Have you ever Googled yourself? Our next Student-Staff LearnIT event on career and digital identity management, 18 Nov 2014

Have you ever Googled yourself? What would you find? What would you like your digital footprint to look like? This LearnIT Student-Staff Exchange event will focus on the opportunities and challenges of managing our digital reputation and online identity –and why and how it matters both for students and for staff.

Event leads: Trish Lunt, Educational Development, Fiona McNamara, Careers and Employability Service, Anna O’Connor, School of Health Sciences, University of Liverpool.

LearnIT Career and Digital Identity student-staff exchange 18 Nov 2014

LearnIT Career and Digital Identity student-staff exchange 18 Nov 2014

Date/Time: Tue, 18th Nov 2014, 13:00-15:00
Venue: The Guild, Elizabeth Gidney Suite
Refreshments: tea/coffee/juice and muffins

By taking part, you will have opportunities to:

• Meet students and staff at the university;

• Learn about how and why staff and students manage their digital identity, and what social media tools they use to support this;

• Gain tips & discover new ideas to try.

Please register on the CLL booking site or directly 
Presented by: Developing Digital Literacies Working Group

Twitter: @LivDigiL
Website: http://digilearn.liv.ac.uk

Upcoming LearnIT Student-Staff Exchange event series 2014/15:

Date                                               Event theme

Tue 17 Feb 2015, 1-3pm               Learn IT: Information literacy & Digital research skills

Tue 10 March 2015, 1-3pm           Learn IT: Media literacy online;  Collaboration & Communication online

LearnIT, as seen by the Guild President

From Harry Anderson, Guild President, University of Liverpool

a photo of Harry Anderson, Guild President, University of Liverpool

Harry Anderson, Guild President, University of Liverpool

The Guild recently played host to the inaugural Learn IT session – a series set up by the University’s Developing Digital Literacies Working Group with the help of the Guild tasked with looking at how we use and interact with technology in terms of our education.

The event brought together students and staff from a variety of areas within the University, with the aim of the inaugural event being to begin the conversation over where we are, as in institution, in terms of technology enhanced learning.  As a result, the questions discussed remained broad and ranged from effective time management through to how our physical spaces at the University are conducive to digital learning and working.

Partly in a nod to the future Learn IT events, and partly due to the open and frank nature of the event, it was stressed that Tuesday’s session was merely the start of the conversation. There were to be “no wrong answers”. Dr Nick Greeves, for instance, referred to how Chemistry had been looking into providing iPads to students to allow them to take notes, with one of the interesting discussion being around how physical note-taking (i.e. the old fashioned pen and paper approach) was still seen as superior given that it was often quicker and enabled students to absorb information better. Therefore, understanding when and where technology is of benefit was equally as important as understanding when and where it is not.

LearnIT - inaugural event on digital literacies

Small-group discussion on the use of technologies for learning/working at the LearnIT – inaugural event on digital literacies, 28 Oct 2014, The Guild, University of Liverpool

Another key message that emerged from the event was the fact that issues concerning technology were not just reserved to students, and were equally a concern of staff too. Bringing together students and staff into the same open forum was one obvious way that illustrated this, highlighting, for example, how time-management and the like were problems staff had to deal with just as much as students. Presentations, however, from Law lecturer Dr Rob Stokes and third-year Physics student Joe Chamberlain also helped bring this point into sharp focus. Both Rob and Joe, for example, talked about different issues they’d faced, and overcome, with the help of technology, with Joe even having designed his own app, Unisocs, to manage his course demands. With these presentations acting as the catalyst, conversations soon began to flow amongst the various groups, with recommendations, points of discussion and broad issues being picked up and debated.

One such discussion I had concerned the provision of WiFi around campus. As with the above, it soon became evident that good provision of WiFi was an issue staff felt equally strongly about and how, with the landscape of technology rapidly and ever changing, the need to be able to connect and access resources lay at the heart of virtually everything. Whether it was accessing VITAL, sending emails or reading e-books and journals, the need for a fast and secure connection was essential.

LearnIT - inaugural event on digital literacies Small-group discussion on the use of technologies for learning/working at the LearnIT - inaugural event on digital literacies, 28 Oct 2014, The Guild, University of Liverpool

LearnIT – inaugural event on digital literacies

Overall, the first Learn IT session went down extremely well, with positive feedback from staff and students alike. By bringing together both groups, the Tuesday’s event created an opportunity rarely afforded in other university settings and enabled a frank, open and honest discussion about how we currently use technology and crucially how we can improve it for both staff and students. Given this event was just the starting point of a much wider Learn IT conversation, the remaining sessions will no doubt be just as successful and I very much look forward to attending.

Harry Anderson, Guild President

Not so much “ECDL” but rather “how can I do well…?”

The inaugural LearnIT event

This week photomath.net launched an Iphone app which allows students to use their mobile phones to photograph a mathematical problem and not only to obtain the correct solution but also the full “working out” – that evasive concept which my old maths teachers used to constantly insist upon seeing. In my case it didn’t really matter. Both my workings out and my final answer were usually wrong – which is probably why I ended up following Law instead of anything which involved the slightest hint of scientific method.

The other significant event of this week for me was the inaugural session in the LearnIT series which is being co-organised by the Developing Digital Literacies working group and the Guild in recognition of the rapidly changing technological landscape in which teaching, learning, living and working now take place.

LearnIT inaugaral event

The event saw around 60 staff and students discussing how we can use technology to make us more efficient with our time, more effective collaborators, and more flexible and better organised writers.

This was the first in a planned series of events which will start to focus on more specific issues. I am personally looking forward to the upcoming session which will consider the reputational issues at stake for users of the web and particularly social media. The value of managing your ‘digital footprint’ in a well-informed and even a creative way is something which our own students are becoming more and more aware of. The LearnIT: Career and digital identity management online session will take place on the Tuesday 18th Nov 2014, 1-3pm to consider those sorts of issues. You can register for this event here.

What makes this series of events particularly interesting is that it proceeds on the assumption that we really don’t know what the “right” approach to using technology in HE effectively actually is. That seemingly down-beat outlook in fact promises to delivery much more than we might expect from a new-age trendy tech-evangelist perspective on technology. The LearnIT approach is open-ended and makes no assumptions about what technology might offer us. Tuesday’s event saw staff and student break out into focus groups to grapple with particularly un-focussed ideas. Because that the point; to break with conventional perspectives on IT for teachers and learners in higher education and start talking about what we want and need from technology.

Up until that moment I had tried very hard so far to avoid saying IT for a very good reason. This programme of events is about needs and solutions in the context of the work we do, not the all-to-easily-accepted discourse on Information Technology training and skills. This new discourse speaks of digital literacy not information skills. Not so much “ECDL” but rather “how can I do well…?”

We heard two excellent presentations from Dr Rob Stokes (lecturer from Law) from Law and Joe Chamberlain (student from Physics) which illustrated just that point. Each of these participants at some point faced the same problem – how to manage the challenges of workload management in the context of intense pressure to succeed. What solutions might technology offer to workload management? Neither of the solutions suggested by our speakers were the same in any shape or form but each was their own solution and each met the users’ needs.

The inaugural session has stepped up to face a myriad of issues ranging from helpful apps to awful habits, from online worlds to physical spaces, from the custom fit of the personalised app to the regimental reliability of the corporate IT solution. Looking at how our individual personalised learning, living and working needs might be met within the ever changing word of the app.

Jeremy Marshall (Lecturer, Liverpool Law School)

Follow the conversation about digital literacy for Liverpool University staff and students on Twitter at #LearnIT and @livDigiL and online at http://digilearn.liv.ac.uk

LearnIT: the inaugural student-staff exchange event

Today is our opening event for the Learn IT event series. Can’t wait to get our discussions going on how both staff and students use technology for their learning and working activities!

We will be updating this blog with the event highlights- so feel free to subscribe and follow us. Follow us on #LearnIT, @LivDigiL.

Learn IT : student-staff exchange at the University of Liverpool

Learn IT : student-staff exchange event series at the University of Liverpool

Come along to the opening event of the Learn IT Student-Staff Exchange event series. The Learn IT series aims to foster student and staff dialogue about our digital practices and environment. The inaugural meeting will focus on the theme of using digital technologies for Learning and Working and will be opened by Dr Anne Qualter, Director of Academic Development and Lifelong Learning and Head of the Centre for Lifelong Learning and Harry Anderson, President of the Guild of Students.

Together, we will explore which technologies are used by students for studying and managing their social lives and which digital study-, teaching- and research-practices are used by lecturers.

By taking part, you will have opportunities to:
•Meet students and staff at the university
•Learn about how staff/students use digital technologies for learning and working
•Share some strategies for using digital tools
•Listen to other perspectives on digital practices and attitudes
•Gain digital tips for learning and working
•Discover new ideas to try

See you there,

the Developing Digital Literacies Working Group

Digital Champions: back to the classics to think forward

We presented our Digital Champions, peer-assisted learning project at this year’s HEA Social Sciences 2014 conference. The theme was Education for the Futures.

HEA Digital Champions project

HEA Digital Champions project: Y3 Champions passing on tips and tricks to Y1 students

I loved designing our Digital Champions poster as the process was a testament to the power of collaborative working. From drawing to design skills we called on colleagues’ expertise and talent. Choosing Prometheus, the god that stole fire (knowledge) for the humans, seemed an apt metaphor for the work of Digital Champions. Prometheus was also a trickster figure – we saw parallels between our Champions passing on the tricks and tips of the trade, being third-year students, to those in the first year.

Presenting our Poster at the HEA Social Sciences 2014 Conference

Presenting our Poster at the HEA Social Sciences 2014 Conference: Tünde Varga-Atkins, eLearning Unit and Beryl Stanley, Library, University of Liverpool

A summary of our project is also documented on slideshare.net – we are currently putting together our project report for the HEA.

We have also had a mini-celebration with the Digital Champions – saying an emotional goodbye to them (I am not in the UK for the graduation ceremony :( ), the original project team also reunited with Emma Thompson popping in from Manchester for a catch-up.

The Digital Champions (Laura, Emily and Bradley - bottom) and the project team (Tunde, Emma and Simon). Missign: Beryl (taking the photo) and Adam (Champion)

The Digital Champions (Laura, Emily and Bradley – bottom) and the project team (Tunde, Emma and Simon). Missing: Beryl (taking the photo), Dave (getting the video ready) and Adam (Champion)

Project report to follow shortly. It has been a pleasure to work with the Champions – we are very proud of them to have done so well as Champions and as students in their third year –  and I really look forward to working with the next Champions next year!

Tünde Varga-Atkins, eLearning unit, University of Liverpool

Digital Champions HEA pilot: supporting Year 1 students with academic transition

A pilot project entitled “Supporting transition with peer-assisted learning and digital stories” funded by the HEA, has been running this year at the University of Liverpool’s Management School. Two digital stories from the third-year Digital Champions are now available on writing assignments, which can be used as useful resources for first-year students.

Digital Champions

Digital Champions

Story 1. Digital Champions: From one book to fifty citations:  Tips on effective assignment writing
Story 2. Digital Champions: Breaking the 2:1 (or 2:2) barrier for writing assignments (Parts 1-5):

A bit more about the Digital Champions project and its progress

The project, based on a peer-assisted learning model, aims to support the transition of first-year students in their academic study and employ them with skills that would benefit them beyond graduation. So far we have engaged 4 third-year students, Emily, Laura, Adam and Bradley,  to run  drop-ins for first-year students on making their academic study easier. The above digital stories were created by the students that summarise their tips for first years in academic writing.

What next: we will evaluate the pilot for wider adoption and also investigate students’ perspectives on micro-certification, such as OpenBadges, as a way of recognising their skill development. We aim to present this project with a poster at the HEA Social Sciences Conference 2014, which this year is on the theme of ‘Teaching Forward: The future of social sciences’. We have also been discussing links with other institutional peer-assisted learning initiatives, and naturally, certification of Digital Champions may link to developments around HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report). Similar peer-assisted learning projects with a digital angle have run successfully at other universities, e.g. see the ePioneers programme at Oxford Brookes.

For more information: contact Tünde Varga-Atkins at University of Liverpool.

Tünde

Digital Champions: Laura Cash, Emily Evans, Adam Byrne, Bradley Griffin
Project team:

  • eLearning Unit: Tünde Varga-Atkins (co-lead)
  • Academic lead: Simon Snowden, ULMS (academic lead)
  • Library: Emma Thompson (co-lead), Beryl Stanley
  • Multimedia: Dave Hocker

 

Are these examples of digital literacies? Discuss…

This blog post invites you to consider 3 examples and identify: are they examples of digital literacies? If so, in what way? If not, why not? This task is the one Oxford Brookes’ Rhona Sharpe, a pioneer in digital literacies research (LLiDA, SLiDA),  asked us, the participants of the HEA-organised day, entitled “Changing Learning Landscape —The role of digital literacies in supporting continuing professional development in HE contexts“, to consider, which I attended on the 29th May in Birmingham.

The task worked well on the day to get us into thinking what digital literacies are. Rhona Sharpe’s presentation on the day can be found on slideshare.

Example 1: Baby talks with cat on iPad

Example 2: a student’s writing who uses a blog to make them public

Legoscratch site 

Example 3: iPad Cafe : students from York St John meeting up and discussing useful iPad apps

iPad Cafe , York St John UniiPad Cafe , York St John Uni

iPad Cafe , York St John Uni

Can I ask you to do the same? Please consider:

  • the baby (Example 1),
  • the young pupil (Example 2) or
  • the York students iPad Cafe (Example 3)

Do the examples demonstrate digital literacy? Yes/No? Why?

Please post and share your responses and respond to that of others.

Thank you!

Tünde

Tünde Varga-Atkins, eLearning Unit, University of Liverpool

 

PGR View: Taking the Plunge into Social Media

For the 2013 Humanities and Social Sciences First-Year Development Workshop, I offered a new session that explored how academics are using social media in order to raise their research profiles.  The participants were first-year postgraduate researchers and it was clear from listening in to the pre-session chats over coffee that they had some firmly cautious opinions about using social media as part of their research practice.

HSS FYDW BLOG

The session was kicked-off by Lisa Hawksworth, from the Sydney Jones Library, who discussed case studies of researchers who have successfully used social media to highlight their work to the wider public.  The session then became an open forum that focused on questions that I asked participants to explore before the workshop.

Two-weeks before the workshop, I set a task for participants to find profiles of three researchers in their field of study and critically assess how they were using social media.  During the forum, they revealed their findings which offered insight into how academics use social media to both establish and maintain their profiles amongst fellow academics and the wider public.  Some participants were surprised to find that well-established professors in their field were consistently using social media. Reflecting on the profiles they found, the wider group wondered whether such busy academics had assistants to help maintain the high level of engagement with social media that they encountered.  Some even pondered whether PGRs were providing technical support!

Regardless of who is actually maintaining Twitter feeds, Linkedin profiles, blogs or other forms of social media, participants recognised that senior academics value social media as a means of promoting their research areas and individual profiles.   However, when asked whether they would follow in the footsteps of ‘the good and great’, there was a sense of hesitation in defining when and how they would engage with social media.

The majority of responses suggested that time and content concerns were an important factor in their decision to engage with social media.  Some of their responses were:

‘It is something I would have to carefully manage.  It would take up so much of my time and I’m already busy!’

‘I’ll wait until I have something worth saying, but yes I would definitely use it’

For others though it was hesitation to ‘take the plunge’ as a creator of social media:

‘I’ve never tried it in a serious way as a contributor, but I am definitely a consumer’

So what barriers do PGRs encounter that prevent them from actively creating social media?  It might have something to do with their immediate working environment.  According to the authors of the Handbook for Researchers and Supervisors: Digital Technologies for Research Dialogues, the decisions of whether postgraduate researchers embrace social media as a means of sharing information, collaborating and disseminating their research to the wider public and other researchers are often based on the attitudes of their supervisors. [1]   Such attitudes and or preferences for only certain types of social media can have either a facilitating or hindering effect.

The responses I heard during the workshop made me wonder whether workshops that offer a safe environment where PGRs could encounter and explore how to make the leap from consumer to creator would help alleviate the general anxiety that some researchers may feel towards employing social media.  While there are resources available for PGRs, such as Vitae’s The Engaged Researcher and the Research Information Network (RIN): Social Media: A Guide for Researchers it seems that a little handholding to explore best practice would be beneficial.  But moreover, this also suggests to me that workshops for supervisors would also support and shape how the next generation of researchers engage with social media.

I am keen to learn whether any supervisors are interested in such a workshop!  If so, please leave a comment.

Dr Aimee Blackledge, Researcher Developer

Developing Digital Literacies at the University of Liverpool

Libraries, Digital Literacies and labels… LILAC 2013 conference

Digital Literacies

Steve Wheeler

What is the difference  between Digital Literacies and Information Literacy? As a librarian Information Literacy is my bread and butter, although I acknowledge it doesn’t trip off the tongue of those outside the profession. Information Literacy is defined by the Professional body for Libraries, CILIP as:

“knowing when and why you need information, where to find it and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner”

So, where does Information Literacy end and Digital Literacy begin? Is there even a difference? Does it matter?  I don’t think the labels matter at all, and we can waste far too much time navel gazing and agonising over them.

I recently attended the LILAC (Librarians Information Literacy) conference, in Manchester along with 800 librarians, mainly from the UK, but with increasing numbers from other countries. Many of the papers dealt with Digital Literacies – in fact this could easily be re-branded a as a Digital Literacies conference.  The first Keynote speaker was Steve Wheeler from Plymouth University, where I used to work; @Timbuckteeth on Twitter.

His keynote, and others from the conference are on the LILAC YouTube Channel now. The phrase that really stood out for me from Steve’s talk was  “Digital Wisdom”. Isn’t that what we all need? The wisdom not to tweet something stupid, the wisdom to ensure that your digital footprint is accurate and not damaging to your career, and the wisdom to choose the appropriate tool for the job in hand. This is not just “skills”, or even knowledge – it’s a way of thinking in a digital age. I took away some useful further reading from this keynote – a debunking of Prensky (2010) Digital Natives concept from Kennedy et al (2010), which concudes there is nothing special about the knowledge and skills of the so called  “Net Generation”. young people are no more able to learn and live in a technological age than the generations before. Instead of being especially adept at using technology, many are in fact basic users. This chimes with my own experience of students and indeed younger  family members. Just because you are young, it doesn’t mean you automatically “get” technology.

Steve Wheeler at LILAC 2013, Manchester University

Kennedy, G., Judd, T., Waycott, J., & Dalgarno, B. (2010). Beyond natives and immigrants: Exploring types of net generation students. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(5), 332-343.

Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives : partnering for real learning / Marc Prensky ; foreword by Stephen Heppell. Thousand Oaks CA ; Corwin, 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking through wikis

As a dyed-in-the-wool geek, I was very happy to join the Digital Literacies Working Group and contribute from the perspective of an academic involved in quite a bit undergraduate teaching; as a recovering Facebook addict and all-round party planner, I offered my thoughts particularly on the use of social media and networking. What follows are my musings on a first year module I created, and how I’ve used a group project to enhance digital skills, and used the digital tools on which the project is based to enhance research skills. (Spoiler alert…the short version of what follows is: students create an encyclopedia website through VITAL’s wiki tool, and hopefully come out better able to do dissertations in later years.) At the very least, it should serve as an illustration of technology-enhanced academic practice at undergraduate level, and hopefully generate some ideas for others, and some feedback on the concept at my end!

When I first started working at the University of Liverpool’s School of Music in September 2005, there was an intriguing discrepancy between the two main undergraduate programmes in the department. One–a BA in Popular Music–made a third-year dissertation a compulsory element, and to prepare students for that project, there was a second-year module called Researching Popular Music. The other–a BA in Music*–did not make a dissertation compulsory, but it remained available as an option.

* By “Music”, undergraduate degrees generally mean western art, “classical”, music–odd, since presumably other types of music are also music, but there it is…

So, for those students wanting to write a dissertation on New Labour’s use of Britpop in the ’97 election campaign, or misogynistic hip-hop lyrics, there was second year guidance as to how to conduct an independent project of 10,000 words; meanwhile, those wanting to write about the contribution of Samuel Wesley to nineteenth-century organ music, or the impact of the Reformation on English church music…well, they pretty much went it alone. At the same time, there was no consistent instruction in bibliographic methods, referencing techniques, and other core ‘study skills’ expected of undergraduates and not previously taught at school.

In an effort to fill some of these gaps and better equip students for the transition from school and college to independent research, we introduced a compulsory first year module–MUSI100 Studying Music–in 2008. After a semester of core ‘study skills’ (using the library, note-taking, critical reading, bibliographies, etc. etc.), students undertake a group project over the whole of the second semester. In years past, the task was to create a wiki in VITAL for a hypothetical audience of first year music students all about the study skills and learning literacies they’d need to develop.

Wiki

Not only did the students consolidate the skills covered in semester one, but they enhanced their group work and project management. But the reason for the wiki as a vehicle (as opposed to anything else–a presentation, for instance) was in no small part to make the task somewhat more engaging than it might otherwise have been…

This year, I have changed the project so that the medium of the wiki and the digital workspace are a more integral part. Now, groups are given a number of subject-specific topics to choose from, and they develop a wiki site about that topic:

  • ‘Genre’ as a concept in music
  • The history of music notation
  • A genre of music (choose one…) under a political regime (choose one…)
  • ‘World music’ in relation to western cultures

Still, project management skills are tested; still, groups have to work well together and deal with the inevitable freeloaders; still, they engage on some level with the digital medium.

But more than that, they are more challenged in terms of the independent research elements–they are, in essence, creating an encyclopedia about their topic, and anyone who’s ever written an encyclopedia entry knows how rigorous your research and writing have to be!! And, even more usefully (to my mind), they are actively encouraged to think through the medium of the wiki.

In a sense, we are dealing with the “affordances” of the tool–a concept my colleague Rob Strachan has been dealing with in relation to creativity, asking how music-making software informs the creative process. (I’ll try and get him to write here one day, but for now, back to the first years….

By situating the research topic in a dynamic environment, where hyperlinks abound and audiovisual media is de rigueur, the research itself is thus afforded different opportunities. No longer are the knots of ideas and the complexes of concepts constrained by the beginning-middle-end form of an essay. And no longer is the content limited to what works on a printed page. Rather, the digital medium allows the cross-linking of ideas, enables video and audio content, and situates the project in the ever-expanding online universe by allowing links to external content–thereby facing students head on with the need to be critical thinkers in response to online sources.

Whether this will contribute in any further way to the quality of third year dissertations is a question whose answer is, by definition, two years away. (And even then, I don’t have a control group….) With a bit of luck, though, all students–regardless of their interests, and regardless of whether they ever even do a dissertation, since that is now optional to all–will have some experience of independent research and the place of the digital world in relation to that.

But since I’m pondering the use value of this project, I wonder…have you ever constructed a website as a research output? What effects did it have on the way you undertook the research? Or even…have you used this kind of project in your own teaching at all? What happened?

I’d be very interested to know whether my hunches are anywhere approaching correct, so do leave a comment!

Dr Freya Jarman, Senior Lecturer, School of Music