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Technology: the new mainstream ALT-C symposium

Instead of debating how learning technology can be brought into the 'mainstream' of academic practice, we should be debating how academic practice can be better aligned with a 'mainstream' culture that is now thoroughly digital. 'Digital literacy' is defined by the European Commission[1] as both a social entitlement - essential to living, working, social participation, acquiring goods and services, expressing oneself and learning throughout life - and a prerequisite for economic recovery. From this perspective, it may be traditional academic practices that are in danger of being sidelined or appearing irrelevant to young people's aspirations. How digitally literate are our academic institutions? How can teachers and scholars situate themselves at the forefront of the knowledge revolution? How relevant are current forms of academic work to potential students?

Image: Digital Literacy Panorama #altc2012 James F Clay

Ideas to be explored

This debate offers perspectives from four UK Universities that are engaged in digital literacy development. The questions that all panel members will address are: what characterises effective digital academic practice; and how can we best develop it?

The panellists share a belief that digital literacy needs to be understood at the level of knowledge practices, situated in academic roles and organisational cultures, and in subject communities. The perspectives from which they will address the two questions are:

(Institute of Education): how and why students use technologies, including the places they study and the ways they manage the integration (and separation) of their personal, professional and academic lives;

(University of the Arts, London): student employability needs and industry/sector requirements in the context of arts education;

(University of Exeter): digital literacy in research-intensive contexts and the role of postgraduate research students as digital pioneers;

(University of Bath): working with academic staff to explore how digital experiences can develop students' subject knowledge and professional practices in academic programmes.


Chair offers a short overview of the digital literacies landscape and proposes the two questions (6 minutes)

Four panel members speak for 6 minutes each (max 8 slides)

Participants offer their own interpretations of digital academic practice and their experiences of effective development work (20 minutes)

Panelists sum up what they have learned from participants (2 minutes each) with a final round-up from the Chair

Intended outcomes
Participants will have:

  • discussed how academic and digital practices are influencing one another
  • reviewed what new capabilities are required to thrive in a digital academic landscape
  • considered a range of approaches to developing digital literacy in academic institutions
  • assessed which approaches are most congruent with their own roles and academic settings
  • contributed their own definitions and developmental practices


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