Teaching and learning in a digital age: myths of digital competence

Watling, Sue (2014) Teaching and learning in a digital age: myths of digital competence. In: Life of i; 14th Durham BB Users Conference, 9 - 10 January 2014, Calman Learning Centre, Durham University.

Myths of Digital Competence Blackboard User Conference Durham January 2014 (1).ppt
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Myths of Digital Competence Blackboard User Conference Durham January 2014 (1).ppt - Presentation

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The human need to create, manage and control information and communication remains constant. It could be said books and Blackboard sites are different ways of doing the same thing and the gap between Gutenberg and Google is not as wide as it might first appear. In 370 BC Plato has Socrates bemoaning the introduction of writing as damaging to human memory. In 1981 Neil Postman predicted the rise of cable television would result in us all amusing ourselves to death. Back in 15th century Europe the printing press caused such alarm the Catholic Church introduced censorship; all books were to be approved before publication. It’s not unusual for new technologies to be heralded with doom and gloom.
Marc Prensky’s concept of Digital Natives Digital Immigrants could come into this category. In 2001 he offered a provocative but enduring image of technology as the agent of changing brains and behaviors of young people. While his ideas have since been challenged the myth of the digital native remains persistent. Young people are imagined to be tech savvy while older ones struggle.

I deliver a postgraduate course Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age (TELEDA) which is taught and assessed through Blackboard. TELEDA aims to create an experiential insight for staff into the loneliness of the long distance learner. It offers a valuable insight into how Blackboard is used across the institution. Digital education is also the subject of my Phd where I’m using an educational design research methodology to work alongside colleagues in the mutual discovery of appropriate support for digitally literate pedagogic practice.

Many participants are low Blackboard users but looking to extend their face to face teaching to blended or part time off campus provision. The TELEDA course begins with Prensky’s Digital Natives Digital Immigrants paper and online discussions get lively because everyone has a view on Prensky. Even colleagues initially unsure about contributing to virtual conversations find their nerves are partially overcome because they have something to say about the need to support individual digital literacies and how they cannot be taken for granted.

My experience of ‘teaching the teachers’ on Blackboard confirms my day to day practice as a coordinator of digital education. Confidence and competence with learner technologies cannot be anticipated. Early, mid or late career is no predictor of Blackboard use and engagement. There are older people comfortable with online collaborative working and younger ones unsure of how to insert a picture or attach a file.

This presentation suggests digital literacies are too often assumed rather than addressed. Where technology plays a prominent role in people’s lives, it can create digital closeting which prevents awareness of the full spectrum of digital engagement. My presentation examines the myth of digital competence, where those who teach and support learning are employed for their subject specialisms rather than their digital literacies, and calls for meaningful communication between those who support, maintain and mandate the technology and those who use it as a part of their day to day teaching practice.

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives Digital Immigrants. Available from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Keywords:digital literacies, digital competency, Blackboard, virtual learning environment, technology enhanced learning
Subjects:X Education > X142 Training Teachers - Higher Education
Divisions:Professional services > Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute
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ID Code:13953
Deposited On:16 May 2014 12:20

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