Category: New Literacies (page 2 of 14)

Writing and publishing openly online

Ian O’Byrne, Assistant Professor of Educational Technologies at the University of New Haven and a big help when defining the Web Literacy Map, invited me to participate in the recording of his latest podcast, Digitally Literate.

Other than Ian and me, the participants were:

  • Gideon Burton – Asst. Professor of English, Brigham Young University
  • Rick Ferdig – Summit Professor of Learning Technologies; Kent State University
  • Charlotte Pierce – IPNE.org / peeragogy.org
  • Kristy Pytash / Assistant Professor, Literacy Education, Kent State University
  • Verena Roberts  – Open and Online Educational Consultant

We discussed the options for writing and publishing online, as well as the barriers involved (and more philosophical issues surrounding it).

It was recorded using Google+ Hangouts on Air, so you should see the embedded YouTube video below:

Don’t see anything? Try clicking here.

New to digital literacies? Read this.

Earlier today John Sutton asked for my “top few accessible reads overviewing digital literacies”. I was walking my son to his new school at the time, so responded that I would write a quick blog post later. Well, here it is.

Right off the bat I’d go for Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart. It’s wonderfully written by a (gentle) giant of the field. What I like about it is the mix of anecdote and academic research. It really is well put together.

After that, it’s slightly trickier to know where to turn – for a couple of reasons. First, the books in this field tend to be more academic than perhaps they need to be. Second, they’re also more expensive than they need to be. £20 for a text-based book is not my usual idea of money well spent. I’d rather dip into the Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy (available free online) – especially articles like Towards a Transformative Digital Literacies Pedagogy (Thomas, 2011)

Having said that, anyone who wants to get to grips with the field of digital literacies really does need to read Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel’s Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. I enjoyed (re-)reading it. You might also want to try James Paul Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.

I haven’t read everything that’s come out around digital literacies since I finished my thesis, but it’s important to realise that there’s different understanding of what the territory looks like depending upon which sector you’re in (schools, universities, formal/informal) and where you are in the world. The ongoing work of Henry Jenkins is venerated in North America so it’s probably worth reading the free MacArthur report he wrote with some others in 2009: Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.

Other than that, and perhaps some work by David Buckingham, it’s difficult to point you towards something specific. There’s some great work by Stephen Downes and by Helen Beetham, but their work is more wide-ranging than just digital literacies. Downes’ excellent presentation Speaking in Lolcats, for example, is almost an hour and a half long. You can find Beetham’s work scattered around the Jisc Design Studio (a wiki).

Finally, while I’m slightly wary of tooting my own horn, I did spend six years looking at the field of digital literacies in my thesis. While that in itself is not as incomprehensible as some academic work, I am (taking my time in writing) a more accessible version of it. It’s an ebook called The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies which you can buy it now (currently at v0.9) and you’ll get v1.0 when it’s finished. I hope that helps John and some other people.

If there’s something I’ve missed that you’d recommend, please do mention it in the comment section below! 🙂

Image CC BY-NC-SA Tyler Wilson

v0.9 of ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ now available! [E-BOOK]

The Essential Elements of Digital LiteraciesI’m delighted to announce that the latest iteration of my e-book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies is now available. This takes us to v0.9!

Those who invested in previous versions have already received their free update, according to the OpenBeta process I devised. Or at least they should have done – ping me if not. 🙂

You can invest in v0.9 and then get the update to v1.0 by clicking below:


(v0.99 coming 27th May 2014) 


What’s included in this version?

  • Preface
  • Contents page
  • Chapter 2 – What’s the problem?
  • Chapter 3 – Everything is ambiguous
  • Chapter 4 – Why existing models of digital literacy don’t work
  • Chapter 5 – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
  • Chapter 6 – Curiosity created the LOLcat
  • Chapter 7 – Remix: the heart of digital literacies
  • Chapter 8 – Coding and the web (*NEW!*)

This means that the book’s main chapters are finished and all that’s left is the introduction and conclusion to write and a bit of copyediting to sort out. If you buy into the book now, you’ll receive the finished version as soon as it’s ready!

Got questions? I might have answered them in this post announcing the e-book!

Header image CC BY-NC-SA Tc Morgan,
book cover background CC BY pranav

v0.7 of ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ now available! [E-BOOK]

The Essential Elements of Digital LiteraciesI’m delighted to announce that the latest iteration of my e-book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies is now available. This takes us to v0.7!

Those who invested in previous versions have already received their free update, according to the OpenBeta process I devised. Or at least they should have done – ping me if not. 🙂

You can invest in v0.7 and then get every update to v1.0 by clicking below:


v0.9 now available!


What’s included in this version?

  • Preface
  • Contents page
  • Chapter 2 – What’s the problem?
  • Chapter 3 – Everything is ambiguous
  • Chapter 4 – Why existing models of digital literacy don’t wory
  • Chapter 5 – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
  • Chapter 6 – Curiosity created the LOLcat
  • Chapter 7 – Remix: the heart of digital literacies (*NEW!*)

This chapter has a nice mix of theory and practical suggestions about how to get started improving your digital literacies by remixing stuff online. If you buy into the book now, you’ll receive the rest of the chapters as I write them – free!

Got questions? I might have answered them in this post announcing the e-book!

Image CC BY pranav

Zen and the Art of Digital Literacies [video + article]

About this time last year, the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) kindly invited me over to keynote their annual conference. I had a great time and presented on Zen and the Art of Digital Literacies.

Subsequently, I was asked to write it up as an article for the inaugural issue of the ILTA’s journal, which has been published recently. They’ve done a really nice job of creating a responsive, web-native, open-access journal that also include the video of me presenting.

Check it out here: http://journal.ilta.ie/2013/05/21/zen-and-the-art-of-digital-literacies/

(you should also take time to go through the other articles in the issue)

v0.6 of ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ now available! [E-BOOK]

The Essential Elements of Digital LiteraciesI’m pleased to announce the latest iteration of my e-book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies is now available. We’re now at v0.6!

Those who invested in previous versions have already received their free update, according to the OpenBeta process I devised. As I’ve already stated, all profits from this book will go to the #LettingGrow campaign.

You can invest in v0.6 and then get every update to v1.0 by clicking below:


This book has now reached v0.7 – click here


What’s included in this version?

  • Preface
  • Contents page
  • Chapter 2 – What’s the problem?
  • Chapter 3 – Everything is ambiguous
  • Chapter 4 – Why existing models of digital literacy don’t wory
  • Chapter 5 – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
  • Chapter 6 – Curiosity created the LOLcat (*NEW!*)

This has probably been the chapter that’s been the most fun to write, especially given that it contains some of my favourite memes like Success Kid and Y U NO guy. If you buy into the book now, you’ll receive the rest of the chapters as I write them – free!

Got questions? I probably answered them in this post announcing the e-book!

Image CC BY pranav

Two online gatherings you should be part of (today/tomorrow)

Earlier this week I led an #etmooc session on Digital Literacies. The slides for that are here and the video, audio, chat and etherpad archive can be found here. I’m involved in another couple of online gathering-type things in the new literacies arena this week that may also be of interest.

1. Twitter chat for #etmooc

I’m following up the above Digital Literacies #etmooc session with a Twitter chat at 10am PST / 3pm EST / 8pm GMT tomorrow night (Wednesday 20th February 2013). You don’t really need to do anything apart from follow the #etmooc hashtag and tweet accordingly.

2. Web Literacy standard online gathering

A couple of weeks ago we had a great kick-off online gathering for Mozilla’s upcoming work around a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy. There were many who couldn’t attend so we’re running the session again this Thursday (21st February 2013) at  9am PST / 12pm EST / 5pm GMT.

Further details are at http://weblitstd2.eventbrite.com. The recording of the previous session, along with some of my thoughts around the subject can be found here.

I’d love to see your name pop up at either or both of these events. Do take part if you can! 🙂

Image CC BY paul_clarke

Recording of my #etmooc session on Digital Literacies now available.

Last night I led (what seemed to be) a well-received session for #etmooc on digital literacies. While you can catch the whole thing again through the Blackboard Collaborate recording, you’ll need Java to do so. That’s why I’ve used the free Publish! tool to create digital artefacts from the session and uploaded them to the Internet Archive.

[archiveorg ETMOOCT3S1DigitalLiteraciesWithDr.DougBelshawChat width=640 height=480]

You should see a video above. If not, click here or try the YouTube version!

Many thanks to all those who took part in the session – and for the kind words in the chat and on Twitter afterwards. I really enjoyed the experience!

Direct links to digital artefacts

Why not (legally) download the whole archive using your favourite bittorrent client? Try uTorrent, for example. 🙂

T3S1: Digital Literacies with Dr. Doug Belshaw (#etmooc)

I’m running my first-ever MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) session on digital literacies as part of #etmooc. Anyone can join in at 8pm GMT on Monday 18th February 2013. The link you need is at Point 4 here. Slides below or on Slideshare!

On ‘rigour’ in definitions of digital and web literacy.

Update: For the latest information on the Web Literacy standard work, head to http://mzl.la/weblitstd


TL;DR version: If we define rigour as something that’s ‘unchanging’ and ‘objective’ then it’s almost impossible to be ‘rigorous’ about digital and web literacy. Instead, I propose that instead of being rigorous that we’re relevant, even if that’s at the expense of some objectivity.


Here’s an interesting one. I occasionally get corralled into Twitter conversations as someone who knows about something or other. Today, it was Miles Berry after being asked why the new draft National Curriculum should include ‘digital literacy’. The assumption by his interlocutor (Bruce Nightingale) was that in order for a subject to be included in a programme of study it should be ‘rigorously defined’ with a ‘body of knowledge’ behind it.

When I asked whether rigour means ‘has a definition everyone agrees on’ Bruce pointed me towards this blog post by Jenny Mackness on ‘academic rigour’. The conversation quickly became too nuanced to do justice in 140-character bursts, hence this follow-up blog post. I hope Bruce has time to reply.

In Jenny’s post she talks about finding definitions of ‘academic rigour’ unsatisfactory. I’d suggest that’s because it’s a kind of Zeugma, an ambiguous term. But let’s just focus upon ‘rigour’. The Oxford English Dictionary (probably the best place to resort when faced with knotty problems of definition) gives the etymology of ‘rigour’ as:

Etymology:  < Anglo-Norman and Middle French rigour, Middle French rigeur, rigueur (French rigueur ) inflexible severity, severity, harshness (12th cent. in Old French), strict application (of laws) (13th cent.), feeling of tingling or prickling (a1365 in medical context), (in plural) repressive measures (15th cent.), cruelty (15th cent.), harshness that is difficult to bear (end of the 15th cent., of cold, etc.), exactitude, precision (1580) and its etymon classical Latin rigor unbending quality, stiffness, rigidity, numbness, numbness of the body in fever, unyielding hardness, frozen condition, quality of being stiffly erect, tautness, inflexibility, sternness, severity, uncouthness < rig?re to be stiff (see rigent adj.) + -or -or suffix. Compare Old Occitan rigor (1461), Catalan rigor (14th cent.), Spanish rigor (13th cent.), Portuguese rigor (14th cent.), Italian rigore (a1320).

I can’t help but think when I see words like ‘harshness’, ‘cruelty’, ‘exactitude’, ‘precision’, ‘rigidity’ and ‘inflexibility’ that we’re using the wrong word here. Applying such stringent measures to an ambiguous term like ‘digital literacy’ is problematic as ‘digital’ pertains to many different referents. To talk of rigour (as defined above), then, is verging on the ridiculous.

But does a lack of rigour around a subject, topic or idea make it less valuable? I’d suggest not. Instead, I’d suggest it’s the terminology we’re using that’s problematic. Let’s take another example: the idea of academic ‘impact’. What, exactly, does that mean? You may well be able to draw up a framework or points for this or that, rewarding academics for performing certain activities and publishing in various places. But what about obvious areas of ‘impact’ that lie outside of that rigid framework? Rigour does not mean relevancy. Sometimes the problem is with the tools you are using rather than the thing you are trying to describe. It’s OK for things to be nebulous and slightly intangible.

Having spent several years of my adult life delving into the murky world of new literacies I’d suggest that (for example) helping young people learn how to use digital devices, how to think computationally, and how to stay safe online are extremely relevant things to be doing. Can we boil these activities down to things to be learned once for all time? Of course not. It’s hard enough when you’ve got a single referent (e.g. the Web)

So, in conclusion, I’ll see your definition of ‘rigour’ and raise you a ‘relevance’. Not everything that is valuable can be measured objectively. Nor should it be.

Image CC BY-NC-SA Josh Clark

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