Monthly Archives: July 2012

Digital literacies – my story

This blog started out for me as an assignment for my journalism portfolio at Uni. Having received a 1st for said assignment, I know I haven’t exactly kept up to date with it since. However starting this blog has opened up a whole world of possibilities for me. I am now using a program called Evernote, which lets me type notes, take pictures, attach links and files, and share them between my laptop and my phone. This has proved invaluable in terms of juggling my studying, personal writing and other commitments. I can type my lecture notes, add pictures of the board and even links to useful resources. When I’m out and about I take photos of items I want to buy, or things which inspire my writing. I can also organise all the work I do as the assistant editor of the Latitude Lookout.

Another digital tool which I’ve come to use a lot is twitter. As a creative writing and journalism student I need to keep abreast of current affairs, and ‘following’ BBC World News, BBC London and other prominent accounts on twitter means I get a live feed of updates as and when they happen. When the new (or old!) President is elected in the US I will get probably a hundred tweets from different people relaying the news to my phone and laptop.

This has made me think about how digital media could be better integrated into the university experience. One of my classes in first year had a Facebook page, but it was seldom updated and really served little purpose other than to help you remember the name of that guy sitting in the back of the lecture theatre. Clearly there is a difference in the level of digital literacy between not only the staff and students, but among the students too. Whilst some, like me will be tweeting all day and then post a blog about what they did in class, others are still unsure of how to turn on a smart phone. I believe that guiding both staff and students of the university to improve their digital literacy will mean faster, more efficient sharing of information, an easier way to communicate, and also invaluable skills for graduates to take into the job market.

A great way in which digital tools are integral in my life is online banking. It seems a fairly simple concept, but the ability to check my balance, make payments and transfers on the go is invaluable for a busy student. A way in which this could potentially be integrated into university life is through some sort of online course tracking. Giving students a chance to see what assignments are due, read the ones they’ve handed in and see comments from lecturers would help to enhance their learning and move forward in their course. Of course to an extent this is available through Moodle and track, but it is not effective as it currently stands. I upload all of my assignments to Moodle, but the large majority of them do not even receive a mark through turnitin, never mind any comments. If students could have this dialogue with staff it would make it easier for us to see what we need to do to improve, and also keep up to date with how we are doing so far.

In a straw poll of students I found that only 1 in five regularly checks Moodle for course updates. Purely by accident I stumbled across the news forums section of my course pages a few months ago, and was astounded by the amount of messages that hardly any of my classmates had even read. There were work experience opportunities and events which I imagine went unattended simply because nobody knew about them. This is a clear communication issue which in part is due to a lack of digital literacy knowledge. Some of my lecturers don’t ever upload anything to Moodle as they ‘haven’t been taught how to use it’ whereas other have been putting up several message which nobody knew about. The inconsistencies make it very difficult for students to keep track of everything which is going on.

Whilst the Moodle framework is useful, it can be greatly improved and used to far wider effect throughout the university. One thing which I think would help a lot is a better school and course page for each course. As it stands the school pages seem to be made up of course hand books and a list of contact numbers, which obviously doesn’t do much to help students. The discussion forum on Moodle seems seldom used, and the blog space is poor. When I started this blog I was explicitly told to avoid the uni’s blog system and pick an external website simply because it has almost no features.

Birmingham City University has an effective social media presence –  with official Facebook pages for several school and student groups as well as Linked-in profiles, Twitter and Flickr feeds, blogs and a YouTube channel. By maintaining an online presence and and keep students updated with the latest news they connect better with them. 

Greenwich does have some good social media aspects – the Students’ Union Facebook and Twitter update fairly regularly about the goings on around the uni and there’s also a group for Freshers to join which has a lot of activity in the first few weeks of term. We just need to look at where we are doing well, and how we can build on that to increase the digital literacy of the whole university.

My next big challenge is the managing of the Facebook and Twitter feeds for Latitude Lookout, alongside editing the website, which will hopefully reach out to all students across the University and fill them in on the news and events going on around them. This is why I believe I would make a good candidate for the IRG, as I have hands on experience of digital media and literacies and how they can be used to enhance students lives. In the current job market it isn’t so much about having a degree, but also a set of transferable skills which will put you above other candidates. Being literate in the new set of skills, which revolve around digital technology, is key.

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