Digital Literacy

A post be @trainingtoteach on twitter got me thinking about what we mean by digital literacy.    This instantly caused me problems as it covers a rather broad spectrum.   As a result I decided to write this post in the hope of gaining some insight in thinking about digital literacy and trying to type up this post.

My first thoughts on “what is” digital literacy weren’t really getting me far so I decided to take a slightly different approach.    I decided to approach it from the other side of things and what is NOT digitally literate.

Not being digitally literate would involve being unable to make use of digital technologies.   By this I don’t mean being unable to make use of specific apps but being unable to make use of technology to solve a specific need or problem.    I think the need for a problem or a task is key as we don’t just use technology, we use it for a purpose.

Giving some consideration to what the problems might be and communicating with others, research, managing ourselves and others (e.g. online calendars and productivity tools), creating content to meet a specific need and modifying or combining existing content to create new content all jump to mind.   This seems to align a little bit with the so called 21st century skills.    I suspect with more time I could arrive at more problems or better define them however the focus of this post is on what it is to be digitally literate.

When encountering a problem we first need to be able to identify that technology could help us.   Someone who isn’t digitally literate may be unable to arrive at this conclusion.   Next a non-digitally literate person, upon realising technology can help, may not know what tools to use.    A person who is not digitally literate would be unable to progress from here as they would know little of the available tools plus be unable to carry out research to identify tools that would be able to help.   They would also lack the ability to use communication and collaboration tools such as twitter, email, etc. to ask others for support.     Even if they can identify tools they may have difficult in identifying the best tool for the given situation. They would lack the knowledge, understanding and skills required in identifying what technologies tools to use as well as why a specific tool is the best option.

Assuming a person manages to get past the first phase and identifies appropriate software and hardware the next phase would be to make use of the technology to solve the issue at hand.    A person who was not digitally literate may be unable to use the tools at hand.    They would lack the skills and experience.  They would also be unable to use research tools, etc. to try and learn a new tool.   They wouldn’t be able to use trial and error or intuition and the hopefully appropriately designed user interface.    How to use the technology would present a problem.

Another area a non-digitally literate person would have difficulty with would be finding and creating resources.   They wouldn’t know where to find images or audio files for use and would also have difficulty with creating their own files.

The issue with resources brings me nicely to another area where the non-digitally literate user would have difficulty.   They wouldn’t understand the implications of using resources from other users.   They wouldn’t understand copyright or licensing including creative commons licensing.     The failure to understand implications of technology use would likely extend beyond just copyright into areas such as online safety and privacy.    They may not understand the implications of posting a personal image on Facebook with poor privacy settings.

So being non-digital literate is not knowing what do use, why to use and/or how to use it.    It is also not understanding the implications of technology use.    I cant help thinking that this isn’t any different from having the skills and experience to use any tool, technological or not.   If I am a tradesperson do I not need to know which tool to use and when.   Do I not need to have the skills to use it and an understanding of the implications of its use?     When we talk about language literacy are we not talking about using the correct terms, syntax, etc. and therefore knowing what, why and how to use the tool of language, along with the implications?

So why are discussions of digital literacy so complex?






The internet isn’t working. A disaster?

Yesterday afternoon while sat at home I suddenly started to experience internet issues, with my routers connection being intermittently lost.   I immediately carried out the usual checks to see if I could identify the issue however nothing on the internal network at home seemed to be amiss.   As such it was time to call my network provider to ask them to look into the situation.

Ok, so my first thought was: “time to google their helpline phone number.”

Not a great start given internet wasn’t working plus my home is very much a 4G/Mobile communications black spot.   And so it was I had to rummage through old paperwork in the hope of finding the sky customer service helpline number.    Thankfully I keep my paperwork so it didn’t take too long to find a number and get in contact with the helpline.

Having been told it would be up to 72 working hours before an engineer would be able to look into the issue I was very impressed when a call came through from an engineer only 4 or 5 hours after my initial call.   He promptly arrived and looked into the issue, pronouncing shortly after 5pm that he would need to investigate further and that this would be done the following morning.

And so I found myself, and family, sat without internet over the evening.   I repeatedly found myself in the early parts of the evening, accessing the router to check its status in the hope that internet would have been restored as if by magic.   Upon realising the futility of this I put my devices aside but still found myself periodically reaching for them to check my twitter, email, etc. again in the hope that the internet issue had got bored and resolved itself.    As it was it hadn’t.   In hindsight I cannot see what reason I had for believing my connection might have re-established itself without outside intervention.

The above goes to show how important, going on essential internet is.   I had an issue and the first place I wanted to look for a solution or a contact who might be able to assist was the internet.   Despite clear awareness of the fact the internet wasn’t working I repeatedly, due to habit and learned behaviour, kept reaching for my devices to access the internet.

Have you ever taken time to stop and look at your usage and reliance on technology?   Is this something we need to discuss with our students including the need to “disconnect”?



Data: Making better use?

One of my areas which I want to work on over the next year will be that of Management Information.   In my school as in almost all schools we have a Management Information System (MIS), sometimes referred to as a SIS (School or Student Information System).    This systems stores a large amount of student data including info on their performance as measured by assessments or by teacher professional judgement.    We also have data either coming from or stored in other data sources such as GL or CEM in relation to baseline data.   These represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of the data stored or at least available to schools and their staff.

Using the data we then generate reports which do basic summaries or analysis based on identified factors such as the gender of students, whether they are second language learners of English, etc.  Generally these reports are limited in that they consider only a single factor at a time as opposed to allowing for analysis of compound factors.   So gender might be considered in one report and then age in another, but not gender and age simultaneously.   In addition the reports are generally reported in a tabular format, with rows and columns of numeric values which therefore require some effort in their interpretation.    You cant just look at a tabular report and make a quick judgement, instead you need to exercise some mental effort in examining the various figures, considering and then drawing a conclusion.

My focus is on how we can make all the data we have useful and more usable.    Can we allow staff to explore the data in an easier way, allowing for compound factors to be examined?    Can we create reports which present data in a form from which a hypothesis can be quickly drawn?    Can the data be made to by live and dynamic as opposed to fixed into the form of predetermined “analysis” reports?   Can we adopt a more broad view of what data we have and therefore gather and make greater use of a broader dataset?

I do at this point raise a note of caution.   We aren’t talking about doing more work in terms of gathering more data to do more analysis.  No, we are talking about allowing for the data we already have to be better used and therefore better inform decision making.

I look forward to discussing data on Saturday as part of #EdChatMeda.    It may be the after this I may be able to better answer the above questions.

Reflections: The first quarter of 2017

And so April is upon us, and the 2nd term of the 2016-17 academic year comes to a close.    I have said it a few times already this year, but how time flies!

I thought now would be a good time to review the year so far and to look back on my resolutions for 2017 and evaluate the progress made to date.

When I wrote my resolutions I listed a need for mindfulness including an awareness of my emotional state, however I don’t think I fully appreciated the importance of this aspect of life.   My recent reading of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and also The Obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday have both further brought this into focus.     Our reality is viewed through the lens of our perception, therefore if we take a more optimistic view, if we focus on what is in our control, then we can bring about a more positive reality.     With this in mind I think I have made some progress, for realisation is a step in itself.   This however will need to be something which I continue to consider, and to revisit.

I don’t feel I have been as connected during the first quarter of 2017 as I maybe was in 2016 with a reduced engagement in twitter balanced out against a slight increase in my blogging.   I think this is reasonably fair and acceptable outcome.    I am starting to consider the depth of connection, with a view that some of my social media based connections are generally more shallow than corresponding in-person connections.     This seems to suggest that my focus should be more on attending events and building in person contacts however I am unsure as to how I will be able to fit this into a busy schedule.    I also wouldn’t want to lose out on my diverse range and highly valuable Professional learning network where it exists online.

My reading has definitely been going well so far this year.   As we reach the end of the 3rd month of the year, I have completed reading 6 books.     The books themselves have all been reasonably deep titles including Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.    I have very much enjoyed reading more, and even managed to find a single sunny day to spend outside in the gardening reading.   Hopefully the months ahead will provide more opportunities for this to happen.

As has been the case before the health and physical exercise side of things has slipped.    My planned walking across campus daily was adding time to my day albeit only 20mins or so and as such, and especially given the cold winter weather, I decided to stop this activity.   I now need to find some way to address this area in my life even more so having saw the news the other morning which raised the concern of the high percentage of people in the UK who live a sedentary lifestyle.    I suspect I am one of those people!

The family side of things have met with some success so far this year.   I am now spending a short daily burst of time with my son on his maths development in particular.   I have also managed to remember some of the key family dates and surprise my wife in doing so.    This is something I need to continue to work on.

My current book which I am reading is Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan.   I think it will be interesting to revisit my reflections having completed reading this as it has already raised some interesting ideas in relation to pleasure and purpose.   At this point I think I am more of a busy, or purposeful, person.  Am not sure yet whether this is a good thing or not.

I tried for a period to engage in daily journaling however this dropped away in the last month or so.    I think this may be an interesting practice to pick back up possibly using a purpose vs. pleasure framework for notes.     Hopefully this is therefore something I can recommence and sustain through the final term of the year.

All in all, I feel things are progressing steadily in terms of the things achieved, however time is seeming to fly by.   They do say that time flies when you are having fun, so for now I will be content to leave these reflections on that positive note.




Cameras in class: A positive use.

There are almost always two sides to technology.   In a post from a few months ago I cast a rather negative viewpoint on the use of cameras, in this case teacher body mounted cameras, in the classroom (You can read the post here).   I didn’t, and still don’t, like the idea of cameras for the purpose of policing poor behaviour.    The need for cameras for this purpose says a lot for the culture and climate in classrooms, which is unlikely to be conducive of learning, with or without body cameras.

This got me thinking of what the other side, the positive side, of cameras in classrooms might be.     A quick review of various articles I have read led me to come across a post in the Telegraph which discussed the introduction of meditation in class however within the content the plan to introduce cameras into “experimental” classrooms to aid in professional development was raised.   You can read the article here.

I came across this idea of using cameras for PD some years ago and I liked it.    The idea is that cameras are installed in classroom with a clear purpose of allowing teachers to review their own teaching in a bid to bring about improvement.   Teachers can therefore review their lessons via video footage to identify areas which went well and areas which went less well.    While in the UAE I made use of video footage with teachers as part of a programme of professional development.   Video provides an un-biased and accurate recording of the lesson whereas our memories of a lesson do not.    The actual act of first reviewing the lesson from memory and then watching a video of it can be quite informative in showing the errors which creep into our recollection of events. Quite often the video brought things to light that either the teacher hadn’t noticed or just hadn’t considered during the busy and complex process of teaching a class.   If the teacher wished they could then share the video with colleagues so that they could work together to review the lesson and discuss alternative approaches and ideas.    The whole approach is built around wanting to improve the quality of teaching and learning using technology and cameras as a tool to aid in this.   It is also clearly stated where cameras are used that the cameras are not used for the purposes of appraisal, performance management or any monitoring purpose.    The cameras are all about improving teaching and the footage is belongs to teacher.   This is important in making the teachers feel safe in the use of cameras in classrooms.

Technology is just a tool which is neither good or bad.    It is our use of that tool which is positive or negative in nature.   Using cameras in class for Professional Development is just one, in my view, positive approach to using technology.