ALDinHE: 23 things for digital literacy

Helen Webster (@scholastic_rat) ran an excellent workshop on ’23 things for digital literacy’, a project she has been working on to help support PhD students and early career researchers. Like Emma, Helen hails from the University of Cambridge, source of the 23 Things Cambridge blog – “the online home of the Web 2.0 programme for University of Cambridge departmental and college librarians”. The essence of ’23 things’ is simple. You start a blog, updating it weekly. The updates are structured around a ‘thing’ of the week, introduced by the programme leader. This could be something like using wikis, twitter, LinkedIn or RSS feeds. As it is done in the individuals own time, the discovery and use of the ‘thing’ is within their own context.

What Helen has done with the project however, is to adapt it to work with research student support. Digital literacy is of great importance for any researchers and ’23 things’ is a brilliant way to break away from ICT training sessions that simply force all the students to sit at machines while some tools are dictated to them. Breaking out of this classroom, 23 things enables students to use their own equipment, helps them to learn by doing and ensures what they are doing is within the context of their own research. The crucial element is NOT the ‘thing’ itself. It is the process of engaging with a ‘thing’ and the confidence to try something new. This is important as any given tool could quickly become defunct, obsolete or even closed – as is the case with Google Reader.

To ensure interactivity, launch workshops were help so students could meet each other. More importantly, they are encouraged to comment on each others blogs. When approaching a ‘thing’ they are told to be skeptical. Just because the ‘thing’ is introduced by the programme leader, it does not mean it is a tool to be used. It is something to be investigated. Only they can decide if it is of use to their own context. An example of the discourse around each topic could be Dropbox. It can be argued it is an excellent tool for preserving historical documents but an inappropriate tool for storing confidential and sensitive interviews.
See it in action here:
See Helen’s website here