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2.4 Mapping Digital Literacies in the DeFT Project

DiscussionRather than impose a definition and framework for digital literacies that might influence the work, the project worked with school and HEI partners to develop digital practices that were meaningful to them in the context of their curriculum, phase and current working practices.

This inevitably led the project to developing an enrichment model, in which teachers and lecturers were encouraged to incorporate digital technologies into their ongoing professional practice and to share their understandings across an emerging network of practitioners.

Following on from the Futurelab (2010) definition of digital literacies, this enabled us to understand how teachers were using communicative practices in different ways. Our model Locating Digital Practices helps to map these practices against established conceptions of literacies whilst, at the same time, acknowledging the variety of interpretations of digital literacy (see 2.2 Defining Digital Literacy), and so provides an explanatory model for the ways in which the idea of digital literacies was operationalised by project participants. In the central region of the figure below what is referred to as the ‘core’ are practices that depend upon alphabetic representation. So that it is intended to include not only basic decoding and encoding, but also the whole range of communicative practice and sense-making, whether this is on screen, paper-based or both.

2.4 Locating digital literacies

Although it is described as core, we are not, of course, privileging it in any way, merely indicating that is the most simple and perhaps the most traditional definition. The second region, referred to as ‘expanded’, acknowledges the way in which communicative practices, and particularly, but not exclusively, screen-based ones, are increasingly seen as being multi-modal. So this constitutes an expanded view of literacies. Finally, following (Barton, 2007) we identify metaphorical uses of the word literacy. This provides a useful way to describe terminology like ‘emotional literacy’, political literacy, ‘scientific literacy’ and so on. It is the sort of language that is used as a metaphor to describe a more general competence and fluency and it is certainly the case that some people see digital literacy in that way. In the light of these ways of thinking about the way the word literacy is used (core, extended and expanded) and we are able to conceive of digitally-mediated practices as literacies in different ways. When related to the case studies in our project work we can then see that teachers located their work in one or another of the concentric rings. However, in so doing their activities nearly always included work in other regions alongside literacies which were not digitally mediated (those outside the shaded slice).

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