The CLTR Learning and Teaching Symposium on Wednesday 22nd February 2006, had a focus that was quite relevant to our work. I‘ll try to note in these next posts some things that will be worth considering from our point of view.
The ‘round-table’ discussion that I took part in was about e-literacy, and led by Lindsey Martin. The supporting paper was subtitled ‘Providing non-technical support for online learners’, which points towards an idea of what e-literacy might cover.
The discussion looked at how ‘e-literacy’ was different to ‘literacy’ as that term has been understood, and it was noted that the understanding of this term has changed through time. A couple of hundred years ago, someone would be considered literate if they could write their name, whereas now we expect more. It was suggested that in time, e-literacy would be just part of what we mean by literacy. But deciding on a definition will help us move towards that place by enabling informed and directed teaching. Literacy involves understanding and being understood, and as such e-literacy involves understanding and being understood in the digital age.
So what skills do people require to understand and be understood (trying to keep away from basic technical skills as an answer)? Well an understanding of conventions on the web would be an example – knowing how sites generally work (e.g. hypertext), that a picture of a house will take you to the site’s main page, that a blue underlined word is a link… there are probably huge amounts that I take for granted.
E-literacy also moves ideas of literacy away from just looking at text, which reminds us that literacy is only meaningful in particular contexts. I could be able to read books, but struggle to read txt msgs, struggle to navigate web sites (even those using general conventions).
How can we help our students to become more ‘e-literate’? We can help them by designing online materials that have intuitive designs, making the strange digital environment a little more accessible. I guess our ‘Introductory Module’ on WebCT is an example of e-literacy training, and as has been noted in earlier posts online discussion (even face-to-face discussion) requires skills that people will not necessarily come to Higher Education with, and training for discussion could be experimented with.
Here are some links that might have more ideas:
The International Journal of E-Literacy – This has a definition: “the awarenesses, skills, understandings, and reflective approaches necessary for an individual to operate comfortably in information-rich and IT-enabled environments.”