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(Digital Literacies) A Pedagogy

image of a hybrid unicorn with words hybrid pedagogy

The cultivation of learning is a cognitive and emotional and social activity [Illeris 2002]

Investigation and identification of digital literacy activities, since the inception of the world wide web and personal computers, has been the concern of numerous researchers. The need for mastering electronic tools, ability to plan, execute and evaluate digital actions; these skills are now considered crucial [Fieldhouse & Nicholas 2008, Martin 2003].

What is Pedagogy?

Pedagogy is the art, science, or profession of teaching1 . Knowledge about learning, learning about knowledge. Traditional pedagogy, was criticized by creative thinkers such as Paulo Freire, who believed pedagogy was more than just teaching. It should include other elements such as good practice, reflection, promoting communication, co-operation and effective learning [Søby 2006, Strommel 2012]. The convergence of pedagogy and digital technologies, has become know as digital pedagogy. However, scholars such as Jesse Stommel and Peter Rorabaugh, believe a further step was needed. They launched a new academic publishing model in 2011, Hybrid Pedagogy, an online journal that encourages members of the editorial collective to engage directly with authors to revise and develop articles, followed by post-publication peer review [Hybrid Pedagogy 2012]. Believing in the collaborative nature of pedagogy, they described it as:

…. the place where philosophy and practice meet (aka “praxis”). It’s vibrant and embodied, meditative and productive.” There is an important distinction here between teaching and pedagogy, between work that is productive and work that is productive and also reflective [Hybrid Pedagogy 2012].

Hybrid Pedagogy, states that all learning is necessarily hybrid; it does not exist in a vacuum but in the physical and online worlds, with new and innovative actions to engage students into learning [Strommel 2012]. This ties in with Paulo Freire’s definition of praxis as ‘reflection and action upon the world in order to change it’ [Freire 1968].

Regardless of the definition, from digital pedagogy to hybrid pedagogy, the core values remain the same. From Freire and Strommel to Belshaw, whether it be a form of reflection, evaluation or expression, the key element is action. Technology can be so much more than digital building blocks, but about building digital communities. Teaching digital literacies, through a hybrid pedagogical framework, is about teaching skills and values, in an authentic context, that makes sense to learners. It means teaching progressively rather than sequentially, which helps learners understand better and more clearly over time [Bali 2016].

A large quantity of research that has been published on digital pedagogy, refers to digital literacies in education, focusing from youth to young adult. Applying hybrid digital pedagogy to participatory projects, allows for both the facilitators and the participants to learn a continuum of skills, through competencies up to literacies [Belshaw 2014]. It will broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity [Belshaw 2014, Mizuko et al 2012].

Lifelong Learning

If we replace the language of digital or hybrid pedagogical research, from student to learner, we can see how recently developed learning methodologies and strategies can affect a wider community. If we see this as an opportunity to develop an age-neutral pedagogical policy relating to digital literacies, we are promoting more than just education, but lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning offers a holistic perspective on the role of education in a person’s life cycle. It affirms that learning, as a continuous process in life, plays an essential role in enabling individuals to adapt to, and deal with, new challenges and changes in their lifes and surrounding environment. [Ahmed 2014]

Practical digital community-based projects, such as crowdsourced archaeological projects, could work more successfully, in terms of participation, research, and outcomes, if they apply a stronger digital pedagogical strategy in place. A number of of elements of Belshaw’s Digital Literacies are already in place, such as

Cultural: Requires technology use in different contexts and awareness of the values and practices specific to varying contexts

Communicative: Requires awareness of different communication devices that are both digital and mobile

By its very nature, an archaeological project is inherently cultural. Creating a community of practice, that is the participants engaging in the project, and effectively conveying the practical and theoretical goals of the project, is communicative.

However, by applying principles of digital pedagogy, that is good practice, reflection, co-operation and effective learning; the other six elements can be applied with great success.

Cognitive: enabling the participants to step beyond basic use of digital tools, to mastery; of the use of technological tools, software, and platforms

Constructive: effective communication with the participants can unveil pros and cons of certain softwares or platforms, and create a situation where existing resources could be reused or remixed, or new resources can be explored.

Confidence: developing the project along the lines of a connected learning space, as opposed to simple a digital recording project, can create a positive connected learning environment; where participants can gain competence with digital technologies, and the facilitators can gain new insights into team dynamics. It can also help with different forms of learning, such as informal (trial and error, peer learning) and or semi/formal (manual, or online video tutorial).

Creative: not only can this element create new data in digital environments, it can create a new digital experience. Bridging a gap between the data the archaeological researchers would like, and what the the participants would like to see recorded, and viewed digitally. Taking risks with the data, could producing new ways of understanding.

Critical: greater learner engagement will help foster and develop critical thinking. Empowered through problem based learning or learning new digital skills to record the artefacts, the participant and the facilitator can help the growth of the collective knowledge about the artefacts and increase perspectives, while actively taking different circumstances into account. Digital Literacies are best taught when the learner can see the whole picture of what they are learning and where they are going (‘progressive encoding’) [Belshaw 2014].

Phronesis or “practical wisdom”

Civic: The civic element will be discussed further, as it is an important element in the promotion of engaged digital citizenship. Beyond acquisition of research and 21stcentury writing skills, teaching digital activism empowers students [learners], increases agency, and helps them grasp the value of disrupting existing, outdated, or oppressive power dynamics in effective ways… finally, it helps develop lifelong learners who are self-motivated. [Goodling 2015]

Stepping beyond crowdsourced data collection

Having stepped beyond a participatory project, as being simply a crowdsourced data collection, a new digital system  that puts the real time and virtual community first: a networked improvement community, such as a Collaborative Knowledge Evolution Support System (CKESS) can be developed.

A networked improvement community is a distinct network form that arranges human and technical resources so that the community is capable of getting better at getting better [Engelbart 2003].

The CKESS system allows for  a multimedia document repository augmented through innovative and dynamic hypermedia supports, to enable members of a virtual community to collaborate and evolve their community’s knowledge for the betterment of all. With hybrid pedagogical ideals at its core, a target community can improve their understanding, and improve the way they improve the way they perform tasks [Bieber et al 2002]

The CKESS, will shed light on seven major issues in the field of Digital Libraries and Virtual Communities, including:

  • enhanced infrastructure supporting the community
  • constant evaluation of alternative approaches and guidelines, to develop its virtual community
  • supporting the education of its members, on how CKESS works, and how they can actively partake in improving the system
  • enhancing the digital library based meta-improvement infrastructure to transform the community into an NIC
  • Taking advantage of latest technologies, such as multimedia repositories, computer mediated communication, information retrieval/database management, information visualizations, as well as supports in place for process and decision making.
  • Development of collaboration tools, that will help the community work better and more efficiently, as a collective.
  • Extension of concept mapping into full conceptual knowledge structures.

By bringing the ideals of hybrid pedagogy and CKESS into play, and also, Bedshaw’s eight elements of digital literacies; a participatory digital project can step beyond becoming  a digital repository or library. It can become dynamic rather than passive, interactive rather than static. Its users can help define the best practice model, in terms of userability and accessibility, becoming active participants, engaged digital citizens, in the evolving multimedia document repository, or virtual shared space [Bieber 2002].


1‘Definition of PEDAGOGY’ <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pedagogy>


Ahmed, Manzoor, (2014) ‘Lifelong Learning in a Learning Society: Are Community Learning Centres the Vehicle?’, International Development Policy | Revue internationale de politique de développement,  <http://dx.doi.org/10.4000/poldev.1782>.

 Bali,Maha. (2016)‘Knowing the Difference Between Digital Skills and Digital Literacies, and Teaching Both’, Literacy Worldwide, 2016 <http://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2016/02/03/knowing-the-difference-between-digital-skills-and-digital-literacies-and-teaching-both>

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Goodling, Lauri B., (2015) ‘Civic Engagement 2.0: A Blended Pedagogy of Multiliteracies and Activism’, <http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/english_diss/148/>

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(2003). Towards e-literacy. In A. Martin & H. Rader (Eds.), Information and IT literacy: enabling learning in the 21stcentury (pp. 3–23). London: Facet Publishing

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