Mobiles phones increasing (non-digital) literacy in poor countries

An interesting article in the Independent recently reported on a Unesco report that found the availability of cheap mobile phones has supported an increase in literacy where physical books can be difficult and expensive to source.

The Independent article offers a digest:

The full Unesco Report can be found here:

However, note the health warning that the report was supported with funding from Nokia who have a large market share on basic feature phones in the region surveyed!


Report from the Change Agents Network Event at the University of Winchester Feb 2014

In the past few years we have seen the emergence of a number of projects and initiatives where students work closely with staff as partners or ‘change agents’ in teaching, learning and research. The University of Exeter pioneered this approach (see Dunne and Zandstra, 2011) and more recently the University of Greenwich received JISC funding to develop a national support network of students as change agents and the staff that support them ( The first CAN (Change Agents Network) event was held at the University of Winchester on 19/20 February 2014 and Jenny Watson and Julian Prior from Learning Technologies were invited along.
Yaz el Hakim, (Dean of Teaching and Learning at Winchester and a keynote speaker at our T&L conference in 2012) kicked off proceedings stressing that the days of simply listening to the ’student voice’ were over and instead urged us to work with students as equal partners. Simon Walker from Greenwich then spoke about the aims of the network which are as follows:
* Creating a national network of student change agents to address new drivers for change
* Enhancing student change agents’ understanding of effective practice and change issues in educational innovation;
* identify and share effective practice and develop a forum for supporting and sharing of ideas;
* Create and link to resources to support staff and students
* Develop an accreditation framework for students working as change agents
Simon made the important point that students are coming to universities with vastly different knowledge and experience of digital literacies, bringing with them different ‘backpacks’ of devices.

Sarah Knight (eLearning Programme Manager at JISC) followed Simon, opening with a quote from NUS VP Education Rachel Wenstone and emphasising the benefits the students as change agents initiative gives to students, staff and institutions such as gaining experience of leadership, increasing confidence and skills, recognition and retention. Sarah recommended the NUS student engagement toolkit and talked about some of the existing projects where students are working as partners and digital pioneers such as the Summer of Student Innovation (, Oxford Brookes’ InStePP project (, the Digital Student Project ( and Greenwich’s Digital Literacies in Transition Project ( 
Sarah’s key message was that we need to learn from students; working as partners in student-led projects really can transform education and is something the HEA, QAA, HEFCE and NUS fully support. Finally she hinted at some of the future work of the CAN which includes supporting the development of a SEDA recognised qualification in Institutional Change Leadership for students working as change agents, and launching a new journal: The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change (reviewers and contributors needed). Exciting times ahead!

The next session led by Simon Walker and Mark Kerrigan was an interactive workshop focusing on getting to know some of the existing projects. These included:
  • Josie Fraser at De Montfort Uni, Leicester who is running a digital literacies programme that is very ambitious and involves working with the council and local schools to improve digital literacies across the area (see;
  • Sheffield Hallam’s ‘Menu of Teaching Approaches and the Technologies that can support them‘ focuses on encouraging staff to make use of the many existing technologies and tools that are available to enhance learning (see Julian for a hard copy of this resource);
  • Nottingham is using students as change agents to transform teaching, inform T&L strategy and support practice;
  • Greenwich have produced cards to categorise in a light hearted way where people are as regards digital literacies (see image below);
  • Will Page the student engagement officer at Exeter talked about the more than 50 change agents projects dotted around the university. Tips for engaging students included awareness that students no longer use email as their primary mode of communication.

We also learned that Winchester annually produce a student journal in which academics submit student work as case studies.  Fiona Handley edited the first volume and said it was a lot of work as each article needed to be almost  rewritten to get it into an consistent format but that it was a great vehicle and a means whereby students as partners’ reports could be disseminated.


Parallel sessions
A couple of workshops that Jenny and I attended are worthy of mention: 
(a) Technology and change – Amy Barlow (Winchester) and Mark Kerrigan (Greenwich)
This session involved student fellows from the University of Winchester talking about the Mobile Device Scheme (MDS) they were involved in alongside Amy Barlow, a learning technologist at Winchester. The three year project introduced three different devices to students (iPads, Windows Surface tablets and the Galaxy Tab) and four student fellows (one from each faculty) played a central role as partners for innovation and technology experts. The fellows are in the process of publishing a monthly newsletter which includes App reviews and they undertake group workshops and 1-1 sessions with other students.
Mark Kerrigan from Greenwich University rounded off the session by talking about the mobile scheme in the School of Science whereby all first year undergraduates are loaned an iPad as a vehicle for developing digital attributes, literacies and competencies. There is an emphasis on developing critical skills and students are part of an inter-disciplinary research group and receive scholarships as a reward. One output was a set of student produced cards where students are encouraged to assess their level of digital literacy against four ‘ideal types’ (Immersed, Adaptive, Fixed, Detached).

(b) Supporting students – Peter Chatterton (Change Agents Consultant)
This workshop was led by change agents consultant Peter Chatterton who together with JISC has devised a toolkit to support institutions working alongside students to implement change. The resource toolkit comprises case studies, practice points, benefits of working with students as partners, useful links and a card toolkit based on University of Ulster’s Viewpoints for Student Partnerships resource. The card toolkit is structured around four distinct stages of implementation:
  • Partnership set-up
  • Partnership implementation
  • Capabilities, development and accreditation
  • Evaluation, impact and sustainability
In small groups of staff and students we took one stage each and, using the cards, explored how we might implement student partnerships by setting priorities for each stage of the process. I found this to be a really valuable exercise and it was great to hear that the card toolkit can be adapted for an institution’s needs. The toolkit provides a comprehensive plan for implementing student partnerships and students as change agents – the resources are available at
Two other sessions that we attended:
  • A workshop on writing and persuading skills led by an actor and screen writer who emphasised the importance of taking the time to understand who the audience was, so the content could be focused and cut to size.  He emphasised that content should have a snappy beginning, middle and end (no waffle).
  • Dave White led an interesting session on the morning of the second day in the fantastic setting of the Everyman Cinema in Winchester. Dave talked about the work that he and Helen Beetham have been carrying out on the JISC Digital Student Project and we then engaged in a useful future scenario planning exercise, the results of which can be seen at – well worth a look.


Overall we experienced two days of lively discussion and thoughtful reflection and we learnt a lot from other universities who are much further down the line in terms of working with their students as change agents. Solent has a long history of student partnership projects (Graduate Associates, the Peer Leaders scheme, Solent SMILE Fest etc.) and we are excited to see how a change agents initiative at Solent works alongside the development of digital literacies and supports the embedding of technology enhanced learning more generally.

Julian Prior

Jenny Watson
Useful Links:
Follow @CANogogy on Twitter Case Studies: Students as Change Agents (Elizabeth Dunne and Zoos Zandstra, 2011) (Mick Healey’s survey of Students as Change Agents in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education) (Reading’s Digitally Ready Project) (Birmingham City’s T-SPARC Project – Technology-Supported Processes for Agile and Responsive Curricula)

Protesting Too Much About Getty Images

The Getty Images scheme to make 35 million of their images free-to-embed has been more controversial than I’d have ever guessed it would be.

I’ve written a little bit on my personal blog about Getty’s change in the way they handle image sharing, and the reaction:

I embraced it because to me, it’s a pretty good thing when a corporation or organisation works out a way to navigate through the cultural sense of entitlement users of the contemporary web have, without resorting to fear tactics, litigation, or DRM that breaks the content that we’re trying to use…

…All of those methods are corporate ways of dealing with a cultural problem, and they don’t really help anyone. And all the while, the social internet has been moving further and further into the wild west of sharing stuff with abandon, and without attribution.

“Protesting Too Much About Getty Images”

I lied, of course. I didn’t write a little bit. I actually wrote a lot. But it may be helpful, so I hope you read it.

Mobile Learning and BYOD CLL event – Southampton Uni 7 March

Last Friday, my colleague Nick and I attended an HEA organised event  – Changing the Learning Landscape (CLL) – at the University of Southampton (UoS).

It was an informative event about practices around mobile learning and bring your own device (BYOD) approaches by various UK institutions.

Following an introduction to the day by Alison Le Cornu from the HEA, Prof Hugh Davis, Director of CITE at UoS gave an introduction on university strategy and digital literacies. Digital literacies were defined as the skills needed to be developed by students in order to ‘be equipped to live, thrive, learn, work, collaborate, influence and lead in the increasingly digital and connected world’. Mobile learning and BYOD could certainly contribute towards that direction but some of the issues that a university has to take into account were reported to be the following:

What devices will it support
How these devices are going to be supported
Who will pay for software/apps required
If the university supplies hardware, who owns it (whose Apple id etc)
Which devices can access university systems

These questions set the scene for the rest of the day.

Fiona Harvey and Tamsyn Smith talked about their ‘iPads and alternative devices coffee club’ during which staff get together for coffee and a chat on various apps. Interesting idea that can generate informal networks for ideas exchange in the use of tablet devices for mobile learning.

Tim Cappelli form the University of Manchester Medical School disseminated information from their approach with medical students and explained why they did not follow a BYOD approach. These reasons included data security – which in their case were sensitive patient data –  and homogeneity. However, Tim acknowledged the fact that the single platform approach is not without issues; those include high initial outlay, tablet fatigue and may make it hard to find an exit strategy.

Prof Steven Furnell from Plymouth University gave a talk ‘Your device – Everybody’s problem?’ in which he highlighted the dilemmas between pre-selected devices and BYOD in terms of ownership and management but also highlighted the security issues that mobile devices are prone to, including loss, theft, security passwords and malware.

Katie Spires, a Web Science PhD student from UoS shared her experiences on how some iPad Apps and the In class App in particular can be helpful as an assistive technology for organising one’s learning.

Following that, Adrian Halnan from  the School of Education at UoS shared his reflections from BYOD as part of one of the modules he taught; this highlighted the advantages and limitations of students bringing their own device. An interesting point made by Adrian was that while the advantages of BYOD – familiarity, personalisation, access to own software, flexibility around study patterns/note taking and portability – were more related with students’ learning, the limitations of BYOD – lack of charging stations, printing problems, network reliability, some programs being unavailable – had to do primarily with management issues.

John Schulz, also from the School of Education at UoS offered his experiences from his School in which iPads are given as weekly loans to some mature students and army students during their on-campus residentials. The tablet devices have commonly used apps downloaded on them and as they are backed-up on the cloud, they can easily be restored and reused.

The day closed with an overview of the Students as Digital Literacies Champions (Digichamps) from the DL Digichamps at UoS

“On Teaching” by Dr Caroline Magennis

The Times Higher Education twitter account asked academics to tweet about their worst student.

Dr Caroline Magennis had a few wise things to say about this:

“…jokes should never ever be directed at our students. Ever. They should never have their exam or essay errors made fun of in public and, particularly, nothing said in a classroom should ever be tweeted for smug amusement.

….the first reason not to slag off your students in public is basic human decency and the recognition that we all say silly things and make mistakes, without the fear it will be made public. Imagine if someone tweeted that thing you said in academic council last Spring… Exactly.”

Read the full article here.

These Pages Fall Like Ash

These Pages Fall Like Ash

Bristol is currently home to this intriguing project, and will be until the 8th of May:

…if you try to siphon off some Wi-Fi while walking around Bristol in the next few days, you might find yourself accessing not your own email, but a whole alternative universe.

The city is currently home to an experiment in digital storytelling called These Pages Fall Like Ash.

Participants download portions of narrative to their smartphones from Raspberry Pi terminals concealed in various locations. Of course, you’ll need a guide to find and understand these, and that comes in the form of a beautiful wood-bound notebook that you receive when you purchase your ticket.

Sarah Ditum – Fantasy fiction project brings new worlds to your smartphone –

Art collective Circumstance have worked on other projects that meld environment with technology to narrative effect, and this time collaborate with academic Tom Abba, and authors Nick Harkaway and Neil Gaiman.

Tickets have sold out, but the organisers plan to bring similar events to other cities. The project’s official site is here.

(Edit: Read Ditum’s review of the pr0ject for The New Statesman here.)

UK Government Making Sweeping Copyright Reform

The Register has a story today which suggests that the UK government just passed an Act making all uncredited content posted online forfeit to exploitation by other organisations:

The Act contains changes to UK copyright law which permit the commercial exploitation of images where information identifying the owner is missing, so-called “orphan works”, by placing the work into what’s known as “extended collective licensing” schemes. Since most digital images on the internet today are orphans – the metadata is missing or has been stripped by a large organisation – millions of photographs and illustrations are swept into such schemes.

For the first time anywhere in the world, the Act will permit the widespread commercial exploitation of unidentified work – the user only needs to perform a “diligent search”. But since this is likely to come up with a blank, they can proceed with impunity. The Act states that a user of a work can act as if they are the owner of the work (which should be you) if they’re given permission to do so by the Secretary of State and are acting as a regulated body.

If their interpretation of these changes are accurate, it may be worth rethinking how we use/have used services such as Flickr, Instagram or Facebook completely.