Basic Skills for the Information Age: Ideas from the Community College Circuit

In April, I attended the Council for the Study of Community Colleges’ annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Part of my work there involved co-organizing a roundtable session around the idea of digital literacies in community colleges. Since then, I have published a summary of the session here.

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Defining Digital Literacy

One of our biggest challenges has been to come up with a definition or explanation of what distinct skills or practices are implicated in the term “digital literacy.” Which technological paradigms are most salient, and why? The following four categories of digital skills emerged from the roundtable discussion:

Data types. Students need to gain familiarity with types of data that are used in the production and consumption of information in the digital age. Visual, textual, audible, and spatial data are available in an endlessly evolving array of formats and sizes. Students need to become acquainted with how to make decisions about which should be used in a variety of situations to inform effective communication.

Digital writing. Writing in traditional academic formats (APA, MLA, and so on) is a touchstone in higher education, yet these academic styles represent only a narrow set of uses in the wider workforce.  Digital writing refers to the increasing ubiquity of online publishing that includes hyperlinks; collaborative authorship; and malleable, dynamic texts. This approach incorporates new ways of engaging with critical thinking, taking full advantage of the information age contexts.

Social media. The ubiquity of social media across commercial, non-profit, service, and governmental sectors demands that students be familiar and comfortable with their potentials.  The blurring of roles producer and consumer is paramount, moving beyond passive consumption to engage critically with these networked means of communication.

Blogging. Even as one of the older technologies in the digital age, blogs continue to represent a powerful tool for communication and collaboration. Disrupting the traditional barriers to publishing, blogging empowers students to synthesize the full array of data types for a worldwide audience. Practical knowledge of this evolving technology is applicable to a wide variety of implementation of problem solving and critical thinking skills.

But these seem limited at best. In seeking out a more comprehensive definition, I stumbled across a paper presented at the Innovations 2012 conference in Philidelphia. It is a meta-analysis of existent literature surrounding “digital literacy” in community colleges over the last 20 years or so, and it includes this very helpful table:

This table is borrowed from Riel, J., Christian, S., & Hinson, B. (2012, March). Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills education in the community college. Paper presented at Innovations 2012, Philadelphia, PA.

This table is borrowed from: Riel, J., Christian, S., & Hinson, B. (2012, March). Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills education in the community college. Paper presented at Innovations 2012, Philadelphia, PA.

So in considering what digital literacies we would hope to instill in W&M students, or college graduates at large, these lists offer a good starting place. The next question, and by far the more challenging, is “how?”

Pioneering W&M’s First Fully Online Classes

Prof. Coleman's online lecture on Metabolism.

William & Mary’s College of Arts and Sciences quietly crossed into a new era at the start of the second summer term with the launch of two fully online classes. Don’t be surprised if you missed it; the two pilot classes weren’t advertised or formally announced. How It Started Meetings began last December, and continued [...]

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SCORM und Drang, or, Testing out Some E-Learning “Objects”

This is not a SCORM, but it does do a good job saving student answers. The pencil and paper method, however, cannot grade exams for you.

The other week I was thinking about little projects to test out on the e-learning development kits, and I hit upon the idea of teaching myself how to create interactive content in Camtasia Studio. After watching the how-to video on Camtasia’s website (go figure — most of the help for Camtasia is developed in Camtasia, [...]

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Reflections on W&M’s myNotebook Program Ten Years Later

Geology 110 students using their laptop computers and LectureTools during class. I’m arm-waving at the front of the class. So who is on Facebook and who is checking their email? Photo by Pablo Yanez.

William & Mary announced its myNotebook initiative nearly ten years ago. Our effort was by no means revolutionary (as Wake Forest University’s ThinkPad Project began a decade earlier in 1996), rather it was meant to capitalize on the boom of mobile computing that was already changing how students interacted with technology on a day to [...]

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Blackboard Spring Cleaning: Archiving Your Gradebook and Courses

Cleaning up all the papers.

The term has ended; the dorm rooms have been emptied. Painstakingly-taken class notes were thrown away just minutes after final grades were distributed. Students sold books back or passed them along to friends. No one wanted to carry the minutia of the spring term into their summer. Post-Semester Blackboard Clean-Up A similar ritual takes place [...]

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Climbing Everest in the Classroom with Simulation-Based Learning


In my time here at the College, I have been dabbling in a few of the Mason School of Business MBA classes that are available. It was there that I had my first experience with the game simulation-based learning tool known as Everest; developed and distributed by Forio. The experience was exciting, meaningful, and extremely [...]

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What Can You Do with a 3D Printer in the College Classroom?

Lenin's bust took 5 hours to build

My son is graduating from the theater program at William & Mary this year with a focus on theater tech. That means he spent most of his four years of college building props, designing sets, and generally learning to master all the dangerous tools and techniques they use to make the wonderfully elaborate sets for [...]

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The Most Successful Online Discussion Board — a Case Study

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This post outlines how Professor Tom Ward in the School of Education used a discussion board activity with a midterm project to facilitate critical thinking, peer coaching, and the authentic application of conceptual knowledge in a doctoral level Advanced Statistics course.

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Pictures Worth Worlds of Data — Geospatial Data Visualization Projects


For a while now I’ve been very interested in data visualization — specifically how visualization can be used to gain understanding of really large data sets. Actually that’s not true. Like most people I’ve always been drawn to data visualization, if for no other reason that we humans are really quite bad at gaining any [...]

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Good-Bye (or is it See You Later?) from Gene Roche

This will be my last post to this blog as part of my administrative positions at William & Mary. At some point early in August, I’ll be ending more than 30 years as a college administrator and moving to a full-time faculty position in the Higher Education Program in the School of Education. Even after [...]

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