You will notice that I have carefully changed the title of this session from the future OF to the future AND digital iteracies. One reason for that is I don't think the case has really been made yet that digital literacies ARE part of the future of learning, or have any claim to be. I want to say a few things about the future as it is being presented and discussed here at the Futures Festival, and the place I think digital literacies might play in that debate. This is my take on the subject of digital literacies, and Fred should not be implicated in whatever I have to say. But Fred has been involved in this subject through his work with the TEL/TLRP programme and will be blogging alongside my live presentation with some issues and questions that have arisen from that work.
This festival is timely in light of the government's Higher Ambitions report, one key theme of which is that learners should be treated more like consumers of education. That is certainly one powerful vision of the future that is being presented to us in HE at this moment in history.
However, a report which also came out last year, and had understandably less attention in higher education, told a rather different story. The Nuffield Review was actually very critical of the consumer discourse, and felt it had impoverished the debate about the future of learning and its place in society. So we can see already that even 'official' futures for learning are contested and contradictory. The future is always a story we tell ourselves in the present.
In approaching the question of digital literacies, and how we might think about them in a futures context, I want to draw your attention to three stories about the future, which we may or may not choose to believe and bring into reality.
The first story sounds so obvious, so familiar, that it is hardly worth repeating here. The New Labour govt has nailed its colours firmly to the mast of a 'digital' economic future. But let's have a look at that idea a bit more closely. One of the big 'futures' thinking activities of the past couple of years was the Beyond Current Horizons project, funded by the DfES as was, and run by FutureLab. I was lucky enough to be involved in that and one of the outcomes that emerged clearly from the background studies that we commissioned was a discrediting of the knowledge economy as an inevitable or even particularly positive future for the UK. There are many counter-trends, for example the capacity to 'offshore' all forms of work, including high value knowledge work, in a global context where developing nations are catching up and even overtaking the west educationally, while their wages remain relatively much lower. Standardisation to support the increasing role of technology in the workplace tends to restrict the creativity required by the human beings in the system. So it is by no means inevitable that we are educating a generation of high-value knowledge workers who will be part of a global digital elite. Second, and more generally, the time when we are endlessly fascinated by the digital may be coming to an end. That is, on a global level we will certainly need to talk about digital inequalities, just as we talk about a lack of access to basic literacy and to clean water, and will need to do so for some time to come. But in the educational cultures of the developed and developing worlds, as networked technologies become embedded into everyday practice, it seems to me likely that our attention will turn to other issues, just as writing has become almost invisible to our culture as an object of attention and study.
The JISC Learning Literacies in a Digital Age (LLiDA)
Can we still be responsive while having an agenda of our own – a collective agenda – for higher education and the role of technology in higher learning?
In terms of the myth of learners with high expectations of TEL, we’ve found few – but notable – examples of this. We’ve put this at the top of our developmental model and it’s worth saying a bit about .. The model came out of a recognition that of the agility of some learners at finding and using tools, skills and social networks to support their study in creative ways. IT is arranged as a pyramid to emphasise that the attributes of effective learners are built up on a set of technology-based practices – which in turn require appropriate skills and functional access to the relevant technologies (Helen will say more about this). Learners at the top have sometimes, like the international students and students with disabilities, developed personal strategies with technology to overcome barriers to access, and used the agility to good advantage in their studies (Seale and Bishop, Chapter 9; Thema 2009). Sometimes a personal preference or interest led them to adopt technologies in ways that were ahead of their peers (Green and Hannon’s digital pioneers) These adept users do have an expectation of being able to access their favourite technologies within their place of learning and alongside the more formal technologies they are offered . They are willing to experiment, use multiple personal technologies, work beyond the bounds of the course and often outside the knowledge of tutors.
Learning Futures And Digital Literacy
The Future and Digital Literacies Helen Beetham Fred Garnett
“ a consumer revolution for students” Higher Ambitions : the future of universities in a knowledge economy
The consumer or client replaces the learner... [and] as the language of performance and management has advanced, so we have lost a language of education which recognises the intrinsic value of pursuing certain sorts of question...
Story 1: the future is digital knowledge economy as contested vision invisibility of embedded technologies
Helen Beetham Lou McGill Allison Littlejohn Small-scale JISC study Final report May 09
As knowledge is increasingly accepted as being multi-modal, always potentially capable of digital capture and sharing, then the significance of 'the digital' as a separate space for living, learning and working may recede We are not rethinking some part or aspect of learning, we are rethinking all of learning in these new digital contexts
Myth 2: the future is competence-based... the ontological turn the empty curriculum focus on higher skills students still want to study 'subjects', 'real stuff'... ways of knowing/acting/being are rooted in communities of practice and curricula
How will we manage multiple identities in a world where public and private are being redefined? How will we act safely and responsibility in hybrid spaces? 'careful reappropriation of what being an accountant in South Africa (or for that matter, after Enron, in the world...) requires of you' Creative appropriation
Loss of confidence in enlightenment mission Commodification/marketisation and globalisation Challenged by alternative knowledge practices and values BUT students voting with their feet 'traditional' academic values critical to the future Myth 3: universities are not the future
what capabilities are being supported in UK HE and FE today? academic and prof literacies information and media literacies ICT skills critical thinking problem solving reflection academic writing note-taking concept mapping time management analysis, synthesis evaluation creativity, innovation self-directed learning collaborative learning searching, retrieving analysing, interpreting critiquing evaluating managing resources navigating info spaces content creation editing, repurposing enriching resources referencing sharing content web searching using CMC using TELE using digital devices word processing using databases analysis tools assistive tech social software immersive envts personalisation... slow change, cultural and institutional inhibitors rapid change, economic and techno-social drivers
What would you describe as the priority for graduates in the C21st? A high level skills for a knowledge economy B creative production of ideas in multiple media C critical information and technology literacy D digital participation and citizenship E personal and social resilience
hand-out: mapping capabilities to the developmental model
LLiDA best practice examples collated across four areas: Institutional strategies and initiatives Central provision e.g. library, careers, learning development, ICT support... Embedded into the curriculum Self- and peer-support
hand-out: mapping capabilities to the developmental model Strategies tend to focus on 'employability' – occasionally 'graduateness' – both very poorly conceptualised. In practice, how should the curriculum change? How will learners benefit? How will they be supported, challenged and progressed? creative appropriation
Learning, living and working are understood to take place in a digital society: there is no separate space of learning which is 'digital' Learners are blending their own learning environments There is an entitlement to access and basic skills of learning in a digital age, plus a recognition of diverse personal goals and needs Literacies for learning are continually assessed and supported: the emphasis is on producing digitally capable lifelong learners The focus is on what formal post-compulsory education uniquely offers in the digital age
References and resources TLRP/TEL on digital literacies: www.tlrp.org/tel/digital_literacy/ JISC Responding to Learners pack: www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/respondingtolearners.aspx Sharpe, R. et al (2009) Learners’ experiences of e-learning synthesis report: https://mw.brookes.ac.uk/display/JISCLE2 Beetham, H., et al (2009) Thriving in the 21 st Century http://caledonianacademy.net/spaces/LLiDA/ ELESIG, Digital Futures event 21 January 2010, Reading Rethinking Learning for a Digital Age, Routledge (Spring 2010)