Digital literacy resources for teachers and students

There’s been some Twitter chat from @dajbelshaw about Digital Literacy that has sparked some discussion, notably thoughts of operationalising Digital Literacy (see Doug’s blog – top marks for doing some thinking on a Sunday!).

This reminded me about some resources that I made for Becta just before they were quangoed. Our aim was to create some useful resources for teachers and students to use, which could easily be incorporated into existing teaching practice. (Change management methods here – unfair to ask teachers to get to grips with a new concept AND change the way they work… this method only ever grabs the attention of those keen ‘early adopters’).

OK so I am taking the initiative here and will upload these resources seeing as Becta are no more. Please don’t expect rocket science – I wanted to start gently – just explain to teachers and students what Digital Literacy is and offer a framework that can assist them to grasp the basics during lessons.

The link to the resource pack (zip file) is at the bottom of this post. Resources include:
1. Powerpoint for a teacher to show other teachers at staff meetings
2. Word doc one-pager explanation of digital literacy for teachers
3. Two versions of a digital literacy resource for either primary or secondary students, which contains a tick list of things they should be able to do, and a ‘test yourself’ with links they need to evaluate.
4. A framework for incorporating teaching of digital literacy into everyday practice (based on the framework first shown in my talk at the Oxford digital literacy conference).

Please feel free to use/tweak them if you want (I haven’t checked all links for example, and these were made last year). I would really appreciate your thoughts:

Digital Literacy resource pack for teachers and students


Subject matter experts – manage them carefully or suffer the consequences!

I had to chuckle when I read Tom Kuhlmann’s recent post on his Rapid E-learning blog.
Tom talks about the problems that can often occur when we try to manage subject matter experts (SMEs), saying:

“I’ve worked on projects where it was almost impossible to get the SME to concede anything… there were times I wished I had an elearning mediator who could talk to the SME in a way that I couldn’t”.

He then identifies three things he wishes he could say to SMEs:

  1. People don’t care about what you know as much as you do.
  2. New learners don’t need to know everything you know.
  3. Tell me what actions learners need to able to do, not what you think they should know.

This certainly resonates with me, but I hope that one of my core skills is to be this kind of mediator.

Learning information is a journey, and writing any learning materials involves story-telling along that path. Learners often need to know one step before the next can make sense. The problem is that whilst SMEs hold the vital information that is needed, they may have forgotten the route and order they used to get there.

Another issue is raised by the personality of many SMEs. Invariably, someone inside the organisation will decide who acts as the SME. Interestingly, I have often seen senior management choose someone who has been vocal (even possibly resistant to change) as some form of appeasement gesture. Those chosen are frequently relatively senior, male, with long-standing tenure in the organisation, a history of being relatively outspoken, and with a track record of wanting to be involved and partially in control of projects that relate to them.

There is no doubt that this person is an expert and has much to offer. However, the practicalities of working with this individual can sometimes cause problems during development of e-learning, even more so if several such SMEs then need to try to work together!

For these reasons I would always recommend that effort is spent forging a good working relationship with your SME. This means choosing the right person to shadow them, avoiding tech speak (unless they are interested) and instead focusing on:

  1. Asking them to remember the tricks and pathways they used to learn and retain vital information.
  2. Identifying ‘dark matter’ – those vital nuggets of information that somehow never make it into written source manuals.
  3. Challenging them to explain issues that just don’t make logical sense.
  4. Identifying the difference between what is supposed to happen in theory, and what usually happens in practice.

Alternatively, you can always consider also asking a newly qualified person to be your SME – they may well remember the much-needed order along the pathway, whilst your senior SME will be better able to identify the subtleties and caveats.


Latest issue of “Journal of Computer Assisted Learning” hits the (virtual) shelves

Some interesting stuff in February’s JCAL, which focuses on the relationship between text messaging and literacy. Interesting to see that there seemed to be a positive relationship between texting proficiency and literacy skills in children and adults across a number of different studies. To quote my favourite study (which has an excellent randomised intervention design!)

“These results show that text messaging does not adversely affect the development of literacy skills within this age group, and that the children’s use of textisms when text messaging is positively related to improvement in literacy skills, especially spelling.”


Change management and e-learning

I’ve recently been spending time reading about change management issues and placing them in the context of e-learning implementation. Nearly all of the problems associated with implementation are down to people and not technology. Thankfully, many now realise that considering learners is key to developing successful e-learning.

Yet so many organisations forget to consider internal stakeholders. As Don Morrison says in his excellent book:

“Adoption is a landmine on the road to e-learning. Other higher profile challenges you can see a mile off: management support, project management, infrastructure, security, vendor selection, system integration. When you’ve dealt with those – and are beginning to feel invincible – adoption will be waiting, ready to undermine everything you’ve accomplished. For e-learning to succeed, employees need to use what you’ve built; more than use, they have to adopt it as a new way of working that is capable of creating a fundamental shift in learning.”

Trainers are often the gatekeepers to learner use of e-learning. IT departments are often responsible for taking control of the management of a LMS after implementation. Yet many of these people are excluded from initial strategy discussions.

There is some fantastic information about IT-based process change in Cameron & Green’s classic “Making sense of Change Management” updated in 2009). The following quote rang very true for me:

“… IT management skills are critical to an organisation’s ability to incorporate the technologies… However, IT staff are often left out of the core decision-making processes and treated as implementers rather than strategists. … “

Similarly, Cameron & Green note that the traditional role of the IT department in an organisation needs to evolve in order to start to understand business strategy:

“The days of the highly specialised in-house technical IT expert are probably numbered… those IT people who can understand technology, be aware of what is ‘out there’ and what it can do for organisations, plus grasp how to create the changes desired by the organisation are highly valuable.”

C&G provide cautionary advice to those considering e-learning implementation in the absence of addressing cultural change:

“Problems come when senior managers and IT people believe that technology will automatically change behaviour. Often the reverse happens: the new technology reinforces the habits and attitudes already present.”

In my experience, time and again I meet companies looking for e-learning solutions, and focusing on comparisons of technology (which LMS, LCMS, VLE, authoring tool, development software?) whilst failing (or avoiding) the consideration of the more intangible questions (what do learners want? How can we integrate suggested changes with the training/IT/business strategy departments? Who can we involve to champion these changes in-house? What are the possible blockers and drivers to implementation?). These are the issues that take a bit more thought perhaps but actually cost very little, particularly in relation to their impact.


Timmus and Process Management International win Brandon Hall award!

In November 2010 I was chuffed to get a call from Dennis C-M at PMI to let me know that our latest set of Six Sigma e-learning modules had won a silver Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning award. Fantastic news! Dennis had the pleasure of jetting off to SanFran to collect the award, whilst I juggled the end of maternity leave and tried to remember what it was like to get dressed up for awards ceremonies!

I’ve worked with PMI for nearly eight years and I can’t think of a better organisation to have as a client. They really practice what they preach in terms of managing a process and striving to make it better. They always consider the ‘people’ as well as the ‘process’ aspect, and they always highlight the importance of data collection and monitoring. I learn as much from them as I hope they do from me. Here’s to the success of many future projects.


New year, new Timmus

Welcome to the new Timmus Limited blog! You’ll probably notice that we now have a new website and logo. This marks a return to work for me, following the second (and final :o) bout of maternity leave.

The last year has seen many changes, notably in the closure of many of the education quangos that I often worked with. There are some great people who were made redundant, many of whom are now heading off to work in the e-learning and education sector in the Middle East. It’s a real loss of skills for the UK, but I wish them loads of luck with their new ventures.

On a brighter note, I’ve had a number of discussions with corporate organisations in regard to the design / redesign of learning and training systems. The current climate has focused attention on the importance of sound strategy, usability, and the importance of testing and leaner-centric design rather than thoughtless big budget spend. Let’s hope 2011 sees some clear thinking and some true success stories.