DEBUT Digital Experience Building in University Teaching Developing communities of digitally literate practitioners through a personalised staff development

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  • DEBUTDigital Experience Building in University TeachingDeveloping communities of digitally literate practitioners through a personalised staff development programmeAuthor: Su Westerman Learning Technology Coordinator & DEBUT Programme Manager Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (LTEU)

  • DEBUT in a nutshell

    DEBUT started life in 2007 as an HEA funded project which piloted a new approach to IT staff development. Since this time there have been three cohorts, each of around 30 staff. We have just started our fourth cohort.

    The aim of DEBUT is to enable programme participants to be more aware and more confident in exploiting a wide range of modern technologies to be more digitally literate.

    DEBUT uses a personalised, contextualised, approach to developing digital literacy in staff based on the individual context and needs of participants.

  • Why DEBUT?Involvement in the HEA Benchmarking e-learning exercise in 2007 showed widespread use of the VLE in the institution but few examples of creative practice, or use of other digital tools.

    Meanwhile, the range of digital tools, and their uses is rapidly increasing, but students need support to critically use these to support their learning.

    Systems-based staff development on different tools was not resulting in incremental gains in staff confidence in using digital tools. To develop our use of learning technologies in a more sustainable way, we needed to explore new approaches which developed the digital confidence levels of staff rather than their skills on particular systems.

  • A bit about digital literacyOur interest in the concept of digital literacy comes from the work of Allan Martin and colleagues on the DigEULit project. The project developed the following definition of digital literacy:Digital literacy is the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyse and synthesise digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action, and to reflect upon this process.

    Martin suggests that digital literacy is cultural rather than technological and is socially located. There is no one size fits all e-literacy and it is dynamic the needs of individuals or groups will change as their situation and environment change. (DigEuLit project)

  • A bit about digital literacy

    Martin suggests that for the individual, e-literacy consists of five elements:

    awareness of the IT and information environmentconfidence in using generic IT and information toolsevaluation of information-handling operations and products;reflection on ones own e-literacy developmentadaptability and willingness to meet e-literacy challenges.

    The DEBUT project used these elements to construct the digital literacy scale on which participants could position themselves, from 1 (complete beginner) through to 5 (expert), at the beginning and end of the project. (DigEuLit project)

  • How the programme worksWe invite applications from across the University to be involved each annual DEBUT programme.

    The programme is now open to both academic and administrative staff

    We offer participants a suite 20-30 digital tools we ask participants to choose six to learn during their DEBUT programme.

    We ask participants to choose these tools based on their digital experience, their attitudes to and use of technologies, their needs their context.

    Each cohort is provided with guidance on the tools available before the start of the programme and everyone is asked to attend a launch session when we give an overview of each tool and answer any questions


  • How the programme worksThe tools are supported by staff development workshops, and depending on the popularity of a tool we offer that a number of times during pre-set programme days.

    We try and build in as much opportunity for participants to also share what they do with other participants and with their colleagues.

    Past DEBUTants can gain ongoing benefits from DEBUT through attending workshops offered during the current programme

    Evaluation, and responding to it are crucial. We have made changes to DEBUT with each cohort.

    Internal marketing is key.


  • Some of the tools we offerCreative PowerPoint Refworks Delicious Podcasting Smartphones blogs Netvibes Huddle Mind42 video conferencing Ning Search IT Web 2.0 issues and benefits discussion boards Qwizdom Research 2.0 Wimba Create repositories Tictocs interactive whiteboards wikis Computer Aided Assessment digital video Captivate Flickr and Piknic e-portfolios wikipedia socialgo

  • The staff developmentDEBUT staff development team comprises faculty learning technologists and IT trainers (Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit) and faculty liaison librarians (Library).

    Participants often already have close working relationships with their learning technologist and can carry working with them on doing so on a specific project after DEBUT.

    Initially a range of approaches was used most favoured and most efficient was group workshop

    Workshops were initially individually organised by the staff developer for that tool. Participants told us there were preferable times for staff development (start and end of term and out of term time) and whole days would have made better use of their time.

    DEBUT has moved to six-eight pre-set days in which all staff development workshops are provided.

  • Lessons learned and findings to shareThe key indicator of DEBUTs success is evidence of a marked increase in the digital literacy levels of the participants. Across all cohorts all but the most experienced had made progress on their digital journey, very significant progress in a number of cases.

    Participants commented on the increase in their ability and confidence not only with the tools they had experienced as part of DEBUT, but with digital tools generally

    Many participants also immediately integrated the use of their chosen tools into their practice.

  • Lessons learned and findings to shareWe ask participants to evaluate:

    Each tool experience they undertakeTheir overall experience of DEBUTTheir digital literacy at the outset and end of their DEBUT programme (based on Martins elements of digital literacy)

  • Lessons learned and findings to share

  • Lessons learned and findings to share

  • Lessons learned and findings to share

  • Lessons learned and findings to shareKey success factors quoted by participants are:

    The awareness raising events at the outset of the programmeContextualised staff developmentThe opportunity to explore a range of digital toolsExploring these tools intensely within a short time frameThe support providedThe opportunity to share practice

  • Lessons learned and findings to shareKey issues:

    Time available to spend on staff developmentMixed ability groups could be an issueRelationships built on expertise and trustEasy access to appropriate technologies

  • Lessons learned and findings to shareWhat the DEBUTants have said:

    It has widened my understanding broadly of the possibilities that could be used for personal, professional or educational development.

    I now feel much more confident ... if I just fiddle around then something will come up and at the end I can just get rid of it and unfiddle it. Before I was so petrified about ... I dont know ... it not working out.

    It has made it very clear in my mind what I can see myself using or what I can see the value of.

    It has been interesting to integrate the different digital tools. I have used pictures from Flickr and updated the reference lists used at the end of the [Powerpoint] presentations using Refworks.

    You wouldnt believe how much my IT skills have developed. Now I feel I can press buttons on my computer and it wont break.

  • Moving forward

    DEBUT continues to be run by the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit as an annual staff development programme at Canterbury Christ Church University.

    As a result of the evaluation, DEBUT changes with each cohort. The time taken to complete DEBUT4 will be condensed, with the programme running between June and September 2010.

    The programme has received interest from the HEA and other Universities and Further Education Colleges as an approach.

    The issue of digital literacy is now of key importance in the sector.

    Staff skills in particular is seen by the sector as one of the greatest challenges to successfully exploiting new technologies (UCISA).

  • Questions?

  • Further InformationPlease contact:

    Su WestermanLearning Technology Coordinator and DEBUT Programme

    Alternatively go to:



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