“What is Digital Literacy?” The question was met with stony silence. Despite a bag of sweets being up for grabs. Finally, after a couple of attempts I was greeted with a very detailed explanation. No wonder, the winner of the bag of sweets was reading the Wikipedia description from his iPhone.
“Who here has a Gmail account?” Every hand in the audience was raised.
“How many of you have moved your mouse along the words at the top of the Gmail web page and clicked on Drive?” Two hands remain raised. “Excellent. Today I’m going to quickly run through how you can use Google Drive as an alternative to Word.”
These were the first questions I asked a group of 40 Final Year Hispanic Studies students studying a module called Commercial Spanish. My aim was to show them that there are alternatives to MS Word, that there are many different types of technologies available to help them when it came to tackling this particular assessment Which ones will suit each individual the best was down for them to discover. I just wanted them to go out and explore the alternatives, the possibilities. Know that they could use these different techs when it came to writing up their assessments. That just because I was showing them what I could create in half an hour in Drive, didn’t mean I was suggesting this was what they should use.
The pretext is this. Commercial Spanish is one of the modules Collaborate is working with. These students were in the latter stages of the module and their final assessment was to create a dossier. Compiled from up to 20 articles, from all types of media, on a theme of their choosing, relating to a contemporary issues in Hispanic Culture. Previously, these dossiers were printed, bound and handed in. Now, there was an opportunity for 10 students to submit their dossiers electronically and receive electronic feedback. This opens up a whole new approach in how students may want to create and present very large portfolios of digital work. But I also wanted to show how technology could be utilised effectively in various ways by those still handing in printed versions.
In front of these final year students I sped through my folders and files, not wanting to sound too prescriptive. Showing how I used ‘Scoop it’ to find and collate relevant news articles, used various extensions in Chrome to speed up my documenting process and how I brought all my articles and reviews together to create the dossier. My message was to think about the technology available and how to use it to your benefit but also to the advantage of the end user. In this case the marker, who would be receiving both paper and digital copies.
One example I used was from past (printed) dossiers which I’d been shown. It included web links several lines long. Not very usable. The University provides a ‘tinyurl’ service, ideal for those who need to link to further material. Ideal for those who would be handing in paper versions.
Notes were taken and there seemed to be genuine interest from the students. The proof however is in the pudding. We’ll have to wait and see how many take this message on board and how many want to take up the opportunity to show the affordances of technology in their work, either when they come to submit their dossiers electronically or in paper.