Reflections on OEB Mid Summit

In June 2017, two NIDL staff were fortunate to participate in the first OEB Mid Summit conference with a theme of “Shaping the Future of Learning”.

Unknown.jpegWhile this first Mid Summit conference in the OEB series of events did not attract a particularly large number of delegates, as perhaps the organisers would have hoped, on paper the programme included a very strong line up of speakers.


That said, on a less positive note it was observed by several conference delegates how disappointing it was to see in today’s age some of the panel discussions dominated by men. And they tended to be white, middle aged and for some reason came across to the audience as rather angry or disaffected about the state of educational technology and higher education more generally. Perhaps something to note for the next conference.

Dr Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl and Professor Mark Brown from the NIDL jointly presented a challenging paper exploring the utopian and dystopian sides of the digital literacies movement. The presentation was well received by delegates and a copy of the slide-deck appears below.

Ice3In addition, both Mark and Mairead were pleased to have the opportunity to support Dr. Larry Ragan from Penn State University and Maren Deepwell from the UK Association of Learning Technology to plan and facilitate a very innovative “throw down” challenge workshop on the theme of student success.

Ice4During the workshop participants were challenged in groups to generate ideas to address the problem of student retention, and then had to select their best one to pitch as the most promising educational solution for potential funding and future development. We heard some excellent pitches and the workshop was a great success, thanks to Larry’s expert facilitation. Whether the NIDL has a presence at OEB Mid Summit 2018 remains to be seen.


Researching Digital Literacies ‘From the Ground Up’

Last week, as part of the NIDL’s regular visiting scholar series, Dr Ibrar Bhatt from Queen’s University Belfast gave an invited talk on the topic of what it means to be literate in the 21st Century and different conceptions of digital literacies. BhattIbrar’s talk was titled Researching Digital Literacies ‘From the Ground Up’ and discussed how there are often crisis narratives surrounding literacy, its relationship to technology, and what that means for our society. He also reminded us this debate is not new.

Centuries ago Plato
 (in Phaedrusrecorded Socrates’ objection to the practice and technology of writing, arguing that it would erode memory and cognitive functions, and have a negative effect on society. New approaches to education brought about by such things as increased digitisation and a newly lauded notion of 21st-century skills’ have re-invigorated old debates about what it means to be (digitally) literate and what this portends for education.


Ibrar described a ‘social practice’ approach to the study of digital literacy and how this framing can be used to better understand how we can research the area through a lens on student practices as the locus of inquiry. In argued that by examining digital literacies as they unfold at the level of localised practice, or ‘from the ground up’we can gain a critical idea of how these practices relate to how technologies are positioned by learners, their teachers, and investors in educational technologies. These approaches afford a criticality that Dr Bhatt claims can help us rethink digital media in higher education.