Two projects on digital literacies and some matters arising

I’m currently working on two Higher Education Innovation Fund projects that connect DMU into cultures/practices or discourses around what has been termed digital literacy. The first is called EARS2 (Electro-Acoustic Resource Site) and is a partnership between the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre and the Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology, both at DMU. The second is a knowledge exchange partnership between Leicester City Council, with Josie Fraser as lead, and the CELT team, and focuses upon the digital literacies of secondary school teachers in the City. There is some emergent work in this area that has been undertaken with librarians across Leicester as part of the LCC Connect project.


  • The project is based on the idea of finding mechanisms for presenting aspects of listening/appreciation, understanding of concepts and creativity, interactively within a single learning environment – in our specific case related to the body of music known as sonic art or electroacoustic music.
  • A proof of concept will be fully developed, based on drupal, with a wide variety of multimedia tools made available within the system.
  • The project builds upon the internationally acclaimed EARS Pedagogical Project, and aims to translate this for young people at Key Stages 3 and 4.
  • The key is the development of a holistic system that addresses users at their own level, and that focuses on musical, acoustical and relevant technical terminology and related theory and skills.
  • At issue is how to engage more inexperienced users in the relationships between appreciation <-> understanding <-> creativity
  • The drupal-based repository will provide a node-based framework for managing a hierarchical structure of web-based learning objects, and support teacher-led, pre-programmed and ‘à la carte’ routes for progression. Progression will include a timeline/historical dimension, but its navigation will be concept driven.
  • For example, the use of sounds from the real world as musical content can be found in a few examples in traditional acoustic music, but it becomes a fact of life with the birth of musique concrète in 1948. It evolved into a ‘household word’ when sampling in music became ubiquitous and could be applied musically on anyone’s PC. Therefore the concept of sound sources from the real world as musical material will be related to today’s sampling culture as well as the genres that use such sounds and will furthermore be linked to opportunities to organise sounds musically in terms of the system’s architecture.
  • Central to the project is the translation of electro-acoustic concepts to the curriculum at Key Stages 3 and 4, and this will involve work with practitioners in schools and colleges in the East Midlands and with European partners.

 A Framework for Digital Literacies across Leicester City Secondary Schools

The aim of this project is to transform educational provision across the city in all secondary schools through the strategic implementation of a digital literacy framework. The project will develop a generic structure incorporating best practice and a toolkit which will enable educators and learners to share an understanding of what constitutes digital literacy and how it can be translated into educational practices.

The aim is that implementation of the developmental framework within the city’s secondary schools will enable the Council to:

  • Improve learner outcomes and raise standards at city-wide level
  • Create a networked learning infrastructure
  • Develop resilient learning strategies
  • Share knowledge more effectively
  • Increase confidence, capacity and capability at a time of reducing budgets
  • Maximise investment in ICT infrastructure, realised in Building Schools for the Future
  • Ensure that user behaviours relating to the use of ICT contribute to reductions in energy consumption

The project is ambitious. It is intended not only to transform education across the city but also to serve as an exemplar both nationally and internationally. As such, outputs will be designed to be customisable, adaptable and able to be re-purposed.

Schools will be supported in the development of an online presence and identity, particularly in relation to social and collaborative web-based environments. 

Beyond the project, the new model will be cascaded to the city’s primary schools. Hence, we hope that the project will generate social benefits for both learners and educators by enabling the Council to move the whole City a step forward in digital literacy skills.

Matters arising

The following issues are live for these two projects and connect them to broader, critical and political narratives. 

FIRSTLY. The development of digital or web or worldly literacies or competancies or skills is contested, in terms of their definition, scope and purposes, and the complexities of constructing narratives and authorship/identity.  There are also issues of how technologies are deployed to enable learners to move in excess of themselves in appreciating and making their own creative artefacts and their own life-world. 

SECONDLY. In this process of using technology to enable students to produce or make their own work, makerspace projects offer ways of viewing the production of hacked curriculum spaces, which connect social tools to resources and activities for personalised learning. Here, the development of individual self-efficacy inside social learning environments highlights the importance of understanding whether structured, personalised opportunities enable a movement from apprenticeship to journeyman to mastery in new learning situations. Critical in this process of making is the ability to work across disciplines, and to make sense of the world through hacking or cracking established pieces of work. 

THIRDY. A connected strand that is important here is the ability for learners to collaborate on-line, and to gain credit for the outcomes that they have achieved or the skills they have developed. The Mozilla Badges initiative forms one mechanism through which a student’s developing repertoire of skills might be recognised and represented. Learners might (collaboratively) create their own badges or collect those created by peer-groups, including on established social networks like Edmodo.

FOURTHLY. These approaches might enable the idea of student-as-producer, as a demand for re-forming the role of the student inside education as a maker or producer of their own lived experiences, to be critiqued. In this process, listening, comprehending, making and remixing, might enable students and staff to emerge as social beings rather than simply emerging as institutionalised agents.

FIFTHLY. These ideas of student-as-producer and a pedagogy of excess are geared to individual mastery inside social spaces that require communal problem-definition and solving, and political transformation. By integrating these concepts technologically inside and against the established social relationships that exist in, and are framed by, both institutions and more network-centred spaces like MOOCs, it might be possible that students will be able to develop their own literacies, skills, capabilities, social practices, whatever. The challenge is to work with teachers and students to frame a set of activities and governances in both the digital and real-world space that make sense to the student as she engages with understanding, listening, practicising, making, cracking and re-mixing.

SIXTHLY. A central issue will be defining the inter-relationships between the forms and content, governances and practices, which emerge in the range of real/virtual spaces for these projects. The allied questions that move this forward are then: what does political agency look like in these spaces? And how can such agency be enabled?

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