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The REVEEL project was funded to consider “How compelling is the evidence for the effectiveness of Post-16 e-learning?” It concluded that ‘we are now learning in technology-rich societies and need to remodel education as lifelong learning.’ Learners therefore need to develop a ‘learning literacy’ defined as:
Technology, and particularly engagement with social technologies for informal learning purposes, was seen as contributing to the development of this literacy.
Literacies for Learning in Further Education looked at the literacy practices of learners’ everyday lives, and concluded that these were generally:
The strong implication was that support for the development of more formal literacies for learning should be designed along similar lines. A formal paper published from these findings (Mannion et al., 2009) concludes that: ‘contexts and their associated literacies are co-emergent and co-determined by each other, [therefore] literacy skills do not simply ‘transfer’ between contexts’. An effective, ‘critical’ literacy pedagogy should ‘pay respect to students’ everyday literacies as a valuable resource base in formal coursework’.
Next Generation User Skills: Working, Learning and Living Online in 2013 asked whether new ‘web 2.0’ methods of communicating, collaborating and contributing would become the core skills for 2013. Arguing that this may well be the case, the study then considered whether the current education system and its qualification frameworks were fit for purpose, assuming the purpose to be ‘harness[ing] the native ICT capabilities of young learners’ and turning these to lifelong learning and workplace skills. It concluded that this would depend on several factors:
This report can thus be seen as paralleling our own study process, albeit in a schools context and with a clearer commitment to employability as the main purpose of education. It usefully highlights the difficulty of anticipating future requirements, since tools and services, general (non educational) socio-technical practices, demand for different kinds of qualification, and changing social/economic values are all complex and interdependent systems.
A key challenge identified in the current situation is that qualifications and awards are almost always structured into silos, and focus on short-term, measurable outcomes. What this report calls ‘workflows’ around technology, and what we might call technical practices, are highly interdependent and may evolve over a long timeframe. So, for example, a capacity to choose between social, media and business software to solve a particular problem is a capacity that evolves with experience across multiple contexts.
OfCom’s Media Literacy Audit found that:
This study noted an increase in use of multiple devices for accessing media content, again with young people at the forefront.
The UK Government’s Draft Digital Britain Report notes the contested nature of the term ‘media literacies’ but includes and values the concepts of critical ‘reading’ and creative (co) production. The report identifies a wide range of agencies with a potential role to play in fostering media literacies, of which educational institutions are only one. The media itself, the arts, libraries, museums and galleries, and local communities are also important actors in this arena.
The key elements identified by the government as fostering ‘digital engagement’ are digital inclusion, digital life skills, and digital media literacy. These are placed in a continuum with the clear implication that media literacy is a higher-level capability, built on access and skills.
Digital Literacies in the Lives of Undergraduate Students: Exploring Personal and Curricular Spheres of Practice working in the ‘literacies as social practice’ area of the research landscape, reports on ethnographic findings from 45 undergraduates and found:
The DigEuLit project, as summarised in Martin and Grudziecki’s paper Concepts and Tools for Digital Literacy Development (2006) provides a useful model for thinking about levels of literacy:
Working with the JISC-funded Learners’ Experiences of e-Learning programme, Beetham and Sharpe have espoused a pyramid model of developing digital competence which, like Martin and Grudziecki, builds on basic access and skills, through practices and strategies, to ‘creative appropriation’ of technologies for personal development, personal styles of participation in learning, and the achievement of personal learning goals.
This programme has just completed its second phase and reports many findings of relevance to this study, based on research among HE and FE students in the UK. Among them:
This programme has also produced a range of more detailed findings about how learners ‘mature’ in their studies, and in particular their use of technologies for learning, and about strategies of ‘effective’ e-learners.
JISC/British Library ‘Google Generation’ report highlighted that:
It called on the Government to urgently consider its findings: ‘well-funded information literacy programmes are needed if the UK is to remain as a leading knowledge economy with a strongly-skilled next generation of researchers.
Learning from Digital Natives (Gcal) largely confirmed Bennet et al’s (2008) work in Australia and findings of the Learners’ Experience programme in its second phase, that:
Since 2007, Becta has undertaken a range of activities (research, evidence-gathering and opinion-forming) aimed at characterising the ‘e-maturity’ of individuals and organisations. A synopsis of work under the individual strand suggests that the e-mature learner demonstrates:
In addition, the report characterises progression in e-maturity as the development of self-confidence, self-reliance and independence in learning. It concludes that the role of the e-mature teacher is critical in facilitating this development.
In 2005 the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training produced a prototype . The accompanying report – credited to CEDEFOP – traces the rise in outcomes-based conceptions of learning and assessment, particularly in the vocational/work-based learning sectors but also in FE and HE, and the associated progress towards standardisation of competence definitions across the EC. In HE this has culminated in the Bologna accord, which promotes a single framework for describing higher qualifications. The focus on competence both allows transferability of credit across national boundaries, and allows individuals to integrate their formal and informal learning experiences.
This report distinguishes ‘functional’ accounts of competence, emphasising separate attributes and skills, with ‘interpretative’ accounts, emphasising how individuals understand and approach a task. It also summarises evidence that skills and competencies are not highly generalisable or transferable across contexts. In a review of policy and provision across the EU, it reports that the UK government has adopted a functional approach with a focus on individual skills/capabilities, though employers and professional bodies tend to favour a more behavioural approach, i.e. the demonstration of (a particular standard of) performance on work-based tasks.
Project Information Literacy (US) has produced a number of research reports including Head and Eisenberg (2009) Students find academic research challenging: ‘Finding contexts for “backgrounding” topics and for figuring out how to traverse complex information landscapes may be the most difficult parts of the research process.’