What are Digital Capabilities and why do we need them?

On the 13th October 2015 Esther Barrett and Scott Hibberson from Jisc delivered a workshop to university colleagues entitled ‘What are Digital Capabilities and why do we need them?’.

 Emma Thompson (above), the Library’s Learning and Teaching Lead, opened the session, before Esther explained to attendees that digital capability is a journey, i.e you can’t simply ‘learn’ digital capability, you have to gradually become digitally capable.

Throughout the workshop we used TodaysMeet and Padlet (both of which were new to me) to share ideas with each other and ask questions throughout the session. We were also encouraged to use Twitter with the hashtag #digitalcapability.

To begin the workshop Esther (pictured below) asked us to discuss what device or app we could not live without. A digital pen, email, translating software, File Explorer, WhatsApp, and file sharing software such as DropBox were all mentioned.

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Esther then introduced us to the five elements of Jisc’s digital capabilities framework which together add up to ICT proficiency, and then walked through each element, with a pause after each one for groups to discuss what it means and the impact of not having it.

The five elements were:

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Writing@Liverpool: Rolling out the pilot

Writing@Liverpool (funded by the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Faculty Improvement Fund) started as a small academic writing development project in History is now fully rolled out across the Faculty of HSS. The Faculty has generously funded 20 new Writing Tutors who are supported and mentored by last year’s Tutors – our four Super Tutors.

Here’s the stories from two of them:

Sophie’s Story:

Upon the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year, I was selected as part of a small team of PhD students to take part in a pilot initiative launched by the History department. The purpose of this project was for PhD students to support undergraduate students in improving their writing skills. As a pilot scheme, there were no frameworks or processes in place as to how we would proceed with the project; this provided a great opportunity for our small team to create a programme which we felt would be the most effective, but occasionally also raised its own challenges. Predominantly, our role consisted of meeting with students on an individual basis to discuss completed and marked essays with them; we would talk through the issues raised within their tutor’s feedback, provide guidance on how they might approach the essay differently next time, and suggest strategies to help them with their future assignments. We also led writing workshops, aimed to improve students’ understanding of the research and writing process from the stage they are given the essay title until the moment they submit their completed work.

While our students have been keen to tell us how they have benefited from our support. They told us:

“I found it helpful and appreciate the advice… I am sure I will find the group session useful as well.”

“Thank you very much for today’s session, I found it really useful and can definitely see places where I can improve in future essays.”

“Yesterday’s session was really helpful, I’ve been back over my other essays from my last semester and I think with the advice you gave me my essays should be better this semester!”

I have also certainly benefited from being a writing tutor. Being involved from the initial planning and implementation stages of such a unique project has aided my professional development immensely, while sharing best practice techniques with my fellow tutors has had the unexpected benefit of encouraging me to continue to re-evaluate and improve my own writing style. Being a writing tutor and working with a wide range of students from first to final year, international students and mature students, has also greatly increased my confidence when it comes to teaching. It has also made me more sensitive to the concerns of our undergraduates; I have been surprised by how easily we take for granted subject-specific terminology and ways of approaching assignments which many of us were not familiar with when we first began our own journeys as undergraduates.

I was proud to hear that our small pilot had been expanded to support students from across the Faculty, and the employment of a larger group of writing tutors. It will be exciting to see how the project continues to develop over the current academic year, and I am pleased that even more students will be able to benefit from the advice and support of the next generation of Writing@Liverpool.

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