Openness has become part of the language of higher education. Open academic practice includes open educational resources, open source and open course ware; all examples of the affordances of the internet for supporting equality of access. One of the most recent additions to open opportunities for participation is OpenDyslexic. Developed by Abelardo Gonzalez, this is a free font designed to improve reading content online.
Digital data’s inherent flexibility to support a diverse range of access requirements has long been promoted. TechDis and Dyslexia Friendly Text from the British Dyslexia Association have offered a range of alternatives but there has been no one size fits all solution. OpenDyslexic attempts to overcome this. It reflects how ebook readers are making digital the choice of text for many users while also supporting the philosophy and practice of openness. The font has bottom-weighted characters, designed to reduce letter-swapping and increase the differentiation between similar-looking letters. this may improve readability not just for people with dyslexia but those with low vision might also find this font useful with large chunks of text.
OpenDyslexic can be downloaded here http://dyslexicfonts.com/downloads.php Adding the font to Chrome is one of the options (if you use Chrome) but you need to know about extensions to remove it. Only some environments allow the font change and where the default font size is 10 or under the text has a tendency to blur. There is always a technology gap between the theory and the reality and all to often those who would most benefit from the additional support are those who fall down it. OpenDyslexic is an example of a potential bridge but I think there’s still much to do with user testing and participation.
Join the digital literacies conversation here http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/digitalliteracies
Background: digital literacies are difficult to define. They describe many different things and this flexibility can be a strength or a weakness. The strength is the opportunity for drawing attention to key issues around digital ways of working. The weakness is the potential for misinterpretation; digital literacies can be different things to different people. When it comes to describing them where is the best place to begin? JISC says they define those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society. If you’re looking for a pragmatic approach this isn’t very helpful but it does offer the scope for a broad view and with something as fundamental as communication that wider analysis is crucial.
The shift to digital practices has happened very quickly and the associated confidence and competencies have become complex. Digital literacies are much more than the ability to word process an assignment or access email. These are important graduate attributes but the management of digital lives and the presentation of our selves online are important too. If we’re to provide appropriate support and resources, we need to know where best to target them.
You are invited to use the comment box below this post to say what digital literacies mean to you or if you prefer a less public option, click this link http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/digitalliteracies I look forward to hearing from you.
Perceptions are shifting with regard to digital literacies. The phrase is now taking on much broader professional and public dimensions as well as personal ones.
Recently the Guardian Higher Education Network published twenty ways of thinking about digital literacy. Helen Beetham calls for ethical responsibilities in environments where public and private are blurred. This is the professional aspect of digital literacies; recognising the need for multiple identities and knowing where to draw the lines between them. Presentation of self online to family and friends is different to the presentation of self in work environments. Digital interaction with clients, customers and service users differs from interaction with students, colleagues and management. Understanding the permanence of digital footprints and the speed at which digital content can be taken out of context and spread across world wide networks is too easy to underestimate, as is the unpredictable behaviour of strangers online. We don’t know what other people will do with our content making it critical to think before uploading and bear in mind the limitless breadth and depth of digital landscapes.
Sue Thomas says nothing exists in isolation. We need to consider a range of information and communication media and adopt holistic and inclusive approaches to transliteracies. However, inclusion means more convergence across than multiple forms of expression. Inclusion is the public aspect of digital literacies. It refers to the dichotomy of digital practices where the technology which enables access can also deny it unless steps are taken to ensure barrier free ways of working. The university of the future needs to be many things and one of these is the producer of students who are aware of the parameters of digital divides and know how to recognise and challenge instances of digital exclusion.
The triad of the public, the professional and the personal lies at the core of higher education with its focus on critical reflective practice and social responsibility. If the relevant and appropriate digital literacies for a digital age are to be embedded as whole institution strategies then their public, professional and personal dimensions must be recognised and supported too.
HEA have updated Pedagogy for Employability, first published in 2006. The report distinguishes employment as a graduate outcome from pedagogy for employability, where the knowledge, skills and attributes which support continued learning and career development are embedded in the teaching and learning curriculum.
There is no mention in this report of the word digital (as in digital literacies, digital graduate attributes) and only one single mention of Internet which occurs in a list of employers employability skills namely the application of information technology which contains the following: basic IT skills, including familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, file management and use of internet search engines.
Considering the social impact of the Internet and the prevalence of digital ways of working, it could be suggested this is a low level set of expectations with no mention of the critical evaluation of online content, boundaries between public and personal online identity or behaviour, professional standards with email or the principles of data protection. Employers must prefer employees to demonstrate digital graduate attributes such as these but where are they supposed to develop them?
The JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme recognises the need for embedding them in the curriculum for all staff and students in UK further and higher education, saying ‘many learners enter further and higher education lacking the skills needed to apply digital technologies to education’. Where 90% of new jobs require excellent digital skills, improving digital literacy has become an essential component of developing employable graduates so it’s disappointing to see a 2012 document looking at Pedagogy for Employability where the only digital literacies mentioned are those listed above.
While the soapbox is out, this seems an appropriate point to mention the new Admissions Guidelines for social work students. At a time when the Social Work Reform Board have been reviewing social work education, and the existing QAA Subject Benchmarks for social work offer the best model across the sector for ensuring digital graduate attributes, a new set of competencies have been devised. Future applicants will have to demonstrate they are in possession of the appropriate information technology skills prior to the start of their programme namely they have the ability to use basic IT facilities, including word processing, internet browsing and use of email.
At some point the phrase basic IT skills needs to be redefined to include the commonly used definition of digital literacies namely’ those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society’. These are far more than file management, email and the use of internet search engines.
OER Copyright and Licenses was the first Embedding OER Practice workshop run by Paul Stainthorp, Julian Beckton and Joss Winn. The session introduced the complexities of copyright legislation. In a world where the internet has become the first destination of choice when it comes to creating teaching and learning content, it offers an infinite source of materials and there are many common myths about their usage
- “It’s OK if it’s in a closed environment like Blackboard.”
- “If people put things (e.g. images) on the WWW, they can’t mind me using them.”
- “No-one’s going to sue the University over it.”
All of these are incorrect. It’s worth bearing in mind that in the copyright world everything belongs to someone. So although taking and reusing online content is easy, there are a complex set of rules and regulations to be aware of. Unfortunately there is also no single answer as to what can or cannot be taken but some guidelines are more fixed than others. For example you can reuse content if:
- You are the originator therefore you have the copyright
- You have the permission from the originator to reuse their materials
- The materials have a creative commons licence stating they are freely available
- The content is covered by a university licence to be used
- The content copyright has expired (usually a 70 year time span)
- The amount copied is not considered substantial
- You can claim a defence of fair dealing
The last two are where the complexity begins. Substantial is undefined. For example a square taken from the face of the Mona Lisa would be more substantial than the same sized square taken from the bottom right of the picture. The face would be more recognisable than her dark clothes so has a different significance in terms of copyright legislation. The defence of fair dealing is also an arbitrary ruling. While the work of others can be copied for criticism or review – e.g. teaching and learning – we can’t rely on this as a defence in law that the action was justified. There is no exception to copyright for education purposes in the UK as there is in other countries and the concept of fair dealing is less applicable in law than is often realised. When we take content there is always a risk and individuals have to consider the level of that risk.
Everything belongs to someone. A colleague gave the useful example of wanting to use the London Underground tube map in a book and having the publishers request permission. London Transport agreed but with restrictions on the artwork and a fee of £300. This applies to logos and trademarks and was relevant to me – when I talk about the digital divide I use the slide below.
How illegal is this? What is the risk level of stealing all these logos for educational purposes? Scary stuff if only because this illustrates how easy it is to do this without thinking through the potential consequences.
What all this does do is reinforce the value of Creative Commons licences which will be looked at next.
Today is the start of a HEA Change Academy programme. This is part of the Embedding OER Practice in Institutions project here at the University of Lincoln. The project is looking at the philosophy and practice of open education and the use and reuse of OER and embedding that practice across the whole institution. The Change Academy is about supporting institutional change by working with staff and students to create those conditions most conducive to change. Engagement with OER is part of a much wider picture of the use of technology for learning which includes VLEs, Web 2.0 style tools and social media –as well as familiarity with the open education movement in general and open educational resources in particular. Even higher and wider to this is the individual need for confidence and competence working within digital environments and understanding what makes effective digital learning experiences. All of this involves change – in particular the adoption of digital literacies – those skills and understandings which are essential to teaching, learning and professional practice in a digital age. The Change Academy will help ensure individual project outcomes can be sustainable and identify ways for embedding them at departmental and Faculty level while overall project guidance to OER practice within teaching and learning aims to bring in all other academic and professional support staff from across the university. Watch this space for further developments…
See my post on Embedding OER Practice for more details about the HEA/JISC funded project to look at the use of open educational resources for teaching and learning. Here are some more reasons why this is going to be an exciting opportunity to put the spotlight on virtual teaching and learning experiences. Embedding OER Practice will draw attention to the role of online learning across the university as well as highlighting the effective use of digital resources. The project will promote the advantages of the open education movement and support staff in becoming more familiar with terms like Creative Commons, Lincoln Academic Commons, public copyright licences, Shuttleworth Foundation, Capetown Open Educational Declaration and the accessing and contributing to repositories of learning content
As well as offering experience with finding, evaluating, using, repurposing and replacing open educational resources, the project is an ideal opportunity for addressing the wider issues around supporting the digital literacies of staff and students.The term digital literacies is popular at the moment. The JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme is currently funding a number of projects across the sector, all aimed at promoting digital literacies strategies and approaches. This is a necessary step forward. For too long those with technical competence have made assumptions about those without. The result is a widening digital divide, exacerbated by a determinist view of technology having transformative potential, not only for access to learning environments which cross barriers of time and distance, but to cut costs and increase efficiency. All this underpins investment in the digital teaching and learning platforms promoted across the sector as a means for institutions to achieve key strategic aims (HEFCE 2005, 2009*). The missing element from these grand schemes has always been the human one; how best to scaffold support for the necessary changes in attitudes, behaviours and practice. Promoting digital literacies is an ideal way to address these issues full on.
The term digital literacies is defined as ‘the confident and critical use of ICT for work, leisure, learning and communication‘ or ‘the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology’. Focusing on the embedding OER practice offers multiple opportunities to ensure digital literacies is on the agenda – and from there it is a small step to include awareness of exclusive and inclusive practices with digital environments and critical reflection on the boundary lines between private/personal and public/professional online identities and behaviours.
Oh yes, 2012 is going to be a very exciting year!
|Follow the OER project blog here http://oer.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk|
* Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (2OO9) Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology. A revised approach to HEFCE’s strategy for e-learning.
* Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (2OO5) Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology.
Embedding Open Educational Resources (OER) Practice in Institutions is a £50,000 project funded under the HEFCE/JISC/HEA OER Programme: Higher Education Institutional Change (HEIC) Strand. The aim of the project is to support Open Educational Resources (OER) policy and practice as a whole institution approach here at the University of Lincoln. Six project teams have been set up to look at how OER can be used to support different aspects of the student experience and I will be coordinating their progress over the next year. The six project areas are:
- Supporting Transition with OER
- Using OER to introduce the processes of reflection/critical thinking in Year One Semester One.
- Exploring the use of OER for embedding ‘employability’ in the undergraduate curriculum.
- OER and e-portfolios for students and practice educators or mentors on undergraduate and postgraduate work-based learning award.
- Exploring and embedding the use of OERs on PGCert/HE…and beyond.
- Project Six: Behind the Scenes: supporting OER as a whole institution philosophy.
Alongside scoping, using and repurposing OER, the HEA will run an internal Change Academy programme at Lincoln. This process includes specific development opportunities for the team leaders and an ongoing support network for all team members. The Change Academy programme supports both rapid innovation and capacity-building for longer-term change and aims to provide creative environments to focus on planning and developing strategies for lasting change. This will be an excellent way to expand the outcomes and successes of individual projects across the wider departments and Faculties while working towards the institution wide adoption of the philosophy and practice of OER. In doing so there will also be opportunities to surface the associated digital literacies requirements of students and staff and address inclusive digital practices. A win-win situation!
Further details about the programme can be found at the project blog http://oer.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk
The NUS report Student Perspectives on Technology was released last year. Out of the findings has come a neat little Charter called Technology in Higher Education containing ten recommendations for the adoption of digital technologies within higher education.
It’s interesting how the impetus for change is coming from the bottom up. The NUS is calling for a modernisation of teaching and learning practices in order to take advantages of the affordances of virtual learning technologies. What is reassuring is that in place of the sector’s initial determinism of early promises of transformation, the Charter recognises the need for investment in staff development and practical support for both staff and students in order to make the most effective use of digital ways of working. The calls for accessibility and inclusion, a regularly revised ICT strategy and holistic management of expectations with regard to the use of the technology are equally welcome. The ten recommendations can be found below. Here’s hoping there are enough open doors and signposted routes onto the relevant decision making processes for the NUS to ensure they can all be adopted.
- All institutions should have an ICT strategy that is regularly revised
- Institutions should invest in staff development and should give recognition to the effective use of technology in learning
- All staff and students should receive comprehensive and appropriate training and support
- Institutions should consider the accessibility and implications of technology-enhanced learning for all student groups
- Innovative use of digital technology should be supported by the curriculum design process
- Administration should be made more accessible through the use technology, including e-submission, feedback and course management
- Institutions should understand and highlight the link between technology-enhanced learning and employability
- Using technology to enhance learning and teaching should be a priority when making investment decisions
- Institutions should conduct wider research into student demand and perception of technology
- Digital technologies should enhance teaching but not be used as a replacement to existing effective practice