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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