Open Thinkering


Month: February 2014

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

More on the web as the platform

Earlier this year I wrote about my attempts to move to a web-based workflow. I discussed how people tend to see devices that rely entirely on the web as for other people.

Last week I moved house. We don’t get broadband until tomorrow so I’ve had to go about my web-based job by hopping between dongles and tethered devices. On top of this, I decided to run an experiment. Rather than using my MacBook Pro as usual, I opted to use a Chromebox connected to a 24-inch display, wireless keyboard and mouse.

So instead of picking up my MacBook Pro every time I ran into an issue, I decided to use the difficulty:

  • I bought a webcam that doesn’t need drivers and works with the Chromebox
  • When I needed to use Vidyo or Skype to talk to my colleagues I used the Android app
  • I used the opportunity to try (a WebRTC app)

What surprised me was just how easy it all was. No need to update apps. No perceptible slowdowns. No spinning beachball of death. Everything I needed to do as part of my current job was possible by using the web.

Image CC BY-NC-SA Evan Leeson

Weeknote 08/2014

This week I’ve been:

  • Taking Monday and Tuesday off work due to…
  • Moving house. Not only a majorly traumatic and emotional event at the best of times, but both my wife and I were ill with cold/flu symptoms. Joy. And we’ve got it all to do again fairly soon when we buy somewhere and move out of rented accommodation.
  • Dealing with a backlog of email.
  • Sorting out the tags to use for people aligning with the Web Literacy Map. You can give your feedback here (it’s always good for someone to point out that ‘#IPAddresses’ looks a lot like ‘iPad dresses’…)
  • Scoping out my work for the next few months with Michelle Thorne and adding it to Trello boards.
  • Booking flights for the Mozilla All-Hands in San Francisco (April).
  • Catching up with Adam Lofting about appropriate metrics to demonstrate improvement in web literacy skills and competencies. Tricky.
  • Attending my usual weekly calls, which was more challenging than it sounds given I’ve had to do that over a flaky 3G connection.
  • Preparing for an NWP webinar on The Past, Present and Future of Web Literacy (next Tuesday, free)
  • Starting work on a roadmap for Webmaker badges (on hold now for a bit) and talking to colleagues from both the Open Badges team and my team about it.
  • Tidying up the background information for the Web Literacy Map. The latter should be updated on sometime soon.

Next week I’m working from home all week.

Image CC BY-NC-SA Brian Carson