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#SWaNI – PEDL – Using Peer eGuides to promote digital literacy

March 18, 2011 by Robin Englebright   

You may remember a while back some reporters got stung when they didn’t properly research an obituary and credited Ronnie Hazelhurst with writing the S-club seven hit “Reach”. That’s all quite amusing, but not the sort of thing that would happen to you… or your students?  Right? Unfortunately the evidence seems to highlight some serious issues with the skills our “Digital Natives” possess. Have a look at the video on Teachers TV, and as it says “be afraid, be very afraid”: [] 


The video shows Year 9’s being asked to review three websites, one on Martin Luther King, another on the Holocaust, and a third on Victorian robots. The sites appear credible, if a little dull, but the first two are subtle racist propaganda, and the third is a spoof using heavily photoshopped images. In the clip, the pupils don’t question the validity of the information on the sites, and suggest they might be useful for RE, or History coursework.

Some scams are easier to spot than others like the Victorian robot “boilerplate” [], but how do you explain to your students how judge the veracity of information on a website, especially when they see themselves as far more savvy that their fusty old lecturers?  A 2008 report by the CIBER research team at University College London [ ] found that whilst young people appear confident  and competent users of technology, they frequently use only the most basic search functions, and don’t question the results.

Paul Glister coined the term “Digital Literacy” back in 1997 [ ] to suggest a more active engagement with the then emerging new media, emphasising it was about mastering  ‘ideas, not keystrokes’. Since then technology and our perception and acceptance of technology has changed dramatically. The rapid growth of Web2 and social networks have changed the skills required from being about discerning consumption of content, to being about a person’s whole digital footprint. 

In practical terms Digital Literacy is a combination of functional technology skills, critical thinking, collaboration skills and social awareness.[]

Digital Literacy is about the skills to use technology effectively, being able to analyse the information found and make a judgement about its value. It’s about thinking longer term, and acting sensibly and safely, and being aware that confidence doesn’t equate to competence.

Much of the literature concerning Digital literacy identifies that these skills are best taught at an early stage by teachers and parents. Changes in Educational policy mean that this may not be such a high priority in schools, and so learners reaching the FE and HE  system are likely to arrive less well prepared. The PEDL project at Coleg Llandrillo aims to build competence by using the confidence that students do have,  and create a peer support framework. This approach worked well at Oaklands College where the students supported the teaching staff [].

Details of the project including the stage2 bid, and project plan can be found on the JISC website []

Further reading: 

JISC developing digital literacies:

Getting the Buggers to Find Out: Information Skills and Learning How to Learn (2008) Duncan Grey []

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