Digital literacy: a starter guide for HE?

I read Josie Fraser’s, Notes towards digital literacy, and Terry Wassal’s recent comment on it with interest. This post has stimulated a lot of discussion in the comments and on other blogs. When thinking about the Brookes elearning strategy, I recently took an opposite, narrow view. I do not want to argue against the broad view Josie takes: basically, she’s right, but for the purposes of developing a curriculum place for digtial literacy, I thought it might be helpful to think about what people might have to do to be considered digitally literate. I offer this as my “starter guide” to digital literacies in HE.

Digital literacies in higher education encapsulate certain basic or key skills. We presume, for example, that basic word processing, presentations, spread-sheetery, database, e-mail, on-line search and file management are key skills that have been acquired before coming to University.

Digital literacies must be somehow uniquely digital. I do not want to spread and colonise all corners of the critical apparatus with the latest literacy. So while, for example, “critical thinking” might well be an academic literacy, and it might well be important to digital literacy, we do not need to define “critical thinking” here, because it is not specifically digital.

Digital literacies for Higher Education include knowledge of, skills for, and critical awareness of the salience to one’s employment, community, profession, discipline, institution and practice of:

  • profiling: which may include some or all forms of person-specification and modelling, whether self-generated through, for example, Facebook and mySpace profiles or other SN site; or generated by others using personal data with or without permission; including tech specs and standards such as IMS Learning Information Package (LIP or UK LEAP) or BS e-support for e-learning; including customer data profiling and CRM applications, patient record systems and health profiling, genetic profiling; the use of profiling-by-community (UK Access Federation) to regulate access to resources and manage identity, authentication and access regimes to private (e.g. university teaching networks or corporate information systems); card-behaviour profiling to detect fraud; traveller profiling for airline security; etc.
  • files, applications and data: well structured approach to digital information management at the personal level and clear understanding of how and where personal information management structures map or flange to institutional (or wider) information management structures; data and applications are separate, but as ever, the tool affects the shape of the artefact
  • hypertext and hypermedia: linking, feeding, mashing, portaling and channelling personal and corporate information into useful streams and other (metaphoric) structures; use of distributed-collaboration tools such as wikis, knowledge management systems; use of social book-marking
  • folksonomies, taxonomies, ontologies: referencing systems such as Dewey decimal, on the one hand and personal key-wording on the other are all used to aid information discovery and knowledge formation; awareness and use of some or any of: rss, atom, doap, rdf, foaf and other schemas
  • reference management and citations: use reference management software on-or offline to build and represent personal knowledge in written or other published and cited articles and artefacts; licences, acknowledgement, fair-use, (various) Creative Commons licensing regimes and restricted rights.

This list is not complete – where are feeds, for instance and what about “netiquette”? – but might be an indicator of where we could be thinking tactically on these matters.

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