Embedding Digital Literacies and enabling change

Changing the Learning landscape

This week I participated in the workshop “Influencing Strategy and Change Processes to enable the embedding of Digital literacies“, part of the Changing the Learning Landscape (CLL)¹ series.

The main aim of the event was to:

to focus on how those in development roles (formal or informal) can play a instrumental part in strategy formulation and implementation through working with managers and change agents… through the exploration of the factors that need to be considered, the evidence base, including the ‘right’ people in the process and enabling change to happen.

My expectations were in line with the above,  but I also endeavoured to learn with others and network with like-minded, interdisciplinary professionals that came together to talk about influencing change in the Higher Education setting.

My main takeaways are summarised  in the following points:

Less Strategy more tactics: Shân Wareing‘s point made me think a bit about the etymology of the words and the difference between long documents and the actual steps to achieve the strategy. What influences change is the small, positive, incremental steps rather than the strategic document.

  Strategy Tactic
Introduction (from Wikipedia): Strategy refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. The word is of military origin, deriving from the Greek word στρατηγός (stratēgos), which roughly translates as “General”. Tactic(s) may refer to a plan, procedure, or expedient for promoting a desired end or result
Example of this difference: Improve market share of a brand through various brand building activities. For this various tactics can be used; like on-line advertising or endorsement of a brand through celebrities
One more example: Become the market leader Use low price as a tactic for gaining leadership

Source: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Strategy_vs_Tactic

Running towards; not running away: What does the Higher Education horizon hold for the future? Do we observe the challenges posed by technology and opt for running away or do we seize the opportunity to innovate and become part of the evolution? 

Susannah Quinsee engaged us in a series of reflective activities to think about our personal style in managing change by employing colourful papers with messages, stickers, and postcards;

Change management reflective activities

Change management reflective activities

We need to learn to live with paradoxes, for example building cross-institutional partnerships while we are still competitors.

Risk-averse OR Risk-taker ???

Managing Risk in Social Media

Managing Risk in Social Media

We all agree that this is a very common disclaimer (picture) mostly found on …. Twitter!

The Questions are:

  • Why does such a disclaimer become so important in a personal social space?
  • What if a tweet communicates a scientific breakthrough, an innovative solution to a problem, etc?
  • Does this cultivate a learning culture?
  • Does it help the Institutional digital transformation?
  • Do Institutions support individuals who engage with technologies?

Listen to the students’ voice

What do students really say about their experiences with technology and digital literacy?

I tend to ask my students at the beginning of the Information Literacy sessions how they start their research although I know that their answer is always “Google”. The follow-up question is how many pages of results they tend to explore and again the overwhelming answer points to the first page of results with the top ones becoming the most valuable and reliable, since Google rates them at the top.

This is a well-known attitude among Librarians that validates the notion that students are not necessarily Information or Digital Literate just because they carry many devices.

How much do we know about our students?

How much do we know about our students?

There are ways to know our students better, for instance the IT Departments can tell us what devices students use to access our services.

Work with students

An important question raised was how we make the student involvement sustainable; Some suggestions include:

  • Change the Institutional culture of how we listen to students:
  • Partner with the Student Union instead of with individual class Representatives
  • The more student-led the projects are, the more sustainable the students’ involvement.
  • Act upon students’ feedback and let them know about your actions.
  • Utilise time outside exam periods.

Collaborate with Librarians

Librarians are already teaching Information Literacy skills and they are good at it!

#cll1213#Librarians are very good at it. I’m not biased I’m just quoting @lawrie twitter.com/EleniZazani/st…

Engage Senior staff

  • Cultivate Communities of Practice rather than communities of resistance.

Change management should happen through creating Communities of Practice (CoPs) where learning by-doing and by-making (Experiential learning) is encouraged. There was a consensus in our working team that provision of training opportunities for staff can influence change and empower staff.

I liked Lawrie’s suggestion about Involving the Human Resources Department in the provision of training on Digital Literacies. I would add that Librarians are, in many cases, competent with new technologies and they can be a valuable source of providing training.

Keeping the momentum

I tend to believe that the learning experience becomes rich and exciting when it moves beyond what is anticipated to be learnt and provides space for unanticipated learning outcomes; for surprises.

So here are some of my surprises:

I need to admit that I enjoyed Susannah Quinsee’s activities and the whole process of trying to translate my personal attitudes in stickers and fluorescent papers. I would be hesitant to estimate the average age of the participants but it seems that my argument about adults playing with nursery materials is at stake. Susannah asked us to return our cards to her with our address on it so that she can send them back to us in a 6-month period. Obviously, I found it difficult to let go of my card so I took it with me! 🙂

The outcome of the game itself was quite a surprise!

Taking a risk with a smile, playing along with the unexpected and continuing to iterate, staying positive and singing against the odds.


1. CLL is a unique partnership between the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, JISC, the National Union of Students, the Association for Learning Technology and the Higher Education Academy (HEA). This professional development element of CLL is being led by the HEA in association with the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA).

Further Resources:

Phipps, Lawrie. (2013). Changing Learning Landscape: Strategy and Change #CLL1213 (21 May) In Lawrie Phipps: Organisational Development & Transformations Programme. [Blog] Available at http://lawrie.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2013/05/21/cll21may/ [accessed 24 May 2013]

Prensky, M. (2012). From digital natives to digital wisdom: Introduction In From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: hopeful essays for 21st century learning. Corwin.

“Strategy vs Tactic”. Diffen contributors. Diffen LLC, 2013.
http://www.diffen.com/difference/Strategy_vs_Tactic [accessed 25 May 2013]

All the presentations will be available at http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/cll

Image credits:

“Changing the learning Landscape” logo is linked from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/events/2013/03/digitalliteracies.aspx (Many thanks to Lawrie Phipps for giving permission to use it).

“Managing Risk in social Media” was created with the Einstein Image generator www.hetemeel.com, the written message belongs to Lawrie Phipps http://www.jisc.ac.uk/contactus/staff/lawriephipps.

“Change management reflective activities” by Eleni Zazani available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/elenizazani/8824936460/ shared under CC BY-ND

“How much do we know about our students?” photo taken by Eleni Zazani  from Lawrie’s  presentation.

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9 Responses to Embedding Digital Literacies and enabling change

  1. fred6368 says:

    Good blog post Eleni, thanks, sharing your thoughts and also what is going on with Digital Literacies and how institutions enablechange, which they don’t in the main. Nigel and I have been writing about how Web 2.0 processes can enable the transformation of institutions on our Architecture of Participation blog. Here is a post on a JISC workshop on the Institutional issues on Sustaining Innovation in which we applied the AoP model to institutional change; http://architectureofparticipation.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/policy-forest-on-sustaining-innovation/ A good summary of what we think the contextual issues concerning change are on the Cloudworks Summary of the ‘Policy Forest’ we developed to summarise the day; http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/3904

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  3. Stephen Gomez says:

    Amis for this excellent summary. I wasn’t able to attend on the day so really value this account.

  4. fred6368 says:

    I think the Policy Forest lets you identify Strategy & Tactics to support the organisational change necessary to enable the embedding of Digital Literacies institutionally

    • elenizazani says:

      Hi Fred, Thank you for both comments and links!

      I am exploring the sources mentioned, in Cloudworks at http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/3904 and at your blog about the Policy Forest work http://architectureofparticipation.wordpress.com/tag/policy-forest/

      All these are valuable examples of work that had been done at a very early stage, even before the term “digital literacy” became buzzword!

      I would definitely agree with Nigel’s comment further down on the Cloudworks discussion that

      “Sustainability would seem to be a theme running through all aspects of the forest.”

      I also liked the Staffordshire University’s suggestion about “Open Scholarship for Academic Credit” in the Outcomes section about the “Formal Standardised Assessments” and I wonder if this is a tactic in place or a suggestion.

  5. Timos Almpanis says:

    HI Eleni,

    You have encapsulated the main points of the event really nicely, providing further links as well.

    I enjoyed Susannah’s scenario based group activity too. I also found Shan’s suggestion to use tactics rather than strategy for TEL change very interesting and another thing that stayed with me from her presentation was that we have to learn to live alongside the paradoxes that the Academy faces these days.

  6. Ella Mitchell says:

    Thanks for the great write up Eleni!
    I have found it interesting following up on some of the blog posts that Fred signposted to in his comment. I have for sometime wondered are we pushing or pulling students towards digital resources. There seems to be a big drive towards e-books in our institution, however anecdotally I seem to encounter resistance to e-books from some students and lecturers, while others think they are the best thing since sliced bread. I do some times wonder if there is a bit of a divergence between what we think students want and what they actually want.
    Is there any research out there where students have been consulted on their views of e-books?

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