New OU Course cuts through tech hype

The OU have started a new postgraduate course entitled “Practice-based research in educational technology” to help educational professionals make better use of ICT within their work.

The OU have stated:
“Podcasts, interactive whiteboards, Second Life and mobile devices are amongst the new and emerging technologies which can be used for educational purposes. But what evidence is there that they work and what is the best way to use them? The new course helps people to evaluate the latest research into technology enhanced learning. It also draws attention to new methods of data collection and analysis, which can then be used to study practical innovations.”

Registration is now open and the course begins in February 2009 for 20 weeks part-time. 

Read the full story here.

NIACE – Media Literacy Survey 2008

The annual Media Literacy Survey from NIACE has revealed there is still some way to go to address the digital divide.

“Over one-third (36%) of adults do not have access to a computer and over two-fifths (42%) lack access to the Internet.”
NIACE Press Release

However, for those who are on the internet there has been a significant change in their usage as the below table from the NIACE report shows.

Changing Internet Usage

Changing Internet Usage

(NIACE Media Literacy Survey 2008, page 16)

Along with the large increases in email and surfing the table above presents a clear picture of the specific activities the internet is being used for.  These have all increased significantly since 2007 and are surely reflective of how the internet is now being used to enrich people’s lives: by helping them streamline the management of their lives and empower their decision making with greater information.

Digital inclusion and media literacy will play a key role in helping people realise these benefits.  The following two quotes sum up the situation well:

“People without the skills to use new communications technologies run the risk of being excluded socially, politically and financially. We all need to help people develop their media literacy to build confidence to benefit from the many opportunities available in this digital world …”
(Robin Blake, Head of Media Literacy, Ofcom – NIACE Press Release)

“What we see and hear from the media shapes our sense of reality and our understanding of the world around us. Yet significant numbers of adults remain on the wrong side of the digital divide. Television continues to play an important role in our leisure time. Too often, however, assumptions are made about people’s ability to participate in the virtual world. Considerable effort is needed to ensure that those who are already marginalised do not become yet further disadvantaged.”
(Rachel Thomson, NIACE Lead Officer for Media Literacy – NIACE Press Release)

 The NIACE Media Literacy 2008 survey report: The Media Literacy Survey, 2008 (pdf)

The Press Association  – related article: “Elderly and poor in digital worry”

Is the net generation media literate?

Possibly not!

In a recent letter to Timesonline, Jonathan Smart from University of Plymouth felt that while the net generation may be digital literate, their information skills are not keeping pace.  He references a number of reports to support this position.

“It is dangerous to conflate technical skills with cognitive skills, and despite the profusion of readily accessible information digitally, there can still exist a gulf in the ability of the ‘digital natives’ to evaluate critically, contextualise and deploy the information they retrieve.”