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New Digital Media and Learning as an Emerging Area and “Worked Examples” as One Way Forward

I just started New Digital Media and Learning as an Emerging Area and “Worked Examples” as One Way Forward by James Paul Gee on Kindle for Android!

Blog Writing

“What do I write in my blog?”

There could be many approaches to this; how do you find your story? What do you want to say? What are the best tools to use to say it? But this post isn’t for those kinds of questions, this post is for activation, incitement and awakening. This post is advice which I have to heed myself at times, which, in a reflexive kind of way, is how this post has come about.

Step 1 – Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)

This may seem obvious, to write a blog post you have to write, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people (I too am guilty of this) talk about and plan amazing blog posts but never actually sit down to write it. I have learned that organisation and planning are great in theory but many never put it into practice and so instead, from this day forth, planning time is kept to a minimum and instead, we write! Agreed? Good.

Step 2 – Little and often

If you only write 50 words per day, by the end of the week you will have 350 words. Easy! Plus, you will never write just 50 words, the creativity will flow, rhythm will build and the ideas will pour out. A little trick that I try to do is put on three of my favourite songs of the day and spend the duration of those three songs writing, it normally only takes about ten minutes. If you love the songs not only will you enjoy the time writing but you’ll also find you get lots written; make it a game, how many words can you write for the duration of the three songs?

Step 3 – Set time limits and targets

Ever said “I’ll write a new blog post this week” then the weekend comes around and its still not written? Well here’s a tactic, plan to publish your blogs at the same time every week, this way you can promote when the blog’s coming out to your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, whoever but also then, you need to get it done by this time, people will be waiting for it!

Step 4 – Write about what matters to you

Don’t write what you think people want to read, write what you want to write, this will make you more passionate about what you’re writing and on the plus side, you’ll know more about it and your knowledge and passion will come across in the writing, which, incidentally, is what people want to read.

Step 5 – Enjoy It

Why are you writing this blog anyway? Okay, if you’re being paid to write or writing for a project then your motivation comes from somewhere completely different to hobbyist bloggers but even so enjoy your writing. Sit down somewhere comfortable, in surroundings that you enjoy with some music (if that’s your thing), a drink and enjoy your time clicking away at your keyboard (or scribbling on paper). If you’re struggling with motivation why not write with a friend, on a friend’s blog or ask the friend to write on your blog, either way you should get a nice boost out of sharing your creativity.

So, what are you waiting for, get to work and just write something!

Using data to build better education systems: Andreas Schleicher at TEDGlobal 2012

Using data to build better education systems: Andreas Schleicher at TEDGlobal 2012.

“Investing in teachers themselves is perhaps most critical of all. The progress and growth of the educators themselves matters, and it’s crucial to create helpful, supportive environments in which they continue to learn. High-performing countries have systems that allow teachers to innovate and develop pedagogic practices, looking past test results and outwards toward life in the world at large.”


11 Ways to Take Notes While Reading

11 Ways to Take Notes While Reading

For those of you like me, who are still teaching themselves to teach themselves.

For years I have been reading inefficiently and not really understanding what I’d read after I had read it or got frustrated having to skim back through books.

I wanted an easy way of taking notes without distracting too much from the joy of reading.

I’m going to employ a system of post-it notes and different coloured pens.


British Ph.D. Students Don’t Tweet

British Ph.D. Students Don’t Tweet

Few British Ph.D. students explore new technologies in their research or understand the range of information available to them, a report commissioned by the British Library and higher education technology body JISC has found.

“Researchers of Tomorrow,” being released today, surveyed more than 17,000 Ph.D. students over three years, following 60 in depth and looking in particular at those born between 1982 and 1994, the so-called Generation Y. It states that despite being technologically savvy, Generation Y doctoral students know little about the range and authenticity of research information available in new formats such as online databases, e-journals and repositories, and few know how to access it.

They also have little understanding of open access and copyright. Many believe supervisors would not approve of citing open-access papers and only 26 percent know that funders are beginning to expect open access to the research they support.

Julie Carpenter, the report’s co-author and director of the consulting firm Education for Change, told Times Higher Education that the results suggested a neglect of doctoral students and that they experienced a sense of isolation. Institutional support  in terms of library offerings, information on the research environment, and training was not working, and there needed to be a “paradigm shift” in the way the sector helps and engages with Ph.D. students, she said.

“There’s a disconnect between strategic organizations such as JISC, [which are] hell-bent on saying you must use these wonderful tools, promote sharing and move research into the electronic age, and institutions themselves,” she added.

This was mirrored by another of the study’s findings: that although Generation Y students use some online tools such as bookmarking and RSS web feed alerts, very few employ collaborative technologies such as wikis, blogging and Twitter in their research, despite using such tools in their personal lives.

Debbie McVitty, research and policy officer for postgraduates at the National Union of Students and a member of the study’s advisory group, partly attributed this risk aversion to the pressure on Ph.D. students to complete their doctorates rather than create great research. “The people going to adopt [technologies] early are probably people such as professors, who are more established in their position and can afford to be more experimental,” she said.

“Access to an academic job could turn on a dime; you don’t want to take any risks.”

Alongside library staff and university managers, supervisors needed to play a greater role in informing students, with support tailored to their fields, McVitty said.

The report also found a “striking dependence” by Ph.D. students on other people’s conclusions rather than original sources. According to the survey, in four out of five cases Ph.D. students sought published books and papers when looking for information to help with their research, rather than “primary” material such as specimens, archives and datasets.

Students must also be collecting data and doing original research in addition to exploring such secondary sources, Carpenter said, but the finding may identify a trend that, if verified, would have “quite serious” implications.

How Does Digital Literacy differ from Traditional Literacy and Which Comes First?

Mike Vigilant (@mikevigilant) asked on Twitter, “How much (if any) of digital literacy is tied to actual literacy, and which comes first?”

Literacy is a competency of knowledge in a specific area; traditionally known as reading and writing and to be literate is to have that competency. Traditional literacy (and we will assume reading and writing) is at the core of all traditional learning, that being in a school or institution but also other, non formal learning environments. Gee (1987) also notes that, in middle class learners, literacy skills are learned outside of (and often before) school and what is done in schools is a refinement and practicing of those skills.

The notion of digital literacy is regularly up for debate; what is digital literacy? Is it relevant to our learners? And what level is an acceptable level of digital literacy? When I was at secondary school (I finished in 2001-2007) digital literacy was unheard of but computer literacy was an important area of the curriculum and was measured by the student’s ability to create a publication using Word, an effective spreadsheet using Excel and a Powerpoint presentation and according to Dr Alison Hramiak (2012), very little has changed. A feeling exists among educators “that teachers will have to learn a new vocabulary, before our students leave us behind” (Hramiak, 2012) since students, often with access to better ICT facilities at home than at their place of learning, will multitask “in three different windows and they’ve got three magazines open and they’re listening to iTunes and they’re texting with their friends and they’re doing their homework.” (Tapscott and Williams, 2011). These sorts of students (much in the same way as Gee’s belief that literacy skills are learned outside of the classroom) are digital literate without ever having to formally learn the skills. This generation of students are widely becoming known as digital natives.

Gunther Kress, in his book Literacy in the New Media Age (2003), suggests that our view on literacy needs to be broadened to envelope media communications, including screen, online, image and more recently, I believe, social media literacy; digital literacy is social, it’s informative, it’s engaging, it’s participatory,  and it’s evolving at a very fast rate. Tom Whitby (2012) believes that “Digital Literacy is a responsibility every educator must accept in order to be relevant in a rapidly changing digital world.”. It isn’t something that necessarily has to be met at a similar pace or indeed, kept ahead of but an acceptance, an acknowledgment that the world online is moving and changing at a tremendous speed is vital in order to remain relevant and aware of the learners needs. Although the chasm in knowledge may appear vast, what does seem evident is that learners have a competency but not an understanding, similarly to when learners have the ability to read but have no understanding of sentence structure, grammar or lexis; this is where the gap can be bridged.

But the question now is how can these “digital native” students be taught how to practice and refine their (digital) literacy skills in a classroom environment? Carlacio and Heidig (2009) have developed a theory that in many senses the “digital natives” are already literate in the sense that they “can text, blog, and Twitter; they socialize on, embed videos in, and share photos and links on their Facebook pages; and they are experts at finding information (or so they believe) via Google.” but they do not have what they call “critical literacies” and so that is what we need to be focusing on. Dustin Johnson (2012) says “Digital Literacy training must take place in a context in which the product is relevant and meaningful to the student.” and so for this to happen the learners need, obviously, to be in a classroom with access to audio and visual recording equipment, editing software and to be connected to the internet. They need to engage with the idea of digital literacies by demonstrating their knowledge of digital literacies. So then, in a closed but social forum (mimicking something like Twitter of Facebook), the students should discuss their (online) research about gathering information and presented in the (student’s) preferred digital format, this in turn, can be peer assessed therefore making it social. What also needs to be in place is the understanding of how the internet is moderated and so their discussion should be (digitally) socially acceptable too, encouraging their demonstration and understanding of online etiquette. The final “product” of the students can be a communally created wiki which could be published online for further development and criticism.

This way of learning is participatory, fulfills the students desires to be multitasking, online and social. The learning process takes place in a social, digital environment as does the assessment product, all of which (discussion, research, findings and assessment product) can be overseen by the educator who may also benefit from feeding back using an online, social medium throughout the process. The task not only allows students to understand how they’re using digital resources but to reflect on it critically and demonstrate that through their use of digital resources.

In conclusion, “how much of digital literacy is tied to actual (traditional) literacy?” A lot of the same skills are used; comprehension, analysis, discussion and indeed, reading and writing and so it is clear that they are intrinsically linked however it is also clear that a being able isn’t quite the same as being truly literate. “Which comes first?” is a tough question and although, traditional literacy and digital literacy are intrinsically linked and without reading and writing one would hugely struggle to participate online, how beneficial is traditional literacy in this new, fast moving, digital world? I think, eventually, the impact of traditional literacy classes will be overshadowed by the benefices of a great and critical literacy of the digital world.

Carlacio, J. & Heidig, L., 2009. Teaching Digital Literacy Digitally: A Collaborative Approach. In Teaching Digital Literacy Digitally: A Collaborative Approach. Massachusetts, pp. 1-13. Available at: [Accessed June 15, 2012].

Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M., 2000. Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. Harvard. Available at: [Accessed May 16, 2012].

Gee, J., 1987. What Is Literacy? In Families and Literacy. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Hramiak, A., 2012. What does it mean to be literate in 2012? Friday 10 February. Available at: [Accessed June 13, 2012].

Johnson, D, 2012. Digital Literacy training must take place in a context in which the product is relevant and meaningful to the student. Jun 12, 2012, [Accessed Jun 12, 2012]

Kalantzis, M., Kress, G & Luke, A., 1996. A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard. Available at: [Accessed May 16, 2012].

Kress, Gunther, 2003. Literacy in the New Media Age, London & New York: Routledge.

Tapscott, D. & Williams, A.D., 2010. MacroWikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World, New York: Atlantic Books.

Vigilant, M, 2012, How much (if any–not a loaded question) of digital literacy is tied to *actual* literacy, and which comes first? Jun 12, 2012 [Accessed Jun 12, 2012]

Whitby, T, 2012. Digital Literacy is a responsibility every educator must accept in order to be relevant in a rapidly changing digital world. Jun 12, 2012, [Accessed Jun 12, 2012]