EUROCALL 2014

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Digital literacies for learning: empowering HE students in using the Internet and social media for continuous learning and professional development

The presentation is built on the premise is that the use of the Internet as a tool for professional development, learning and networking should be university graduates basic competence (eg. EQF). Crook (2008, in Selwyn, 2011) states that higher education should support students' self-direction and goal-orientation by providing them with the skills needed to manage their learning environment ("arranging the furniture of technology-based learning"). In addition, in their future professional life, students need skills, tools and networks that enable them to continue their learning, whether it concerns building knowledge on their professional field or developing their language and communication skills.
The presentation is based on a course that was organised as part of our language centre’s language and communication studies. The course aims, learning goals and implementation were based on the ideas of co-design, learner-centredness and learning networks or communities. The students were from several faculties and at all stages of their studies, form first year students to doctoral students. Around a half of them came from the department of languages. The course combined face-to-face teaching sessions, discussions and sharing in a social network group, exploring various social media tools and environments and work on students’ individual projects, in which they built their own learning environments using various Internet tools according to their own needs. Students were also engaged in the design of the course through dialogue both in classroom and online. The course made use of the concept of personal learning environment (PLE) that is seen as an ideology (see Attwell 2009) or as a pedagogical lens (Laakkonen & Taalas,2013) which emphasizes the learners’ active role as owners, managers and constructors of their own learning environments. This involves a set of skills that are approached from the angle of new literacies.
The question addressed in the presentation is: how can digital literacies related to personal learning environments (PLE) be taught and learned? Following the principles of design-based research (DBR), a variety of data was collected, including the course design and materials, teachers' notes, online discussions, sound recordings, student projects & reflections. Various methods are used for analysis, including content analysis, (critical) discourse analysis and conjecture mapping (Sandoval 2013). The focus is both on the co-constructed design of the course (content and methods) and on the student reflections, feedback and learning outcomes (the perceived effect).
The results highlight that students with a variety of experience on and attitudes towards the use of the Internet benefit from dialogue with the teachers and peers on the networked culture, on the nature of communication and on the means of expressing one’s identity on the web. Intertwining the content with the students’ individual development goals seemed to strongly influence the perceived relevance and meaningfulness of the course. The course succeeded in empowering the students with the skills they need to be able to communicate, participate and maintain their learning in digital environments. Participatory design of the course and open dialogue between the teachers and students increase the meaningfulness and depth of the learning experience.

Author(s):

Ilona Laakkonen    
Centre for Applied Language Studies (CALS)
University of Jyväskylä
Finland

Originally a language teacher, I have worked as a researcher, teacher, trainer, coordinator and pedagogical expert in various research and development projects in the fields of education and applied linguistics. My ongoing PhD work focuses on new literacies and on the institutional, personal and social network aspects of integrating technology in (language)teaching and learning.

 

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