Tag: ICT (page 1 of 2)

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

My response to the ICT Programme of Study consultation

Note that this is my personal view. But I’ve got my Mozilla hat on half-cocked, as it were. 😉

Context

There’s currently a review of the ICT Programme of Study (PoS) underway in England. Tomorrow (Friday 5th October 2012) is the last day to give feedback on the first version of the draft, with a further chance to comment on the full draft in November and then a public consultation in Spring 2013. The review, commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), is being organised by the British Computing Society (BCS) and Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng).

One problem they’re having particular problems with is what to do at Key Stage 4 (KS4) with 14-16 year olds who are doing specialised GCSEs in Computer Science or Information Technology. If that satisfies the statutory requirement then how should the PoS for KS4 be expressed? There’s also the issue of students who don’t take any ICT-related qualifications at KS4 currently being forced to take a token course.

The points around which feedback is currently sought are:

  1.  What to do with KS4 (see above)
  2.  Other strategic issues
  3.  Personal vision for success in 2016 – what would you see in ICT lessons from KS1 (5-7 year olds) through KS2 (8-11), KS3 (11-13) and KS4 (14-6)

One final thing before I dive in: changing the name of the subject from ICT (‘Information and Communications Technologies’) to anything else would require primary legislation. In other words, it’s not going to happen. As a result, three strands have been proposed in the RAEng report from earlier this year. I quote them verbatim:

  • Computer Science (CS) is the subject discipline that studies how computer systems work, how they are constructed and programmed, and the fundamental principles of information and computation, in both artificial and natural information processing systems.
  • Information Technology (IT) covers the use and application of computer systems including the Internet, to develop technological solutions purposefully and creatively.
  • Digital Literacy (DL) provides a critical understanding of technology’s impact on society and the individual, including privacy, responsible use, legal and ethical issues

My response

As someone who worked in English schools for seven years (teaching some ICT), have subsequently worked in Higher Education with JISC and now work for an IT company (Mozilla) I feel qualified to weigh in on this consultation. I also have an interest as a parent to young children whom these reforms will potentially affect. Finally, I wrote my doctoral thesis on the topic of digital literacies.

I’m happy that the three strands of CS, IT and DL have been proposed, and delighted that the definition of DL proposed involves “a critical understanding of technology’s impact”. I’m also pleased that there’s a specific recognition of the creative use of ICT and a recognition of the value of everyone knowing enough code to be able to tinker.

I do, however, have five specific recommendations:

  1. That the use of ‘Digital Literacy’ be replaced with ‘Digital Literacies’ to recognise the multiple literacies required to be effective in the digital world. For example, web literacies (which I’m currently working on for Mozilla) can be seen as a subset of digital literacies. I go into much more detail on this in my thesis and it also reflects current thinking in the area of New Literacies.
  2. That DL (pluralised) should form the majority of the statutory PoS for ICT at KS4 – and that those who wish to specialise in CS and/or IT be given the chance to do so through discrete GCSEs.
  3. That ICT be linked explicitly to English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects in order to raise the status of the subject as well as suffuse those subjects with the excitement and creativity that ICT can bring.
  4. That specific mention be made of the collaborative and emancipatory power of the web. Learning HTML, CSS and Javascript could fall within the realm of DL (pluralised) and provide a coherent route to CS at KS4. See Mozilla’s Webmaker programme for more information.
  5. That specific mention be made of the burgeoning work around Digital Making by organisations such as Nesta and the Nominet Trust, and that such language (of ‘digital makers’ and ‘digital making’) be included in the ICT PoS from KS1 to KS4.

I’d love any to hear any other ideas you have in the comments!

Image CC BY dgray_xplane

In defence of digital literacies.

Guardian digital literacies article

Earlier this week the Guardian Higher Education network published something of mine as Resurrect computer science – but don’t kill off ICT. I had originally given it the title In defence of digital literacies as I didn’t want the focus to be upon Computer Science vs. ICT.

C’est la vie.

There’s some interesting and useful comments – and the opposite of that – on the Guardian site. Please do contribute if you’ve got something constructive to add!

Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2012/jan/24/digital-literacy-in-school

(I also attended #LWF12 this week and have written up my thoughts on it here)

My ‘Edonis’ interview with David Noble

edonis

David Noble (@parslad), a Scottish educator with a long track record of innovative and supportive blogging and podcasting, interviewed me last month. David’s one of the founding members of EdTechRoundUp, so I’ve known him for a while. He too is doing an Ed.D. but hasn’t taken the easy route (as I have) and is actually doing some original research!

Focusing on the question How are learning professionals dealing with the social web?, David’s podcasts can be found on his Booruch blog. You can listen to mine either on his blog or by clicking below. 🙂

Contents:

  • My (professional) educational background
  • My experiences of ICT-related training and professional development: as a student teacher, during INSET, and as part of CPD
  • My previous workplaces and the level of web access availble learning professionals
  • My notion of a ‘learning network’
  • My uses of the social web
  • Changes I anticipate in use of ICT over the next 3 years.

The Big E-Learning Questions

Northumberland Church of England Academy - ICT Vision

Northumberland Church of England Academy’s ICT vision statement, as seen by Wordle

Further to my previous blog post setting out what I was going to do at interview, I’m delighted to report that I was successful! Many thanks to my Twitter network for their support. As of next academic year (September 2009) I shall be ‘Director of E-Learning’ at Northumberland Church of England Academy.

This is a significant promotion for me and, as the Academy comes into existence as I assume the role, means I’ve got (almost) a blank slate with which to work. Hence the need for me to have a clear and coherent plan as to the E-Learning ecosystem I want to create.

I’m embarking on a series of blog posts over the Easter holiday period which, provisionally, I’m going to title:

  1. Attendance: what are the pros and cons of SIMS, Serco and Phoenix?
  2. Behaviour: what are the e-options for real-time monitoring and tracking of student behaviour?
  3. Communication: which tools are available to enable anyone within an organization be able to appropriately communicate and collaborate with anyone else?
  4. Design: what are the standards upon which pedagogically-sound learning design can be constructed?
  5. Engagement: which technologies lead to confident engagement in learning?

I have perhaps phrased some of the above clumsily so I’d welcome your feedback! 🙂

My Ed.D. thesis proposal: What does it mean to be ‘digitally literate’?

I submitted the second version of my Ed.D. thesis proposal a while back now. I had to re-submit as I failed the first submission. This was a bit of a shock to the system, never having failed anything academically before. It was actually partly my supervisor’s fault – who has now left the University of Durham and doesn’t have a doctorate himself… :p

I was advised to wait until I had the marks back for the thesis proposal before posting it on my blog. Upon reflection, I could see this was a sensible thing to do, so now I’ve heard back and I’ve passed I’m going to post it in its entirity. I received 63% for the following, which isn’t disastrous but less than I would have hoped for. Because it’s my second submission, however, the mark that’s recorded is 50%. At the end of the day, I’m not overly concerned: my Ed.D. overall is pass/fail… 🙂

The comments on the following were:

This is a solid proposal which provides a detailed reflection of the relevant literature in which the proposed study is to be grounded. Although covered in less detail than the literature section, the proposal provides an appropriate methodological base for the research. The proposal suggests a cross-cultural component and it is important in this context that similarities as well as ‘discrepancies’ are identified and that the study does not become unmanageable. In general this is a good solid proposal.

(emphasis mine)

The proposal itself follows after the ‘tag’ cloud that is indicative of its contents (courtesy of TweetClouds)

Read more →

Towards a forward-thinking Acceptable Use Policy for mobile devices

Enough is enough. I think it was Clay Burrell who (via Twitter) initially pointed me towards this quotation by Gandhi: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Unhappily, teachers in many UK schools (and further afield) are forced into a kind of cognitive dissonance as a result of official mobile phone bans being flouted by almost every student in the school. In fact, it’s more than that. Teachers are made to feel guilty when they encourage students to use the technology they have for learning.

Andrew Field and I had a brief Twitter conversation about this situation recently. As a result, Andrew started a thread on the EffectiveICT.co.uk Forum to discuss the issue. I’d like to bring more people (i.e. YOU) into the discussion, especially if you’ve got any links to good and forward-thinking Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs)! 😀

A brief search for AUPs relating to mobile devices brings up the following problematical example:

Mobile phones must not be used during the college day, including break and lunchtimes. Phones must be switched off during the day. If any student is found using a mobile phone at any time during the college day it will be confiscated until the end of the day

Of course, one can see why this particular college, like many educational institutions, has gone down this road. They’re protecting their own back; it’s the reason why networks often blacklist sites that teachers want to use for perfectly sound pedagogical reasons.

But then, there’s the rub. As Andrew Field pointed out, if the Internet connection’s already filtered, why lock pupils out of wireless networks and the like when they’re using their own devices? He cites using an iPod touch for accessing online content through the wi-fi connection in his department. There’s no reason why I couldn’t do the same – give out the password to students.

A big stumbling block is insurance, I suppose. But then, I’m only supposing. What exactly is the legal situation? Surely if a student damages their mobile phone/MP3 player in school it’s covered by their parents’ home insurance in the same way it would be on their way to and from school? Andrew quotes the following from Halifax insurance:

Personal Belongings
For those items that are normally worn or carried in everyday day life Halifax Home Insurance offer Personal Belongings cover away from the home both in the UK and abroad. This cover complements their unlimited sum insured contents insurance* and provides cover for items such as jewellery, money, credit cards and mobile phones.**

* Inner limits apply to certain areas of contents cover, including; money restrictions, single article & high risk item limits and contents left in the open. High risk items are subject to a £2000 limit per item. Details are available within the policy and schedule.
** Aggregate limits of between £2,500 and £10,000 apply. Individual limits apply to mobile phones, money, credit cards and pedal cycles.

I wonder if there’s anyone reading this who has links with those in the industry who could give a definitive answer?

Becta provide some reasonably helpful (general) advice on the subject, stating that an AUP should not stand alone, but instead be part of a ‘safe ICT learning environment’, including:

  • an infrastructure of whole-school awareness, designated responsibilities, policies and procedures
  • an effective range of technological tools
  • a comprehensive internet safety education programme for the whole school community.

I agree. Unhelpfully, they state that there “are many sample acceptable use policies available, both online and via local authorities, which schools can use as a basis for their own policies” – but then fail to link to any. 🙁

To their credit, however, they have a PDF document from 2006 on E-safety which could provide an excellent platform to spark a discussion within your school. It covers everything from the potential dangers of online access, to the responsibilities for those with various (already extant) roles within the organization. It’s focus, nevertheless, is on prevention of abuse rather than enabling and opening-up as much as possible!

Diagrams are powerful tools when trying to effect change. This one, from the PDF mentioned above, demonstrates a sound (if slightly conservative) process. As technologies change, so must AUPs and, most importantly, the whole organization’s response. ICT lessons, as many teachers of the subject have realised, cannot simply be focused on learning how to use Microsoft Office and the like. They need to prepare students for the 21st century online world.

We need to create responsible users of the Internet and mobile devices. Yes, there are risks. Yes, there might be financial and other costs to the school. But isn’t it worth it in the long run? 🙂

Update:

Liz Kolb replied to this post via Twitter providing a handy link to some AUPs:

Google Apps proposal

Google Apps

A couple of days ago I was at an departmental ICT representatives’ meeting at school. Every problem that was flagged up seemed to me to be easily solved by an installation of Google Apps Education Edition:

  • Want to be able to provide staff/pupils with more than 10MB webspace? GMail offers over 6GB!
  • Want students to be able to start work at school and finish off at home? Try Google Docs!
  • Want departments to be able to quickly and easily create websites? Use Google Pages or Google Sites!

That evening I started putting together a proposal. As usual, I tweeted about what I was up to.

Twitter - Google Apps

A few kindly folks – namely Tom Barrett, Dave Stacey, Damian Bariexca, Kevin Jarrett, Miguel Guhlin, Paul Williams and Daniel Stucke were kind enough to give me feedback and suggestions.

The version I submitted to the Senior Leadership Team and those in charge of ICT at my school is available here:

PDF Google Apps proposal

For various reasons, I doubt that it will gain any traction at my school. However, I’m putting it up here with the hope that it may prove useful to someone else in their cause! 😀

3 reasons the majority of students are NOT ‘digitally literate’

ComputersAs I’ve mentioned before I don’t believe that the ‘digital immigrants’ and ‘digital natives’ dichotomy holds up to much scrutiny. Although I teach mainly History, around 30% of my timetable is teaching ICT (Information and Communications Technology). Through observing students in these lessons I’ve come to realise that the concept of ‘digital literacy’ – the subject of my Ed.D. thesis – is a slippery notion. Not only that, but it’s a concept that, if it exists, does not necessarily follow automatically just because an individual has used computers from a young age. Here’s my three reasons why students shouldn’t automatically be classed as being digitally literate.

Read more →

Barriers to teachers’ use of ICT

There’s a report by BECTA from 2003 which reviews research looking at teachers’ uptake of ICT – Barriers and Enablers to Teachers’ Use of ICT

The key barriers are identified as:

  • Confidence, time and access to quality resources are major factors in determining teachers’ engagement with ICT.
  • Recurring technical faults, and the expectation of faults occurring during teaching sessions, are likely to reduce teacher confidence and cause teachers to avoid using the technology in future lessons.
  • Resistance to change is a factor which prevents the full integration of ICT in the classroom. In particular, teachers who do not realise the advantages of using technology in their teaching are less likely to make use of ICT.
  • There are close relationships between many of the identified barriers to ICT use; any factors influencing one barrier are likely also to influence several other barriers. For example teacher confidence is directly affected by levels of personal access to ICT, levels of technical support and the quality of training available.

The key enablers are identified a:

  • leadership and planning
  • sharing of resources
  • reliable technical support
  • schools working with each other and with the local community
  • differentiated training and continuous professional development for teachers
  • participation in national ICT initiatives and projects.
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