Reflections by Heidi Olson

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Rich Reflections of Doug Belshaw's The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies for ED654 Summer 2016.

Chapter 1 Introduction

I’m just going to say it. I dislike reading anything online that is more than about four pages. I find it very hard to concentrate and find myself flipping back and forth. That being said, I dislike even more printing things off and using up the paper so I'll make the best of it as I can.

"Whatever you're looking to do, my aim is for this book to leave you asking the right questions.”

This isn't a very long chapter but by outlining the book chapters to come, Belshaw already has me intrigued. I hope he is able to deliver on getting me on the right path to asking the right questions. I love that he is setting the reader up to be an active participant with his references to ripping and remixing in Chapter 9.

In chapter 5 Belshaw says he’ll talk about his approach based on eight elements of digital literacy. Without looking at the chapter, here are eight elements that I might come up with (in no particular order) and anticipate being part of the conversation.

  • Understanding privacy
  • Digital citizenship and appropriate behavior
  • Using digital tools (software or online application) to create something new (or at least not being afraid to try out a new software)
  • Posting original work online
  • Collaborating in some kind of forum, discussion, wiki, or website that allows commenting
  • Have a familiarity with digital vocabulary (know the difference between a blog and a wiki, for example)
  • Understanding that not everything that is posted on the Internet is believable and knowing how to, or that you should, check facts
  • Understanding fair use, copyright, and Creative Commons.
  • Basic coding: some HTML or at least knowing what it is if you come across it and being able to search for information on how to change it.

So let's see how I do. Oops, that’s nine.

I'm also looking forward to chapter 4. I'm not familiar with digital literacy frameworks (at least I don't think so), so I'm interested in having Belshaw filter them for me. And because I feel I'm pretty digital literate, I'll be able to follow up with my own online research to confirm.

Summary of chapter six: memes…? And chapter 7 remix? Can't wait. I already can tell that one of the elements may include something about fair use and Creative Commons, both left out of my initial list.

Chapter 2 What's the problem?

"In fact, I'd argue that, in isolation, an individual cannot be literate at all.

This statement makes a lot of sense to me as one doesn't achieve deep understanding without others. You can't come up with a good argument if you haven't tried it out on someone else. In order to have a strong understanding, you have to look at things from different perspectives as they may be alternative understandings. Getting feedback on your own literacy, you need to compare your understanding to others for both self-assessment and evaluation based on other's experiences.

I tried to capture some of my thoughts in a mindmap using Wisemapping (as suggested by Sarah C.)

Chapter 3 Everything is ambiguous

"‘Digital Natives’ would be a good example of this. It signifies nothing useful, not because it’s over-ambiguous, but because it’s overly-specific and references an outdated way of looking at the world.

Ambiguous is in itself ambiguous. I embrace the concept of being ambiguous because that allows me to be right about something part of the time. But it can certainly be a challenge if not all the entities involved accept some degree of ambiguity. It can also be hard if you'd trying to collect data for analysis.

On an institutional level what immediately comes to mind is the student information system we use at UA called banner, specially when it comes to coding courses that are not traditional face-to-face classes. We created lists of different types of delivery methods from each of the three main campuses, but lists from extended campuses. Every campus had their own definitions. Months and months went by trying to come up with a short list that was acceptable to all. When we finally came up with a working list, what do you know, technology had changed and what was once an online class (traditionally asynchronous and “correspondence-style) wasn’t being found in a course search for a particular semester because the code wasn’t being captured in the data. The definition and redefinition of course delivery methods continue to this day.

"That’s why it’s useful to revisit strategies and definitions on a regular basis to ensure they’re still useful and productive.

Chapter 4 Why existing models of digital literacy don't work

"‘If the Mathematics skills had in fact been learned separately from the content then learners would have had no problem transferring their skills to a new context. Context matters.

I wonder if this idea will change as students of digital humanities age and become teachers. Will the cross-influence of the data analysis in research that is crucial to support digital humanities, influence how things are being taught. I would guess that there could be a huge influence on K-12 teachers if those digital humanities students went to get teaching certificates and had any support for new teaching methods to be used.

The issue with the young student not being able to draw a graph in a history course immediately after doing the same in the math class...perhaps that math teacher needs to work harder on making Math more relevant to real life experiences. I've always thought that offering a Math for the Humanities course would be better received and provide a better framework for students being successful. Learning math solely based on equations that appear to have no life relevance isn’t going to motivate any reluctant student to be a math major.

"‘Our tendency in education, in general, is to package-up blocks of learning on a linear pathway. The learner literally does not see the ‘big picture’ of learning — only what comes next. On the other hand, letting the learner roam, whilst providing just-in-time support, can lead to a much richer and more enjoyable experience. They can see how it all fits together, even if they haven’t got all of the detail and nuances just yet.

Yes! Why do we tend to hide the end goal from students? Is it fear that student will jump to the end without proper preparation? Or that allowing for non-linear learning there is the potential for some skills or information being prone to be left out or glossed over? I think some of that might be true, but only if the learning is done in isolation, and as Belshaw points, out Digital Literacies and is not done in isolation. If you are learning in a group or with others, chances are that someone else pick up on the underlying premise and will share that with you, either directly or indirectly when you’re looking at their work.

Chapter 5 The Essential Elements of Digitial Literacies

  • Cultural
  • Cognitive
  • Constructive
  • Communicative
  • Confident
  • Creative
  • Critical
  • Civic

Who knew that the eight elements would all begin with a "C."


"Digital literacies are not solely about technical proficiency but about the issues, norms and habits of mind surrounding technologies we use for a particular purpose.

Just like any kind of literacy, on-going practice and use in that literacy are essential. You can’t just gain a certain level of proficiency in something and then stop keeping up. This isn’t solely related to digital literacy, it relates to all kinds of Literacies but I think it is especially relevant in the digital world because of how quickly things change.


"One example of the importance of the Cognitive element of digital literacies comes from the ubiquitous ‘software menu’. This is a concept that relies on branching logic, something that I’m fairly certain doesn’t exist in nature.

Belshaw’s reference to nature reminded me of creating and using a dichotomous key for help in making and identification. When creating a key you start out with the more Common traits and then work down. (I was actually thinking about a Wing it! Assignment based on taking pictures of flowers or plants that you might see outside and then create a google form with its branching logic to create an identification key. I might still use this idea.) Creating a dichotomous key is definitely a cognitive activity.


"Being Constructive, therefore, does not necessarily need to be from scratch, but can be building upon someone else’s work, giving them credit for what they contributed to the project.

This is one area in which education has a leg up on copyright and fair use regulations. The copy of remixing and repurposing for making something new is highly supported in an educational setting. This is also important to teach kids the “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” ethics of fair use and appropriate attribution.


"Although none of the essential elements of digital literacies are more or less important than any of the others, the Communicative element is nevertheless pivotal.

Certainly, I agree with Belshaw on this one. Without being communicative, no one else will know if you have an understanding of digital literacies or not or to what depth you have insight. Being a lurking on the internet will only get you so far. You can’t be completely literate if you can’t articulate your skills and comprehension.


"It involves understanding and capitalising upon ways in which the digital world differs from the analogue. This can range from the simple (e.g. pressing CTRL-Z to undo an action) to more complex (e.g. creating a personal ‘brand’ using social media).

Belshaw brings up a lot of different points under the Confident section from having an understanding that putting and “e” in front of an analogue thing is used to make it familiar. I think the same goes for the word “digital.” I think he is then saying that you also have an understanding that although at a superficial level the “thing” might be the same, it is actually different and has different capabilities. He also talks about understanding your Personal Learning Environment, revisiting it and looking for gaps. There is a lot here to think about.


"The learner joins the dots in new, interesting and contextually-relevant ways.

More and more companies are allowing their employees time to pursue their own personal projects or to innovate without fear of failure. Although Google now has some rules around their allowances for 20% of an employee’s time spent on their own projects, this idea has spread to other companies, mostly in the tech field. Even in the classroom, with the 20Time project, students are given time away from regular classroom activities to come up with a project that they can be passionate about. Students get real life experience for planning out a project and seeing it through, regardless if the end results doesn’t pan out exactly as anticipated. Students take ownership and learn along the way.


"Becoming more advanced in the Critical element of digital literacies involves thinking about your own literacy practices. It involves reflecting on how they have come about, what has influenced you, and how your actions affect others.

I’m beginning to wonder if using a “C” for the eight elements was really a good idea. This element includes awareness of online courses as well as thinking about the audience for online content and perhaps how you portray them. I don’t get now these are connected.


"Preparing both ourselves and others to participate fully in society should, to my mind, be the goal of literacies.

This seems to tie in somewhat with the Critical element in that as a consumer, be aware that in an online environment there will be those who are publishing something from their point of view that may or may not be the truth. It is all perspective. As a publisher, be aware that someone may not see a situation the same way as you. Think about how you behave online and how what you say may come across to someone with a different mindset.

And when it all comes down to it the definition of Digital Literacies changes the context for whom is asking.

Digital Literacies Adobe Spark video

Chapters 6-9 Moved over [Digital Me-I Wiki]