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Notes from kick off meetings ‘Understanding digital literacies at UAL

We kicked off the first ‘Understanding digital literacies at UAL definitions and competencies’ meetings at UALs High Holborn office, everyone enjoyed the debate and it was a great opportunity to have an open discussion about the issues. We’d like to hear as many voice as possible to contribute to this forum and we'd like to arrange the next meetings at each of the six colleges. If you'd like to host a meeting at your college please suggest a date and a venue so we can start to arrange this with you?

Our Aim: To set up and establish a ‘UAL wide’ focus group around ‘Understanding digital literacies at UAL‘. The group will debate and draw up collective ideas about how best to map digital literacies across UAL as a whole with an aim of understanding how UAL communicate art & design specific digital literacy definitions and competencies.

Please see some of the key findings taken from DIAL notes at both meetings, please feel free to add comments:

Definitions and/or competencies

Understanding digital literacies ‘Definitions and competencies’ are they one and the same thing? We found it easier to separate Digital Literacies and Digital Competencies.

Digital Competencies could be seen as identifiably functional ‘hard skills’, easily defined e.g. ‘You can go on training for this, I need to learn this skill, I can do this, I need this, I can’t do this’ (technical knowledge/practices). Some DIAL project examples: Assessing Digital Literacy level of pre-degree students, and in the Things unlimited project.

Digital literacies, could be seen as ‘soft skills’ more agile and harder to define and develop. (Tacit Knowledge/practices) some DIAL Project examples: Online Reflective Practice and in open practice.

Digital literacies and Competencies together, here’s an example of a programme of activities and training focused around developing professional online identities, which addresses digital ‘literacies and competencies’ together. Some DIAL project examples: DIAL/UAL collaboration example and Video presentation skills

Mapping Digital literacies and competencies

As part of the process we hope to debate and define UALs institutional understanding of terms associated with ‘Digital literacies’ within all aspects creative practice, including media literacies, information literacies, digital practice, digital citizenship, online identities, digital/social/cultural competencies, participatory culture, digital attributes, open practice, digital fluency etc. with an aim of publishing an ‘institutional’ evidence base of UAL glossary of terms based on an iterative process of practical, subject and interest specific case study evidence.

An alternative approach to addressing all the different more generic ‘Digital literacies’ listed in the above list would be to look at the DLs as individually specific/unique and constantly agile (so trying to map such DLs in a generic form could prove a ‘messy business’).

How do we map the different levels of DLs?

Levels DLs (these levels DLs become more generic as they grow more general)

Digital literacies of an:

Examples and evidence:

Approach into DLs:



DL being very individual – subjective - different people need for different reasons. 

Case studies of personal journeys (DIAL, Digital present, My Digital Life) Personal motivations and awareness (of what there is) and practice (how it can be used) 

Informal (personal motivation to engage)

Approach, knowledge and awareness. Personal willingness to engage, personal resistance, obstacles, barriers; internal and external.

Organic Groups (General)

Communities of Practice Natural formed sharing groups. Interest groups can happen anytime, anywhere or on events like (The Learning Studio (LS) and My Digital Life)

Informal (Groups form with a mutual beneficial sharing of skills and knowledge)

Course/project groups

A particular course or project may want to define or understand DL needs - Professional Online Identities project and more formal Assessing Digital Literacy level of pre-degree students)

Formal/informal - More specific set goals and personal motivation to engage - map, to identify what we need in terms of staff and resources.

Subject specific DLs

A specific action in a particular subject area may need to be defined E.g. research, (issue is criticality in relation to DL) critical analyses, searching online ‘There is a lack of evidence that students engage critically, they are not saying why that link is critical for my thinking’.

Formal - More specific set goals - e learning and digital literacy need to be clarified as many have different idea of what we mean by e learning the same apply to digital literacy.

Discipline level (academic DL may be different from technical one)

DLs associated to specific disciplines, academic/technical (or more general), Fine art, design, performance etc.

Formal - More specific set goals

College level

College perceptions of how it addresses and integrates progressive digital practice.

Formal - Top down (based on college needs demonstrated by courses and individuals on the ground)


University perceptions of how it addresses and integrates progressive digital practice.

Formal - Top down - Strategy


Understanding the DL needs of the creative industries. Commissioned research required.


General DL definitions

E.g. Wiki definition or the JISC DL programme - 'By digital literacy we mean those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society. For example, the use of digital tools to undertake academic research, writing and critical thinking; digital professionalism; the use of specialist digital tools and data sets; communicating ideas effectively in a range of media; producing, sharing and critically evaluating information; collaborating in virtual networks; using digital technologies to support reflection and PDP; managing digital reputation and showcasing achievements.'



Arrange follow up meetings at all 6 colleges.

Encourage debate and contribution online

Set up a mind-mapping environment to try and develop the above approach.

Other notes:

Defining DL - a conceptual strategy when you are designing the curriculum. When and how our digital literacy is embedded into the curriculum?

Understand DLs we need; Awareness, Confidence and Relevance

How do I capture that journey? Free mapping software

Grounded theory  - Doug Belshaw - academic reference for this approach Online groundness - the idea of a map rather then a list (field workers)

Ethnographical approach

Develop a framework to understand the issue and articulated them - in order to give people the tool to articulate their needs.

We are developing the means to understand DL in order to implement solutions.

It’s agreed the bottom up approach suits individual needs.

Staff contributions to this forum from:

Thurs 14th Feb 10am - 11am

Chris Follows
Jo Morrison
Hilaire Graham
Mark Wells
Rossella Emanuele

Thurs 7th March 12pm - 1pm

Charlotte Webb
Chris Follows
John Jackson
John Casey (Via Skype)
Rossella Emanuele
Kaye Pryce
Laura North
Nancy Turner (apologies)
Cara Lee Roth (apologies)
Gavin Jenkins (apologies)
Mehreen Talpur (apologies)

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