there is so much innovation in technology use, much shown at this conference.
  • Tried using software to create diagnostic – didn’t work – outside scope of this talk todayLBIT, movies, podcasts – IT confidence - part of this year’s projects
  • Take up of technology driven by policy. DfES and then HEFCE for HE.Google docs, Facebook, twitter, podcasts, videos, You Tube
  • I like to call them the three wise theorists….They make three claims:1. Younger students immersed in technology – digital generation2. The digital natives are way ahead of us (mentioned in the keynote yesterday which I thought was great, but wanted to say something about this point – will come to it later in this presentation). That means our teaching is out of date. They learn by exploring via technology – and we have to change EVERYTHING to catch up….3. IT skills are ‘native’ to them, they therefore‘pick up’ new IT very easily
  • I’m so FLAMING BUSY!!!!! Mature students, professions that don’t routinely use Office (nurses, building professionals, some sports courses) international students, returners to learning2. I see a surprising amount of younger students, given they’re supposed to be digital natives – huge variation in skillsposters, spread sheets, mind maps, graphics, embedding sound and videos or narration into PowerPoint3. Effective skills commonly lacking in using Word more effectively and PowerPoint more quicklySlide Master, disorganised/chaotic animations and use of inappropriate sounds…Table of Contents, section and page breaks, advanced numbering, Format Painter, Headings, using Excel generally, transferring knowledge of Excel to work with new sets of dataMany students, young and older, get started on academic work,it all goes wrong, they get completely stuck and confused and come to me for help
  • The demand for IT support has risen year on year Academic colleagues are making far more use of customised – to ensure that students are at a similar level in IT before moving on to more specialised course workTutorials have taken a lot in the past two years.
  • IT help assistants in library – this is what they get daily….They average 50 IT queries a day – that’s 1000 per month per site, 2000 total.Not all customers go away happy, sometimes they feel they need more time, don’t understand the level of answer even though it’s the right one to the question asked…they need to step back
  • If the digital native theory held up, I wouldn’t have a job! There is a whole heap of research that refutes digital native claims. Margaryan and Littlejohn (2010) Jones et al (2010), Helsper and Eynon (2010), Goode (2010), Ferro et al (2011). Just some of the research against. Using recent examples here, but it spans from when digital native was first coined.Diversity within student population. Huge variance in skills of younger age group. DN theory is over simplistic, misleading polarisation of native/immigrant, continuum of usage, NOT use/non use, variation within younger students as great as across age groups. I KNOW MORE ABOUT SOME IT THAN YOUNGSTERS and I’m an IMMIGRANT. Don’t really like the terminology….This is MY experienceThe IT help assistants too. Quotes .‘it’s not a matter of age but of previous engagement with IT at school, college or other. Radically different styles of learning amongst digital natives because of IT is not born outFeedback from students consistently says ‘the step by step approach’ was so helpful. Don’t use technology just for the sake of it. Use what suits!students are often embarrassed about not knowing IT. I’m stupid because they can’t just find out how….’ EG . Old Officecouldn’t do as much – modern functionality& heap of tools ‘Learning by exploration’ would be a bit like the old ‘needle in a haystack’The idea that digital natives can pick up IT. (oh just download it etc)Digital native theory means IT is too often seen as an ‘add-on’ in a way that essay writing, group work, reflective and critical thinking are not.4. Social and academic totally different. Online presence, appropriate websites, effective journal searching, structured documents etc etc…..
  • Research consistently challenges digital native ‘myth’ yet theory still holds swayDone a lot of damage in terms of support, identification of students in need etc.No time to learn IT skills (oh, just grab it from the VLE, put it into Excel, make a poster/flyer/chart – squashing in tutorials…..to show them HOW TO DO….mismatch between student perceptions and competence Education is now once again focusing on ‘digital literacy’ skills – IT skills is a huge part of that. Woken up to the digital native myth maybe?? At last? GOOD STARTING POINT!! RESPONSIBILITY NOT TO ISOLATE SOME OF OUR STUDENTS – keynote yesterday.EG, this conference – all about technology! Years ago I felt like an add on – all about literacy and numeracy – now it’s all about me!We need DLP Acknowledge diverse student populationAcknowledge IT as core study skill – over a decade ago Nesi & Studman-Badillo called IT fifth study skill Integrate teaching of IT with other study skills , eg we ran a very successful ‘dissertation’ week where IT, Maths and Academic Communication all timetabled together.EG 2. Leeds Met is investigating the provision of the MOSEG 3 Development of dig’ lit’ toolkit for academics to use when refocusing curriculumEnough support staff. . I’m at maximum capacity for a part time tutor. Development work is now jettisoned in term time due to teaching demands. If the demands continue to rise, it will reach crisis point. Policies need to be upheld by proper support and enough staff. Students and staff equally affected….Research :1. UK wide - current variation in IT skills in student populations. Update our knowledge. Test perceptions and actual skills ……you might be surprised.

Transcript

  • 1. Challenging assumptions about IT skills in HE Don’t assume, identify. Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan University s.farrell@leedsmet.ac.uk
  • 2. Rise in use of technologyDigital native theoryMy response as IT tutorResearch refuting DN theoryRecommendations Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 1 University
  • 3. My background …• Academic Skills tutor for IT• My academic journey with IT – Pre-technology undergraduate – Mid-technology PGCE student – Current-technology MA student• Am very pro-technology Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 2 University
  • 4. My role as a tutor• Tutorials and drop-in workshops• Customised IT sessions• Development of IT resources Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 3 University
  • 5. 1. Rise in use of technology• VLE• Increase in e-portfolios• Microsoft Office or similar• Increasing use of other technologies Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 4 University
  • 6. The digital nativeThe theorists – Tapscott (1998) – Prensky (2001) – Oblinger (2003) Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 5 University
  • 7. My response as an tutor? Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 6 University
  • 8. Growth in IT support450400350300250200150100 50 0 Autumn & Spring Autumn & Spring Autumn & Spring Terms 2009-10 Terms 2010-11 Terms 2011-12 Drop in IT workshops Customised workshops Tutorials Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 7 University
  • 9. Common questions at the IT Helpdesk• Individual page pagination • Printing and scanning• Section breaks • Resetting passwords• Table of contents • Wireless setup/use of• Headings and other styles • File locations• Advanced numbering • File suffixes• Excel basics • What ‘Drive’ letters mean• Insert text boxes/shapes • Using Google Email Charts/graphs and data • Email attachments series • Saving and downloading• Inserting images/text • Accessing VLE and Portal• Shape/image effects • Bookmarking websites• Animations Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 8 University
  • 10. 3. The digital native?• Non homogenous student population• Don’t learn by exploration alone• Social use of technology versus academic use Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 9 University
  • 11. 4. Recommendations• Establish an effective digital literacy policy• Don’t assume, identify! Make IT a core• Have support in place Study Skill for students who need it• Up to date research across UK HE needed Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan 10 University
  • 12. Challenging assumptions about IT skills in HE Don’t assume, identify Stevie Farrell, Leeds Metropolitan University s.farrell@leedsmet.ac.uk