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Rethinking digital literacies: a sociomaterial analysis of students use of technology


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Rethinking digital literacies: a sociomaterial analysis of students use of technology

  1. 1. Rethinking digital literacies: a sociomaterial analysis of students use of technology Martin Oliver & Lesley Gourlay Institute of Education, University of London
  2. 2. Digital literacies Sociomateriality The project Overview Methodology Themes Conclusions
  3. 3. Digital Literacies
  4. 4. Considering these points, the DigEuLit project has developed the following definition of digital literacy: Digital Literacy is the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyse and synthesize digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action; and to reflect upon this process. (Digital competence; digital usage; digital transformation) (Martin & Grudziecki, 2006)
  5. 5. Belshaw‟s Eight Elements of Digital Literacies Cultural Cognitive Constructive Communicative Confident Creative Critical Civic
  6. 6. “Digital literacy defines those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society.” (Beetham, 2010) Four-tier framework: Access Skills Social practices Identity
  7. 7. Elements Capabilities Skills Attributes Ideology of graduate as a quality-assured product?
  8. 8. Moving on from taxonomies… Drawing upon the frameworks outlined above, we propose as a definition of digital literacies: the constantly changing practices through which people make traceable meanings using digital technologies. Within this broad definition, specific aspects of digital literacies can be investigated and explored further, understood as in many ways offering a continuity to our understandings of literacies in general as social practice. (Gillen & Barton, 2010)
  9. 9. …towards digital academic practice • Academic practices are overwhelming textual • These are situated in social and disciplinary contexts • Textual practices are increasingly digitally mediated • These practices take place across a range of domains • Students create complex assemblages enrolling a range of digital, material, spatial and temporal resources
  10. 10. Sociomateriality
  11. 11. „If you can, with a straight face, maintain that hitting a nail with and without a hammer, boiling water with and without a kettle...are exactly the same activities, that the introduction of these mundane implements change 'nothing important' to the realisation of tasks, then you are ready to transmigrate to the Far Land of the Social and disappear from this lowly one.‟ (Latour 2005: 71)
  12. 12. Humans, and what they take to be their learning and social process, do not float, distinct, in container-like contexts of education, such a classrooms or community sits, that can be sits, that can be conceptualised and dismissed as simply a wash of material stuff and spaces. The things that assemble these contexts, and incidentally the actions and bodies including human ones that are part of these assemblages, are continuously acting upon each other to bring forth and distribute, as well as to obscure and deny, knowledge. (Fenwick et al, 2011)
  13. 13. Universities and textual practices Removing the agency of texts and tools in formalising movements risks romanticising the practices as well as the humans in them; focusing uniquely on the texts and tools lapses into naïve formalism or techno-centrism. Leander and Lovvorn (2006:301), quoted in Fenwick et al (p104)
  14. 14. Reflexive relationship between textual media and knowledge practices in higher education (Kittler 2004) Need to explore ramifications of devices & digitally mediated semiotic practices on meaning making
  15. 15. The research
  16. 16. Digital Literacies as a Postgraduate Attribute? JISC Developing Digital Literacies Programme Institute of Education, University of London iGraduate survey / Focus groups / multimodal journalling in year 1 Case studies across four areas in year 2: Academic Writing Centre Learning Technologies Unit Library
  17. 17. Survey
  18. 18. Focus groups
  19. 19. PGCE, MA students, PhD students, Online masters‟ students Mapping exercise, leading to discussion of what, where and when of studying Difficulties recruiting PGCE students due to logistics of school placements Pros and cons of videoing focus groups
  20. 20. The only thing I struggle with, like I just mentioned it earlier before, is the issue of like keeping your private life separate from your work life because I think increasingly the two, you're being forced to kind of mush the two together. Because like [college] used to have its own email server and it would provide you with an email. Now it’s provided by Gmail and it’s like everybody knows that Gmail is the nosiest thing in the world and tracks absolutely everything you do. And […] I'm a little bit uncomfortable with the idea that my work email knows what shopping I do and, you know what I mean? I just find the whole thing is starting to get a little bit scary. (PhD student focus group)
  21. 21. “The student experience” No evidence that the student experience is singular Marked differences in experiences and priorities across the four groups Coping with whiteboards and staff room politics of access; using the VLE to access materials; library databases; using the VLE to create a sense of community (…and Skype behind the scenes…) Professional, personal, study
  22. 22. Neither all „institutional‟, nor personal Office tools (primarily Microsoft, plus Google docs and Prezi) Institutional VLEs (Moodle and Blackboard) Email (institutional, personal and work-based) Synchronous conferencing services (Skype, Elluminate) Calendars (iCal, Google) Search engines and databases (including Google, Google Scholar, library databases, professional databases such as Medline, etc), Social networking sites (Facebook,, LinkedIn) and services (Twitter) Image editing software (photoshop, lightbox) Endnote Reference works (Wikipedia, online dictionaries and social bookmarking sites such as Mendeley) GPS services Devices (PCs at the institution and at home, laptops including MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, Blackberries and E-book readers).
  23. 23. A taxonomic list would be problematic Time specific (and rapidly dated) Unfeasibly long Containing much that‟s irrelevant for individuals Digital literacy as a kind of coping Personal and situated, not monolithic and general
  24. 24. Journaling 12 students recruited from the focus groups 3 from each of the four groups (distance students via Skype) A structured programme of interviews A digital „biography‟, exploration of current practice, guidance on data generation Students capture images, video and other forms of documentation to explore engagement with technologies for study 2-3 further interviews, building student analysis of data via presentations
  25. 25. Identification of orientations towards technology use Curation, combat and coping Examples from this to follow Rich body of data Images, videos and presentation a powerful stimulus for discussion “Interview plus” (e.g. Mayes, 2006) What can we do with these data in their own right? (e.g. Pink, 2012; Rose, 2007)
  26. 26. Themes
  27. 27. Orientations
  28. 28. Yuki: „curation‟
  29. 29. For example when I attend a lecture or a session I always record the session, and it‟s after the session, but sometimes I listen to the lecture again to confirm my knowledge or reflect the session...when I, for example we‟re writing an essay and I have to...confirm what the lecturer said, I could confirm with the recording data. (Yuki Interview 1)
  30. 30. Sally: „combat‟
  31. 31. I was like bullied into it by people saying, oh, you‟ll be left behind if you don‟t use Facebook. So yes, that was when I got into it, so... And then... so now I would say Facebook, I‟m not the most... like I said to you in the focus group, I‟m a bit uncomfortable about the whole kind of like Big Brother aspect. (Sally Interview 1) I feel like, also that Google is equally watching you. You know, they‟re all watching you, they‟re all trying to sell you things, and the thing is not, I don‟t so much mind being bombarded with advertising as I mind having things put about me on things like Facebook that I don‟t want. You know, I don‟t want my friends to spy on me, I don‟t want my friends to know what I listen to on YouTube. (Sally Interview 1)
  32. 32. Faith: „coping‟
  33. 33. In my school, I… we had… our staff room was equipped… one, two, three, four, five, six, seven… seven computers now we can use and only one of them attached with a printer. So, actually we‟ve got six PGC students over there, so it‟s, kind of, everybody wants to get to that computer where you can use the printer. Yes, so in the end I found actually I can also use the printer from the library in the school. So, six student teachers tried to use other computer. So, it, kind of, sometimes feels a bit crowded. And when the school staff want to use it, well, okay, it seems like we are the invaders, intruders?
  34. 34. Spaces
  35. 35. Yuki Japanese, female in her 40s, MA student For me the most important thing is portability, because I use technologies, ICT, everywhere I go, anywhere I go. For example of course I use some technologies, PCs and laptops and my iPad in the IOE building, and in the IOE building I use PC, I use them in PC room, in library, and for searching some data or journals. In the lecture room I record my, record the lectures and taking memos by that.
  36. 36. 36
  37. 37. Interlude Trying mapping out where you undertake your work Are spaces associated with particular times or patterns? Which spaces do you feel in control of? Where do you feel supported? Are there spaces where you avoid undertaking certain kinds of work? Why?
  38. 38. Identity
  39. 39. Managing the separation and integration of personal, professional and study places Email accounts Social network profiles etc
  40. 40. One of the challenges of undertaking an online course is that most probably you will do this alongside „other‟ activities such as a job or other. As a result you end up with multiple email addresses and different folders, files and docs in your computer. I am finding that one needs to be very organised and a practical thinker in order to: retrieve the information you need, navigate between one and in the other. (Lara email)
  41. 41. Texts
  42. 42. Yuki‟s books From print to digital and back again
  43. 43. “The bathroom is a good place to read” Digitally connected texts in a very embodied setting – neither „virtual‟ nor „real‟ (Jurgenson 2012)
  44. 44. Conclusions
  45. 45. Substantive conclusions Undermines taxonomic conceptions of digital literacies Complex, constantly shifting set of practices Permeated with digital mediation Strongly situated / contingent on the material Distributed across human /nonhuman actors Texts are restless, constantly crossing apparent boundaries of human/nonhuman, digital/analogue, here/not here, now/not now
  46. 46. Reflections on the process Tensions between generation of a rich data set and manageability of data collection and analysis Later versions of NVivo can embed non-textual media Helps with the integration of multimodal data Raises question about the status of images – ethnographic links to practice, illustrations, an object of analysis in their own right…? Extent to which multimodal journaling should be structured and guided Cross sectional vs case study analysis of the data set One group of twelve? Four groups of three? Twelve individuals?
  47. 47. Project blog: Project webpage: rning/developingdigitalliteracies/DigLitPGAttribut e.aspx Project contacts: Lesley Gourlay ( Martin Oliver (
  48. 48. References Belshaw, D. (2011) What is „digital literacy‟? A pragmatic investigation. Doctoral Thesis, Durham University. Available online: Fenwick, T., Edwards,R. & Sawchuk, P. (2011) Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Sociomaterial. London: Routledge. Gillen, J. & Barton, D. (2010) Digital Literacies: a research briefing by the Technology Enhanced Learning phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme. London: London Knowledge Lab. Available online: Jurgenson, N. (2012) When atoms meet bits: Social Media, the Mobile Web and Augmented Revolution. Future Internet, 4, 83-91. Kittler, F. (2004). Universities: wet, hard, soft, and harder. Critical Enquiry 31(1): 244-255. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Martin, A., & Grudziecki, J. (2006). DigEuLit: Concepts and Tools for Digital Literacy Development. Innovation in Teaching And Learning in Information and Computer Sciences, 5 (4), 249 -267. Mayes, T. (2006) The Learner Experience of e-Learning: Methodology Report. Available online: Pink, S. (2012) Advances in Visual Methodology. London: Sage. Rose, G. (2007) Visual methodologies: an introduction to the interpretation of visual materials. London: Sage.

Editor's Notes

  • lesley
  • lesley