Friday, May 23, 2008

Finding the community of faculty interested in new literacy

I recently met Carol Holder, a specialist in teaching writing, who wrote an an article on New Media and New Literacies. I'd recommend reading the article, and following the links in it.

Holder worries that faculty, courses and academic programs are stuck in the past while new media and new modes of communication are rapidly evolving. She wonders what it will take to see new media, multi modal literacies, and curriculum and instructional change at colleges and universities, and goes on to give examples of people using and talking about new media and literacies.

She begins with the use of tools like email, wikis and shared documents in traditional writing classes. Next she describes Calibrated Peer Review, a highly structured writing service developed by the UCLA chemistry faculty. (I think it is too complex and structured, but you should check it out).

The second half of the article describes journals, Web sites and blogs, which serve the community of faculty in composition, rhetoric, and communication who are exploring new literacies in their scholarship and teaching. I will cover them in future posts, but if I were you, I would check them out now -- don't wait for me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

More data on student IT experience and expectations

We've discussed our student's preparation -- what they do and do not know when they start school. The Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) conducts an annual study of students and information technology.

They have published the following on the 2007 study:

The highlights include many observations, including these:

What do students do with IT?

How much IT do students want in their classes?

(Unfortunately, the full study requires a paid ECAR membership)

Would you like to include your students in future surveys? If so, contact Judy Caruso,

Digital visual literacy -- creating and interpreting images

Educause conducts hour long webcasts of topics of interest to University IT faculty and staff. Some of them have been relevant to computer literacy. For example, the program this week was Digital Visual Literacy: Interdisciplinary Skills for the 21st-Century Learner.

The webcast presents an NSF-sponsored project that began at the Brown University Computer Science Department, which is known for computer graphics. The project is based on the premise that digital literacy -- the ability to create and critically interpret visual images like graphs, photos and drawings -- is critical in the 21st century.

You might like to incorporate one of their teaching modules as part of a course you teach. The modules are:

  • Introduction to Digital Visual Literacy
  • Practical Visual Copyright Skills
  • Visual Rhetoric for Blogs
  • Visual Dialog in ECommerce
  • Graphics Literacy
  • 3D Graphics
  • Visual Display of Information using Word 2003
  • Visual Display of Information using Power Point 2003
  • Influencing Decisions with Charts using Excel 2003
  • Visual Display of Information in Word 2007
  • Effective Visual Display of Information using Power Point 2007
  • Influencing Decisions with Charts using Excel 2007
All of the teaching material is free, and they encourage us to use it, develop related material, and give them feedback -- to form a community of visual literacy teachers. You can get the modules and learn more here. (Before you can download modules, you must request a password by sending an email to co-principal investigator Oris Friesen,

Click here for archives of previous Educause Live webcasts.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Gathering data on what our students know and don't know

We've talked about what typical students know and don't know about IT. The accepted wisdom is that new students are "digital natives," who know more than we do. However, the knowledge of some digital natives is shallow and brittle -- an inch deep and a mile wide.

Sociologist Eszter Hargittai has studied the content creation and sharing behavior and the digital literacy of undergraduate students at the ethnically diverse University of Illinois, Chicago. Her findings are summarized in an interview entitled A Sociologist Says Students Aren't So Web-Wise After All.

The interview draws upon research reported by Hargittai and Gina Walejko in The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age. You might also be interested in this article, which defines Hargittai's measure of digital literacy.

It would be interesting to put a version of Hargittai's digital literacy survey on the Net. It could be used to gather data on the general public, employees of organizations, students at other universities, etc. If such a survey caught on, it would be a way to gather data and track trends over time.