Introducing myself

Pat Parslow

Facets of identity

The Digitally Ready project is looking at digital literacies across the University of Reading.  The term ‘digital literacies’ has many interpretations, with some arguing that the word ‘digital’ should be dropped.  It can be seen as covering basic computer skills, or a much broader view includes the ability to evaluate the content one might find online.  I think it should also be seen as including online behaviours, and in this respect it overlaps with our previous work on the This Is Me project where we produced learning materials to help people understand their online persona, or ‘Digital Identity’.

I find it helps to know a bit about the background of people working on a project, especially one which spans a whole institution, so I just want to take this opportunity to introduce myself and then briefly mention what has been happening so far.

About me
I have taught natural history at primary schools and secondary, as a teaching assistant,  as well as running IT courses for adult education and work based learning courses.  I also worked in a land survey department, as a programmer/software engineer, and as IT support coordinator before finally returning to HE to study for my BSc Intelligent Systems and MSc Informatics.  I have worked closely with staff and learners across all levels of IT ability, and although many of them consider me to be an ‘IT expert’, I have to say I only know enough to know that I always have a lot more to learn.

Personally, I find the idea of working on this project immensely exciting – we have a real opportunity to develop strategies to help our institution provide dynamic, needs based digital literacy skills to help both students and staff make the most of IT, both now, and in to the future.

The project

We will be using, and adapting, audit tools from JISC’s “The Design Studio“, and I have started the ball rolling by transferring the institutional audit from there into our VLE.  I am by no means certain that this will represent the best medium for engaging with the university’s community, but it is at least a system which is available across the institution, and with which most staff and students are familiar.  While transcribing the audit into a Blackboard ‘survey’, I realised that the edit boxes BB uses can make it quite hard to work out where you should click to type an answer:

Default edit boxesIn this case, we don’t have any need for the rich text box tools, or for the user to see information about the element (does the user ever need that, I wonder?), so I added some CSS to the description of the survey so we now get:

Simplified Edit boxThis type of thing helps reduce the hurdles people need to jump to be involved, and is a way of matching the complexity of presentation to the requirements of the task at hand.  Whilst I am personally in favour of providing people with challenges which encourage them to explore and develop new digital literacies (and indeed, new knowledge and skills of all kinds), there are some times when you just want to make life as easy as possible for the people who are, essentially, going to be doing you a favour by helping out with their views, knowledge and opinions!

For those who are interested, the ‘sneaky’ bit of CSS I included merely hides elements which we didn’t want to see:

<style type="text/css">
<!-- .htmlarea .toolbar {display: none; } -->
<!-- .htmlarea table {display: none;}-->
<!-- .noLabelField table tbody tr td a {display: none;}-->
<!-- .htmlarea {border-color: #000;} -->
<!-- .assessmentPortlet + #dataCollectionContainer .noLabelField > div, .assessmentPortlet + #dataCollectionContainer div.pagedRumble + div > div { border-bottom: 0px dotted #FFF; margin: 0; padding: 0; } -->

It could be better, but it does the job.

Next up, I am looking at the student survey.  What I haven’t seen yet are any resources for helping assess what skills are believed to be needed, nor, indeed, ways of assessing what learning strategies people need to be able to cope with an ever-changing landscape of tools available on the Web and in the workplace.

About patparslow

I am a researcher in the School of Systems Engineering, working in the fields of social media, digital identity and learning. I have previously worked in IT training/education, land survey, civil engineering, IT support, and as a software engineer.
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3 Responses to Introducing myself

  1. Shirley Williams says:

    Welcome Pat

  2. Guy says:

    Hello Pat! Thanks for this post and for the introduction — I found out some new things about you. The CSS you include could be very useful for other areas where text areas prove cumbersome!

    At the end of your post, you mention that you haven’t seen any resources for assessing students’ skills with regards to the web. More generally though there is the Individual Learner Profile which was a skills confidence-rating questionnaire originally written by Carolyne Jacobs at the University of Portsmouth and was adapted a few years ago by Sarah Morey for iLearn at the University of Reading. This was embedded in the iLearn ePortfolio tool and I’m now refactoring it for the DEVELOP e-Portfolios Templates widget (as some schools piloting the widget will be using the questionnaire next year too). I’m going to post about this on the DEVELOP blog soon but it might be worth having a look at it, if not necessarily for content then for format? In fact, in the meantime there’s a PDF version here that you can look at, if you think it might be relevant.

    Hope this helps,

  3. patparslow says:

    Thanks Guy,
    Very handy, and a good starting point. It would be interesting to see whether a similar format for assessing the needs of a job would work (I’m sure someone working in competencies would know about this…!). Self assessments are often all we can use, of course, but I do know many people who are overly self-confident (and thus honestly complete a form like this saying they are confident in their ability to sepll cawektly), and others who are lacking the self-confidence and under-estimate their abilities. The latter group can suffer from being/becoming demotivated (it doesn’t matter how hard they try, they still assess themselves as not being good at things), while the former are frequently surprised that the marks they get do not reflect their own view of themselves.
    I wonder if there is a way of addressing those problems? I know some of the big IT companies ask questions like “Do your friends see you as an expert in X”, which may be a way of encouraging a more open self-image to be examined.

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