Something somewhere has gone terribly wrong. Educational technology has journals, books, professional qualifications and conferences but it’s the same names and faces appearing again and again. We need to talk but the people we need the conversations with never turn up. It sounds incredible but true – you can have a role in higher education which involves teaching and supporting learning but doesn’t comply with any baseline requirements for digital competence. Digital incompetence is more common alongside attitudes like I don’t use social media, admin manage assessment, VLE are for module handbooks, students won’t turn up if I put my lecture notes online.
The roots of digital resistance are deep.
You can divide the population with the words ‘Pokemon Go’. I’ve no interest in Pokemon but it only took a few minutes to download and get started and now I’ve a better idea what the media fuss is about. Poekman Go is less about Weedle, Pidgey, Eevee and Rattata and more about digital CPD. Lack of first hand experience creates the risk of being judgmental. Experiential learning is more successful than didactic approaches. Just as higher order thinking skills are integral to a higher education, so inquiry and evaluation are integral to becoming digitally capable. If students live in a world of augmented reality and instant mobile communication, it makes sense to look at how their existing skills might be applied to learning and teaching. Doesn’t it?
This year I sense the winds of change are blowing. There’s a shift in attitude. If you’re not digitally literate and capable then why are you here in the first place? How did you get the job if you’re unable make appropriate use of social media, build collaborative learning environments, give feedback via audio and video?
There’s an expectation students will leave university as employable adults but the digital dimensions of graduate attributes are too often neglected. Society needs critical users of the internet who can tell the difference between peer reviewed knowledge, media bias and personal opinion. Somewhere between induction and graduation, staff who teach or support learning have a responsibility to help students get there.
So how digitally capable are you? Where did it appear on your job description list of essential criteria? How was it tested at interview? What do you mean it wasn’t included? Are you telling me you work in higher education with responsibility for student learning and no one bothered to check your attitudes to social media, how mobile devices might be used in lectures, assessing e-portfolios, giving multimedia feedback, the risks of online communication, the hazards of app based learning, creative commons, open access, barriers to online participation? What do you mean you’ve never taken part in a webinar? Here’s your webcam and headset. Would you prefer a laptop or a tablet and I don’t mean paracetamol.
The phrase digital capabilities has replaced digital literacies. These were more a measurement of skills like the ECDL and today literacies are the starting not the finishing point. Yet the language of digital capabilities contains ambiguity. The elements are like alcohol adverts which ask adults to be drink aware – drink sensibly – be responsible – without actually saying what this means or how it might translate into real world behaviours. The result is confusion about what to do for the best.
The Jisc Digital Capabilities model offers a six element structure of digital ways of working to be addressed. The teacher, learner, researcher profiles provide frameworks for applying these to practice but what difference will it really make when it’s the same people talking to each other?
We need to talk. We need to find out more about digital shyness and reluctance. Tackle the excuses and find resources, rewards and recognition to make developing digital capabilities possible I think one of the problems is when people believe technology is not for them. Well, I’m no technology expert but have learned digital capabilities are attitudinal. They’re about the cultural shift from acquiring knowledge to knowing where to find it. Today it’s less about what you know and more about making use of mobile internet access to find it out (exactly the independent self-determined approach to learning we expect students to develop). Sorry, that excuse doesn’t work any more. Next one please?