Open Thinkering



Weeknote 30/2020

I’ve written quite a bit this week as part of my #100DaysToOffload challenge:

Over and above what’s detailed in these posts, I’ve been splitting my time between working on projects for We Are Open and Outlandish this week. For the former, my ‘home’ co-op in the CoTech network, I’ve been mainly focusing on work for Catalyst and the Social Mobility Commission. We’re working with Erica Neve and Pedram Parasmand on three contracts, helping charities who are rapidly undergoing digital transformation. We had a really successful retrospective on Friday with UpRising, who we’ve been helping in more depth.

With Outlandish, I’m helping with some productisation of similar projects they’ve worked on for a range of clients. I find this really interesting as it’s simultaneously about meeting user needs and about organisational development. I’m also advising around ways in which they can develop the workshops they offer.

I’m fortunate to work with organisations which are so emotionally intelligent, and which go out of their way to be so. One of the reasons for working with Outlandish is to give them some short-term help with project management while they’re a bit stretched. But another reason is to learn from their processes and procedures; although they’ve only been a co-op for as long as us (four years), they’ve been together and honing things for a decade.

When I was at Jisc, one thing that always impressed me was their internal knowledgebase. They used PBworks for that, while Outlandish uses a WordPress installation with a theme called KnowAll. I’ve been wanting to experiment with wiki.js and so this week Laura Hilliger and I set up an instance at and copied over existing pages from our GitHub wiki. I’ve set user permissions so that only logged-in members can edit the wiki, and indeed see any pages that are ‘internal’ only.

We finally got sign-off from Greenpeace for one of the best things I think I’ve written for a while: HOWTO: Create an Architecture of Participation for your Open Source project. As Stephen Downes mentioned when mentioning it in OLDaily it’s perhaps applicable to wider contexts than just open source projects.

Other than that, I’ve just been reviewing a document Laura put together for some work we’re doing with Red Hat, doing a small amount of work for our ongoing work with Greenpeace, and contributing to a ‘playback’ of some recent work we did for Catalyst.

Next week, I’m tying up work for We Are Open on Monday, and for Outlandish on Tuesday, before turning everything off and going on a family holiday for 10 days. As my therapist said in our meeting on Friday, as I’m a bit of a perfectionist, there’s no guarantee that I will actually relax during my holiday just because I’m away from home. So I’m actively trying to cut myself some slack. I deliberately went for a slow run this morning and I even had an afternoon nap yesterday. Small steps.

Header image is a selfie I took on a family walk in the Northumbrian hills last Sunday. Inspired by Low-tech magazine’s solar powered website, I loosely followed this guide to create the ‘stippled’ effect. This reduced the size of an 8.6MB image to a mere 36.6KB.

Working for an Academy vs. working for JISC infoNet [visualisation]

Back in 2009 when I was Director of e-Learning of The Northumberland Church of England Academy I started tracking my own activities.

Using a private WordPress-powered blog with the P2 theme, I quickly logged what I was up to, adding tags as I went. Below is the tag cloud after one month of using the system as a Senior Leader in an newly-minted Academy:

Doug's work record - search for 'Google Apps'

As you can see, the following tags were prevalent (I don’t think I included teaching in there for some reason!):

  • Google Apps (I was responsible for deploying it across the 9-site Academy)
  • Elearning (obviously)
  • Meetings (lots and lots of these)
  • Email (a necessary evil)
  • Dan Brooks (an M.Ed. student from an Australian university whom I mentored during extended teaching practice)
  • Training (I led plenty of sessions)

Doug's work blog (2012)

The above screenshot is from yesterday, soon after finishing my two-year stint as Researcher/Analyst at JISC infoNet. Apart from changing my avatar and tweaking the colour scheme, what’s changed?

  • The email tag is much larger in this cloud. I was working in an office rather than a school, after all.
  • JISC, JISC Advance and JISC infoNet unsurprisingly figure a lot.
  • Google Apps remains there as I implemented and supported the system for the 19 JISC Advance services.
  • Mobile Learning infoKit is there as it was a major piece of work for me during my time at JISC infoNet.
  • Digital literacies features due to my work in the area and programme support for the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme.
  • Patrick Bellis was my boss at JISC infoNet and Sarah Knight the JISC programme manager with whom I had the most dealings.
  • Other people’s names feature as well – interestingly Dan Brooks (M.Ed. student at the Academy) is still there three years later. Just goes to show how intense that period was!

Finally, you can see that wiki and Skype are small but significant in the tag cloud. I’ve never worked for an organisation that had better knowledge management and procedures than JISC infoNet. The internal wiki had everything you needed to work effectively and was an active, living repository of information. Skype is used extensively throughout JISC, sometimes for calls, sometimes for ‘backchanneling’.

If you’d done something similar which tags would YOU expect to show up?

Two presentations (#TELIC1 & #iDragon) [VIDEO]

[If you’re reading this in an RSS reader or by email you may need to click through to view the embedded media]

[vimeo 43719938 w=595 h=372]

TELIC1: The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies from Doug Belshaw on Vimeo.

I was asked to do virtually keynote for Sheffield Hallam University’s TELIC student conference. You can see the result here or embedded above. Slides can be found here (over 10,000 views in 24 hours after being featured on the Slideshare homepage!)

In addition, I presented on Open Badges at the JISC RSC Scotland conference on Friday. It was livestreamed so I’m guessing there’ll be a video recording somewhere. Until then, slides here or embedded below!

Moving into uncharted waters: are open badges the future for skills accreditation? [slideshare id=13234414&style=border-style: solid; border-color: #cccccc; -moz-border-top-colors: none; -moz-border-right-colors: none; -moz-border-bottom-colors: none; -moz-border-left-colors: none; -moz-border-image: none; border-width: 1px 1px 0pt;&sc=no]

Conferences as Catalysts for Educational Innovation and Change [DMLcentral]

Photo of crowd from Flickr Commons

My latest blog post for DMLcentral is now online: Conferences as Catalysts for Educational Innovation and Change.

A select morsel:

The face-to-face nature of conferences is, I believe, of even more importance in an extremely digitally connected world. Whilst it’s often the case that you can get to know people very well online, there’s something about embodied interaction that makes your knowledge of that person three-dimensional. I don’t think one method of interacting is necessarily ‘better’ than the other; a blended approach is best. This, I suppose, is why social media is so popular.

In addition, my opinion on Apple’s new iBooks Author was quoted on the JISC site this week. However, they mistakenly listed me as a ‘practising teacher’.

That little slip made me realise just how much I miss it…

Launch of the Mobile Learning infoKit

Yesterday I launched JISC infoNet‘s new Mobile Learning infoKit at ALT-C 2011. Here’s an overview:

The infoKit is designed to augment JISC’s new Emerging Practice in a Digital Age guide (also launched yesterday). If you’re interested in mobile learning you may also want to check out the JISC Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review I authored a few months ago. 🙂

What I talk about when I talk about user outcomes – #6 – Open Educational Resources

My three main areas of research are Open Educational Resources (OER), Mobile Learning and Digital Literacies. I have no problem talking and writing about the latter of these – it is, after all, the subject of a thesis I’ve been writing for the last few years. Mobile learning, too, presents no great issue: I used mobile devices in the classroom as a teacher and Director of e-Learning. Moreover, because it’s a relatively new area there’s only a few ‘experts’ to which to defer.

OER is a different kettle of fish. Not only is it a increasingly-mature area of study but it’s a political minefield. Coupled to the fact that it’s very much a Higher Education-focused area of enquiry, I haven’t ventured many opinions publicly. However, as I continue to develop the OER infoKit with consultant Lou McGill I feel that I do have something to say about OER.

So here goes… (and this is my opinion, not my employer’s, etc.)

The landscape is changing

Recently I’ve been going back through the key posts in the OER debate curated by Lou McGill on the OER infoKit here. It makes for fascinating reading as, not only are there some very intelligent people arguing against each other (always interesting!) but it’s evident that OER is a battleground not over educational practice but ideology.

I’m a big fan of the philosophy of Pragmatism, as espoused by Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, and developed by luminaries such as John Dewey, W.V. Quine and Richard Rorty. My rule of thumb is that things worth pursuing should be ‘good in the way of belief’. In fact, it’s probably worth wheeling out the 10 guiding statements about what Pragmatism means from my thesis:

  1. Pragmatism is an anti-skeptical endeavour.
  2. Dividing lines between theory and action are arbitrary.
  3. Truth is conditional and dependent upon a community of inquirers.
  4. Human experience of the external world is ineffable.
  5. Pragmatism is method of ‘un-thinking’ rather than providing an explicit framework.
  6. A universally-held set of beliefs is impossible.
  7. Any statement can be accommodated as ‘true’ by amending a belief system to a greater or lesser extent.
  8. Knowledge is a matter of social practice rather than mirroring nature.
  9. We ‘create’ rather than ‘discover’ truth.
  10. New concepts are often understood through metaphor, enter common usage, and then ‘die off into literalness’.

So, what has this got to do with ‘user outcomes’? I think there’s three points I’d like to make about OER in this regard.

1. There’s nothing special about OER

Stripped back to basics, there’s nothing magical or especially revolutionary about Open Educational Resources. An educator allows others to use the materials they prepared. This has been happening ever since people have been able to share things.

The revolutionary thing comes in the co-ordination of the system around such sharing. The first massive massive boon to this has been the widespread adoption of Creative Commons licenses. These allow resource creators to state explicitly the conditions under which others can use what they have created. The second, which is perhaps where organizations such as JISC have been instrumental, is the expansion of open-access repositories like Jorum. Instead of merely unco-ordinated and fragmented institutional and personal repositories, there is a growing expectation that a copy of OERs will be deposited in such repositories.

As Mike Caulfield puts it, people do things out of habit because of established frameworks. He uses the simile of recipes:

If a recipe had to explain everything about cooking — what it was to beat an egg, what it meant to mix something, how broiling differed from sauteeing — well, no one would write recipes, and no one would use them. Recipes exist in a system of cooking that is relatively narrowly defined — the framework is in place, it just needs this thing called the recipe to work.

If we want people to share OERs then we need to make it easy for them to do so. But more than that, it needs to become just another thing that’s expected of educators.

2. There are no meaningful metrics for OERs

Not everything that can be measured should be measured; the pig doesn’t get any fatter by weighing it. If sharing and openly-licensing resources is a good thing that educators should do, then it needs to be an expected part of professional practice.

As I have often said with metrics such as numbers of followers on Twitter or winning awards, true influence is a fickle beast. Quantity is not quality. So what if one resource has been used 100,000 times and another one only 14? Unless you know in what circumstances and for what purposes it was used in each case, the task is meaningless. And even then the parts can be more than the sum – just look at the REF.

David Kernohan, JISC programme manager for OER, gets this I think:

The point is that OER release is adding to and improving the quality of the sum of human understanding, in an even more profound way than a research paper or press release. A good OER is written to support deep learning and this is the advantage that academia, which is unique in grappling with these issues every day, can bring.

An OER might never find itself being reused, but the process by which it is created is inherently valuable. It’s about mindsets, not metrics.

3. It’s not about OER, it’s about Openness

I can feel the vitriol that this comment will no doubt engender, but just how many people banging on about OER have taught in a classroom environment? And I don’t mean the occasional webinar or guest lecture, I mean preparing lessons day-in, day-out over years. It makes a difference to the way you approach the issue.

Scroll back up and read statements 2, 6 and 8 again. Whilst academic ideas and debates are important, the point – to paraphrase Marx – is not to describe the world but to change it. Waiting for everyone to agree about OERs before getting on and doing something about changing the system is a fool’s errand. No amount of posturing changes practice.

What’s much more important is to change the mindsets of educators so that OER release and reuse is an outflow of something they want to do. Thankfully, I think that Amber Thomas (another JISC programme manager) understands this:

Its worth saying… that of course open content isn’t just about the content … because it is also a manifestation of a way of working … and the benefits of the open way of working are:

  • knowing that content will be public is an incentive to improve the content
  • collaborative development improves the work: the many eyes principle
  • the best thing to do with your data/idea will be thought of by someone else
  • if the public have paid, the public should benefit
  • clarity of licensing makes re-use easier
  • free at the point of use can save £cash and time
  • it can invite commercial exploitation downstream
  • visibility increases reputation, brand awareness, recruitment

It would be remiss of me not to reference the excellent critiques of OER by Joss Winn and Richard Hall at this point. Read them, they’re eye-opening and staggeringly well-written.


Sadly, what I think is almost entirely lacking in the debate (apart perhaps from in Amber’s commentary) is an understanding that OER is merely a supply-side term for something that, let’s face it, educators should be doing anyway. Joss Winn’s qualms noted, it still seems manifestly obvious that if educators are funded by the taxpayer then what they do should be for the public good. And to my mind, that includes being as open as possible. I’m not particularly bothered if OERs are good for marketing, good for career progression or good for the REF. They’re good in the way of belief.

Bonus: check out posts tagged OER at my work blog.

Image CC BY-NC henrikj

Umbrella terms and micro-literacies

This is is the first draft of a section for my Ed.D. thesis; please don’t quote it as it’s not the final version.

The bibliography relating to the referenced literature can be found at (I’ve blogged more about my thesis at

Perhaps due to the fragmentation of research outlined earlier, many theorists seek to demarcate new forms of literacy. Once this has been done, they explain it in detail, and then assert its status as an over-arching literacy containing many sub- (or micro-) literacies. There is, they claim ‘one literacy to rule them all’.

Information literacy can been seen as one such ‘umbrella term’:

In the last decade a variety of “literacies” have been proposed… All of these literacies focus on a compartmentalized aspect of literacy. Information literacy, on the other hand, is an inclusive term. Through information literacy, the other literacies can be achieved. (Doyle, 1994, my emphasis)

Other theorists propose various ‘literacies’ as being the true umbrella term, the synthesising concept. Potter (2004:33), for example, states, ‘Reading literacy, visual literacy and computer literacy are not synonyms for media literacy; instead, they are merely components.’ It is perhaps most transparently and obviously stated in this definition of transliteracy:

Our current thinking (although still not entirely resolved) is that because it offers a wider analysis of reading, writing and interacting across a range of platforms, tools, media and cultures, transliteracy does not replace, but rather contains, “media literacy” and also “digital literacy.” (Thomas, et al. 2007, my emphasis)

In this way theorists not only deal with the third condition outlined in an earlier chapter – that of the status of a particular literacy in relation to other metaphorical concepts – but they can claim the credit of, at least partially solving the ‘literacy problem.’ The umbrella term in the late 1980s until the turn of the century tended to be ‘information literacy,’ now superseded by references to ‘media literacy’:

Reading literacy, visual literacy and computer literacy are not synonyms for media literacy; instead, they are merely components. (Potter, 2004, p.33)

Potter’s use of the word ‘merely’ above (‘visual literacy and computer literacy… are merely components’) betrays here what is only latent in other examples of writers using umbrella terms. That is to say, each comes at the issue from a particular point of view and with a particular bias and background. Each assumes that the particular literacy for their field of interest or specialisation is the ‘umbrella literacy.’ There is also an unfortunate element of theorists inventing terms in the hope that it may gain traction and they become synonymous with it. Perhaps the best example of this is the clumsy concept of ‘Electracy’ we came across in Chapter 2, as defined by Erstad:

‘Electracy’ is a term that combines different forms of literacy related to the use of new technologies; for example ‘media or multimedia literacy’, ‘computer literacy’, ‘information literacy’and ‘visual literacy’. It could be described as literacy for a post-typographic world (Reinking et al., 1998)… Electracy is something young people develop by growing up in a digital culture, and their education is supposed to include their efforts to create knowledge and learning. (Erstad, 2003:11)

Whilst at first glance this sounds insightful and promising it is an empty term, signifying nothing concrete. How are these literacies combined? How do young people ‘develop’ Electracy by ‘growing up a in digital culture? Surely all education is about ‘knowledge and learning’? Whilst Erstad attempts to use Tyner’s (1998) distinction between ‘tool literacies’ and ‘literacies of representations,’ Electracy as a term is not explained adequately enough to belong to either group.

Even though information literacy is an established term, it is so broad and ambiguously applicable that it too can be considered as an umbrella term. Fieldhouse and Nicholas (in Lankshear & Knobel, 2008) use a slightly different strategy in order to promote their tangential concept of being ‘information savvy.’ Instead of the latter being an umbrella term in its own right, they present it as being the other half of the jigsaw puzzle to ‘digital literacy’ in order for individuals to be ‘information literate.’

[I will have a graphic here in my thesis showing digital literacy and being ‘information savvy’ as part of a ‘information literacy’ jigsaw]

Fieldhouse and Nicholas (2008) use a rather jaded yet convenient dichotomy of ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ – terms coined by Prensky (2001). The idea is that those who grow up with digital technologies ‘speak the language’ as a native. On the other hand, ‘digital immigrants’ betray their age and lack of experience by ‘speak[ing] a language which reflects their experience of pre-digital life, by describing things as “digital” to differentiate between electronic and traditional versions’ (Fieldhouse & Nicholas, 2008:60). However, whilst the dichotomies the authors use are interesting in helping frame the debate, they neither settle on one definition of digital literacy nor rescue the concept of being ‘information savvy’ from being an interesting colloquialism.

In order to ‘reconcil[e] the claims of myriad concepts of digital literacy, a veritable legion of digital literacies’ (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008:4) some wishing to employ an umbrella term have instead turned to the notion of ‘competency’ or ‘competencies.’ The Oxford English Dictionary defines being ‘competent’ as:

adjective 1 having the necessary skill or knowledge to do something successfully. 2 satisfactory or adequate, though not outstanding: she spoke quite competent French. 3 having legal authority to deal with a particular matter.

It is the first of these definitions targetted by those who would rather concentrate on ‘competence’ than ‘literacy’. For example, Spitzer (1998) quotes the following 1995 definition of ‘information competence’ from the Work Group on Information Competence, Commission on Learning Resources and Instructional Technology:

Information competence is the fusing or the integration of library literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, technological literacy, ethics, critical thinking, and communication skills. (Spitzer, 1998, p.25)

No explanation, however, is given as to what ‘information competence’ would look like in practice nor is guidance given as to how one would go about achieving it (if it is a ‘state’) or entering into it (if it is a ‘process’). Similarly prone to failure is Savolainen’s (2002, quoted in Virkus, 2003) suggestion of ‘information-related competencies’ as an umbrella term, covering ‘information literacy, media competence and library skills.’ His justification for suggesting such a term is:

[b]ecause new labels describing specific kinds of literacies are continually introduced, reflecting the developments of ICTs, the attempts to develop an exact classification of information-related literacies seem to be futile. (Savolainen, 2002 – quoted in Virkus, 2003).

No explanation is given, however, as to how or why using the term ‘information-related competencies’ is useful in any way, apart from being a shorthand for a number of arbitrary micro literacies deemed important by the author. If an umbrella term is to be employed there must a rationale for doing so.

Instead of attempting to come up with an umbrella (‘macro’) term in which to retro-fit micro literacies, it seems to make more sense for theorists to use ‘new literacies’ as a shorthand – as indeed many already have begun to do (see, for example, Beavis, 1998; Kress, 2003; Lankshear & Knobel, 2006). Separating out the multitude of literacies seems, as Tyner states, somewhat artificial as they overlap to such a great extent. Whilst they can be separated, this should only be done for positive purposes:

The need to set one literacy apart from another can only be explained by a need to use the concepts for other reasons, that is, to strengthen the professional status of its constituencies, or to take issue with the approaches used by proponents. (Tyner, 1998:104)

Our focus instead should perhaps instead be upon a particular literacy as an ‘integrating (but not overarching) concept that focuses upon the digital without limiting itself to computer skills and which comes with little historical baggage’ (Martin, 2006 quoted in Bawden, 2008:26). Here Martin seems to have in mind the concept of ‘digital literacy’ although it is not the name of the term that is the issue. Instead, it is its explanatory power and utility in terms of conceptual understanding and applicability that is key.

Interestingly, Martin (2008:156-7) lists the following as ‘literacies of the digital,’ hinting that his earlier (2006) thinking has evolved towards considering literacies as an overlapping matrix:

  • Computer, IT or ICT Literacy
  • Technological Literacy
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Visual Literacy
  • Communication Literacy
  • Digital Literacy

Although he does not use the term ‘matrix,’ it seems clear that Martin has something like this in mind. If so, then the above list contains are only a few of a potential Pandora’s box of ‘literacies.’ With no-one as the gatekeeper as to what constitutes a ‘literacy of the digital’ a recursive problem occurs: there is nothing to stop a macro literacy, integrative literacy or a matrix of literacies from themselves being seen as part of a bigger picture. New literacies, as Reilly (1996:218) states, seem to be created as soon as a ‘new texts’ are invented or conceived. Martin needs to be explicit as to whether new forms of ‘text’ necessarily mean new forms of literacy.

It is also unclear as to whether Martin sees these as being ‘wholly’ digital literacies or whether they have digital elements. If it is the former, then he would have to explain how, for example, ‘communication literacy’ differs in the digital and analogue domains. If it is the latter, Matin should explain which elements of these literacies do indeed count as ‘digital’.

JISC, the UK body funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), is beginning a programme of work in the area of Digital Literacies after preliminary work in 2009 on ‘Learning Literacies in a Digital Age’. This is important because of the influence JISC has on the Higher Education sector (in particular) in the UK. JISC work talks in terms of a matrix of literacies, predicated upon an understanding of ‘learning literacies’:

Our understanding of learning literacies encompasses the range of practice that underpin effective learning in a digital age. The phrase learning literacies expresses the tension between literacy as a generic capacity for thinking, communicating ideas and intellectual work – that universities have traditionally supported – and the digital technologies and networks which are transforming what it means to work, think, communicate and learn. (JISC, 2009a, p.2)

The work of JISC is heavily bound-up with institutional change and wider notions of graduate employability and the take up of e-learning technologies and ecosystems by the Higher Education sector. The definition of ‘digital literacy’ used by JISC is, therefore, perhaps purposely vague: “the range of practices that underpin effective learning in a digital age” or, elsewhere, using the EC’s definition: “the confident and critical use of ICT for work, leisure, learning and communication.” The first of these definitions incorporates academic practices, information literacy, media literacy and ICT skills, amongst others (JISC, 2009b, p.1). The second definition is represented in the following diagram that sits half-way between a matrix of literacies and an ‘umbrella term’:

ICT Skills

(click to enlarge)

Whilst Martin’s matrix considers literacies to be ‘overlapping’ this diagram shows ‘digital competence’ (or ‘ICT skills’) to be foundational for further work in academic practice and media literacy (for example).

A further diagram demonstrates how these ‘spokes’ are themselves foundational to wider contexts. In this way, digital literacies are comprised of the literacy practices predicated upon ICT skills:

Digital Literacies

(click to enlarge)

One of the issues here is that micro-literacies, as defined above, are seen as flowing out of ICT skills, rather than out of the contexts. Although too much should not perhaps be read into diagrams, the one-way relationship from skills to practice belies the complexity and interaction between contexts and the abilities/competencies to interact effectively with others within those contexts.

It is difficult to argue, however, with the pyramid created in the JISC Digital literacies development framework (JISC, 2009d). This places ‘Attributes/identities’ at the top of a pyramid charting stages of development, followed by ‘Practices’, ‘Skills’ and, at the bottom of the pyramid, ‘Functional access’. Access to digital devices is necessary to develop digital literacies, with skills coming from use. Practices, habits and mental models result from increasing use and immersion. Finally, a critical appreciation, resilience and adaptability and reflexive understanding of ‘digital identity’ constitutes the top of the pyramid. That is not to say, of course, that there is an inevitable trajectory from the bottom of the pyramid to the top merely through the use of digital technologies. Not only does the ‘ladder’ have many rungs, but those rungs (to extend the metaphor) change as technologies and accepted social practices move on.

An important piece of work around the (in)ability of students to apply their learning and practices from one area of their life to another is exemplified in JISC’s work on ‘Responding to Learners’ (JISC 2009c) This study demonstrated that students often demonstrated a mental disconnect between the social software they used personally and that which they used – or were allowed to use – in an academic context. In addition, some JISC work on the ‘Google Generation’ (JISC, 2008) demonstrated that, far from this being merely the fault of reactionary institutions, students were not the ‘Digital Natives’ that they were assumed to be by many educators.

Before being abolished in 2010 Becta, a UK government organisation to promote educational technology in schools, commissioned some work on Digital Literacy. Created by by Tabetha Newman, the framework is intended to move ‘from terminology to action’ (Newman, 2009) after a comprehensive literature review. The five-step process model is: Define, Access, Understand & Evaluate, Create, Communicate. This has strong echoes of moving up Bloom’s (revised) taxonomy (Krathwol & Anderson, 2001) and complements JISC’s pyramid model. Defining digital literacies is, in Newman’s model, merely the first step in the important job of operationalising a definition so that work around it makes a different in practice.

The method, up to this point, for those wishing to begin a programme of work around ‘New’ or ‘Digital’ Literacies seems to be to concentrate on one particular definition as an umbrella term. This serves as a focus, with other literacies, skills and competencies retro-fitted into this overarching term. The same is evident with concepts such as ‘21st century skills’. What may be more useful, however, is to consider digital literacies an semi-fluid matrix of overlapping literacies that change due to time and context. Whilst this does not allow for effective soundbites and fails the test of fitting nicely upon one PowerPoint slide it is, nevertheless, an ultimately more accurate and responsive approach.

  • Anderson, L.W., et al. (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
  • Bawden, D. (2008) ‘Origins and Concepts of Digital Literacy’ (in Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M.Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices)
  • Beavis, C. (1998) ‘Computer games, culture and curriculum’ (in I. Snyder, Page to Screen, 1998)
  • Doyle, C.S. (1994) Information literacy in an information society: A Concept for the Information Age
  • Erstad, O. (2003) ‘Electracy as empowerment: Student activities in learning environments using technology’ (Young, 11:11, 2003)
  • Fieldhouse, M. & Nicholas, D. (2008) ‘Digital Literacy as Information Savvy: the road to information literacy’ (in Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices)
  • JISC (2008) ‘Google Generation’ is a myth, says new research
  • JISC (2009a) Learning Literacies in a Digital Age
  • JISC (2009b) Digital literacies Pilot materials
  • JISC (2009c) Responding to Learners Pack
  • Kress, G. (2003) Literacy in the New Media Age
  • Krathwohl, D.R. & Anderson, L.W. (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
  • Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2006) – New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning
  • Martin, A. (2008) ‘Digital Literacy and the “Digital Society”‘ (in Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M., Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices)
  • Newman, T. (2009) Consequences of a digital literacy review: from terminology to action
  • Potter, W.J. (2004) Theory of Media Literacy
  • Reilly, B. (1996) ‘New Technologies, New Literacies, New Patterns’ (in C. Fisher, D.C. Dwyer & K. Yocam (eds.), Education and Technology: reflections on computing in classrooms)
  • Spitzer, K.L., et al. (1998) Information Literacy: essential skills for the information age
  • Thomas, et al. (2007) ‘Transliteracy: Crossing divides’ (First Monday, 12:12. December 2007)
  • Tyner, K.R. (1998) Literacy in a Digital World: Teaching and Learning in the Age of Information
  • Virkus, S. (2003) ‘Information literacy in Europe: a literature review’ (Information Research, Vol. 8 No. 4, July 2003)

JISC Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review

If you’re reading this via email, RSS or a non Flash-enabled device the embedded media probably won’t work. My presentation is on Slideshare and the mobile review is accessible at Alternatively click here to view this post on the blog. 🙂

Since starting at JISC infoNet in April 2010 I’ve worked on a OER infoKit and a learning and teaching upgrade to the Digital Repositories infoKit, both with the talented Lou McGill. Back in July I wrote a successful proposal to embark on a mobile and wireless technologies review for the JISC e-Learning programme. It grew to be a much larger piece of work than I envisaged, probably because I enjoyed researching and writing it so much! I’ve interviewed, met and read about wonderful people doing fantastic things in mobile learning.

I’ve now finished that review and it stands at about the same length as my MA dissertation. Wow. You can access various versions of the mobile and wireless technologies review via or directly below (click to enlarge):

In addition, here’s a presentation I’m making to a JISC Review Board meeting today about my findings (you might want to view it on Slideshare with the notes on!)

I’d love to hear your feedback on the review, either here or at the JISCPress site. 😀

Weeknote #29

Weeknote 29This week I have been mostly…

Getting JISC-y with it

It’s finally finished! The mobile and wireless technologies review I’ve been working on for the last few months is finally ready. I’ll not link to it until I’ve presented at next week’s meeting but, at 17,000+ words it’s a fairly substantial piece of work.

I also attended the JISC Online e-Learning Conference this week. It was variable.. Keri Facer’s keynote on the future of education was awesome, as was Anne Miller’s session on innovation and barriers. Graham Brown-Martin’s session on mobile technologies was entertaining and I wish I hadn’t been commuting during the session on Open Educational Resources. There’s not point linking to the sessions I didn’t like; suffice to say that I’m not fond of people bigging themselves or their institution up and delivering little in the way of new ideas or sharing good practice. Overall, worth virtually attending though – more on my conference blog. 🙂

Trudging through snow

It’s a winter wonderland up in Northumberland at the moment. It won’t be long before I’ll be able to do this again (January 2010):


Receiving a free netbook

I’m not sure whether it’s because I spoke at BETT a couple of years ago on netbooks in the classroom, my pre-release review of the LG Shine from a few years back or uncomissioned videos such as my hands-on review of the Dell Streak, but I was approached this week to review the Dell 2110 education-focused netbook. It was delivered yesterday so expect a review soon!

Planning a conference

Andy Stewart and I are planning a conference. No, I’m not going to tell you when, where or what it’s about. Suffice to say these things take a fair amount of thinking about. Good grief. If you’ve experience in these matters, feel free to get in touch!

Top 10 links I’ve shared this week

The following links were those most clicked on (according to Pro‘s stats) when I shared them via  Twitter this week. I don’t include links back to this blog.

Links given with number of clicks given in brackets:

  1. Telegraph | 200 students admit cheating after professor’s online rant (83)
  2. Spin Collective | Sea mural sticker set (49)
  3. Guardian | Students protest (40)
  4. hu2 | Water Cycle wall sticker (35)
  5. The Importance of Teaching – The School White Paper 2010 (27)
  6. BBC News | Teacher training at heart of schools reform (25)
  7. Twitter | Alfie Kohn: critique of Math instruction (25)
  8. Literature and Latte – Scrivener (21)
  9. Through The Phases (18)
  10. | Boettinger: Moving Mountains (9)

Weeknote #28

Weeknote #28This week I have been mostly…


Well, typing, but we tend to look at the future through the rearview mirror (to slightly misquote Marshall McLuhan). I’m almost finished the draft of my JISC Mobile & Wireless Technologies Review. I’ll share it, of course, when it’s finished! (16,500 words and counting…)

Spending time with my Dad

He goes back to the UAE today, but it’s been good to have my Dad around for a week due to Second Eid.

Buying a Sony Vaio P Series

You know that stuff I sold via #twebay? I used it to fund an 8″ Sony Vaio P Series ultraportable. I found one for £350 on eBay with the extended battery and in immaculate condition. I love the fact that it’s got 3G and it’s lighter than an iPad yet has a keyboard that’s almost full-size. Tip: when deleting things ready for sale, remember to remove your media player history. :-p

Starting some consultancy work

Those who have read my blog for a while – certainly when I was working in schools – will know how I’ve railed against consultants in the past. The trouble was that I’d only come across the shiny-suited types, those that are parachuted in, say nothing much and then you never see again.

Working with consultants on JISC projects couldn’t be more different. They’re often the most dedicated, hard-working and passionate people you’ll ever meet. Which is why I’ve started doing some consulting for a consultant. If you think I might be able to help you in #uppingyourgame (in a productivity-related way or otherwise) click on the Work with Doug link.

Top 10 links I’ve shared this week

The following links were those most clicked on (according to Pro‘s stats) when I shared them via   Twitter this week. I don’t include links back to this blog and the numbers this week show that I haven’t been as active on there as usual due to writing #jiscmobilereview!

Links given with number of clicks given in brackets:

  1. Daddy O (187 Lockdown Club Mix) [Spotify] (22)
  2. Interesting North – Doug’s Conference Blog (22)
  3. Skype Education (19)
  4. Justice with Michael Sandel (13)
  5. WordPress theme – Typograph (13)
  6. Pontydysgu – Research on Mobile Learning (10)
  7. Rypple (9)
  8. Telegraph: Fix the workplace, not the workers (9)
  9. New York Times: Building a Better Teacher (7)
  10. J Biebz – U Smile (800% slower) (5)