Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Digital Literacies For Biologists - Part 2

Digital literacy Last week over at the @leBioscience blog I published a post about Digital Literacies for Biological Science Students. The purpose of @leBioscience is to highlight best practice and research into teaching and learning within the School of Biological Sciences. The blog faces two ways - outwards to the World and inwards towards my colleagues. As is my practice, after I published the post, I distributed it locally via email. This Dark Social channel led to a lively and useful discussion. The purpose of this post is to surface and continue that dialogue.

After thinking about this over the weekend, it's clear that there is no real definition of digital literacy - the term obviously means different things to different people. That explains much of the wooliness of the debate. For that reason, it seems to me that the best way forward is to try to cut through the fog by adopting a pragmatic approach and avoiding the worst of the confusion.

Hard skills, e.g:
Statistical software (R)
Data processing
Bibliographic data
- and?
Teach in house, integrate with curriculum.

Soft skills, e.g:
Online identity
Social media
Keyboard skills (hugely important and almost always overlooked)
- and?
Outsource, augment curriculum.

I will be promoting this approach during out forthcoming curriculum redesign process. Will this view prevail, or will the whole thing get swept under the carpet because we can't agree what digital literacy is for our students?


  1. I absolutely agree and this is the approach I took in my thesis - identifying 8 different elements that enable you to come up with a definition that works for your context: (see Ch.9)

  2. Thanks Doug. Your 2008 blog post on not knowing what digital literacies are was what convinced me that there is no satisfactory definition and we're all talking about different things. Struggling toward a single definition confuses the issue rather than helping. I'm still not even sure of the difference between literacies, skills, and grokking (my preferred jargon).

  3. We will have opportunities to looks at the relationship between the disciplines and digital literacies as part of future work which is currently being planned. (I hope to be able to say more on this soon). The STEM disciplines will naturally offer opportunities for the 'hard' digital skills but these expand into literacies when they can be utilised readily in broader contexts, and also meeting up with the softer elements. I would hope we can highlight the 'value-added' that each discipline can bring to developing digital literacies in students and staff.