It’s been a hectic, interesting and sometimes information-overloaded couple of months on the Digital Capabilities frameworks project. Lou McGill and I have reviewed over 60 existing frameworks for describing the digital capabilities of staff, from professional frameworks which might only touch on digital practice, to frameworks from the IT industry, digital media, and business innovation. We’ve looked at a host of publications and web sites. And I’ve carried out interviews with dozens of people who are doing work in this area, whether they are based in professional bodies or in universities and colleges, or in industry and the professions outside of education.
One of the surprising things to emerge from this process, as Sarah Davies has outlined, is the affection people feel for some of the work Jisc has already done in this area. The ‘7 elements of digital literacy‘ and the Digital Literacy Development pyramid for example, are widely recognised and have been used to develop a host of local solutions. This isn’t to distract attention from the value of other frameworks such as SCONUL’s seven pillars of information literacy (and its various lenses), CILIP and CMALT as professional standards for (respectively) library and e-learning staff, the information lens on Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework and the digital lens on the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching staff, or the work of ETF/Coralesce in support of FE colleges. But it does suggest the value in having an over-arching set of terms that are reasonably consensual. And also that updating them might lead to a bit of resistance!
Happily my experience so far has been a positive one. People recognise that these ideas need to be revisited if they are to stay relevant and fresh. So the proposed new model has already been through a process of consultation with stakeholders and now we’d like to know what you think of it. Why might an update be a good idea at this point, and how might a framework of this kind being used in your setting?
One of the most obvious differences is that the different areas visibly overlap. This was a clear message from users, who described a ‘venn diagram‘ or ‘flower with overlapping petals‘ as more appropriate than the current ‘hub and spoke’ image. Another difference is that ICT proficiency is placed in the centre, as a foundational set of skills giving access to all the other elements. Digital identity (now paired with ‘wellbeing’) embraces the rest. This merges the ‘elements’ of digital literacy with the pyramid model, showing basic ICT operations as foundational, and digital identity as the capstone or culmination of the other digital practices.
‘Information literacy’ and ‘media literacy’ have been brought together, along with ‘data literacy’, which has become much more important since the original 7 elements were conceived in 2009 as an outcome of the LLiDA project. This gives us 6 elements, which some expert commentators felt was both more memorable and easier to apply into practice. The other change is the inclusion of ‘wellbeing’ alongside digital identity. Interviews for this project, and research from others (such as Digital Student) found that digital practices could be a source of stress and concern, as well as having more positive associations of professionalism and innovation. Issues raised by staff include workload, a culture of constant availability, and the lack of time to really explore and understand digital approaches. Issues raised by students revolve more around exposure and cyberbullying, the fear of losing face to face contact time, and managing time/attention in digital spaces. Everyone can suffer if digital technologies are used without attention to human and environmental health, and without considering whether digital practices are fully inclusive and equitable. So although many of these issues require action at an organisational level rather than an individual level, we feel it is important that individuals are aware of how digital technologies may impact on different areas of their lives.
There is a more detailed breakdown of the six elements and an explanation for the changes in the three documents attached to this post. Feel free to comment and to download or use this as you like – bearing in mind that they are still in development. They are not editable documents at this stage while we explore with a number of institutions and professional bodies how they would like to take forward the ideas. But bear with us – richer and fully adaptable versions are coming very soon!
1. Digital capabilities 6 elements. Includes: core model; visual; rationale for proposed changes to the ‘7 elements’ and response to feedback on an earlier draft; example profiles (a) learner profile (b) teacher profile (c) researcher profile.
2. Landscape review. Issues in the techological, educational and organisational environment that institutions are responding to over the coming years and beyond; response to feedback on an earlier draft.
3. Frameworks mapped to 6 elements. A wide variety of formal frameworks and less formal definitions, supporting more detailed development of the six elements for different professions, subject areas, and organisational settings.
With grateful thanks to all the individuals and professional bodies that have been involved so far. I’m sure they would all agree that what matters is not so much the outcome but the process of sharing our ideas and challenges in this space. If a framework for digital capabilities has any value it will be to inform change initiatives in universities, colleges and professional bodies. The next phase is to consult on what those should be and how Jisc can best support them.