CPD & Innovation

Developing a digital literacy framework

Lucy Atkins and I delivered a workshop at the Association for Learning Technology annual conference, ALT-C 2014, looking at staff digital literacy. We used the DigiLit Leicester Framework strands, descriptors and questions to create two sets of worksheets (which you can download at the bottom of this post) to help structure the session. Workshop participants were mainly working in universities and further education. The aim of the workshop was to use the framework resources to model a practice embedded approach to context/workplace specific digital literacy. In Leicester, we use the framework as a self-reflective tool, to support individual staff members and schools in better understanding their strengths, and any gaps in knowledge and skills they might have. We also use it as a strategic framework to understand the city wide picture and support staff and organisational development.

The first set includes seven worksheets – a high level description of each of the six DigiLit Leicester strands  – Assessment and Feedback; Communication, Collaboration and Participation; Creating and Sharing; E-Safety and Online Identity; Finding, Evaluating and Organising; and Technology supported Professional Development, along with a mystery strand sheet (below) that we included so that participants could come up with their own digital literacy strand area.

Mystery Strand

Each sheet also includes the description of the four levels we work with (Entry, Core, Developer and Pioneer, with the descriptions being the same for each strand), as a prompt to participants.

We asked everyone work with another person or in a small group, and to either pick an existing strand area (with Assessment and Feedback being the most popular) or come up with their own – one of the groups for example chose to focus on ‘online course delivery’ as a competency area, and another chose to look at digital literacy for higher education learners.  We then gave all of the teams 15 minutes, flipchart sheets and marker pens to develop their own ideas, descriptions or questions relating to their chosen strand, practically framing these through how the strand would look at each of the four levels.

It was a busy and successful workshop – a lot of discussion was generated and groups worked hard at getting to grips with linking their ideas to practice. The DigiLit Leicester Framework has been developed with and for secondary and special school staff, so the stands and questions directly relate to them. However, much of the actual content is relevant and transferable to other groups – working within HE, FE, primary or adult education, or within a different profession or sector. This workshop demonstrated how the framework content can be used to scaffold and support organisations looking to take a strategic approach to understanding what the key digital literacy areas are most relevant to a particular group are. You can see how we have made use of the framework to structure staff development work in Leicester schools by looking at our 2014 staff digital literacy survey results, and our recent project activities report.

Assessment and feedback flipchart sheetDistance learning flipchart sheet


Teams fed back to the whole group on their discussion and initial thinking. We also provided groups with copies of our framework statements, linked to each level for the six strand areas.


Communication, collaboration and participation strand statments

These form the basis of the survey we’ve carried out city wide, with staff asked to mark the four statements groups as ‘none’ ‘some’ or ‘all’ (you can find more information about the survey methodology in the 2014 report).

If you’d like to use the worksheets to structure your own workshop or as a starting point to develop your own digital literacy framework, please do:

Pack 1 worksheets: strand and level descriptions PDF

Pack 1 worksheets: strand and level descriptions Word

Pack 2 worksheets: strand statements PDF

Pack 2 worksheets: strand statements Word



Making OER Mainstream in Schools

A guest post for the Open Educational Resources Research Hub. This post was originally published on the OER Research Hub blog on November 10th 2014, and is shared under CC-BY 4.0.




OER15 logo image by the Open Education Conference shared under CC-BY 4.0

I’m delighted to have been invited to keynote at OER15 – the Open Educational Communities annual international conference, taking place in Cardiff in April 2015. I’m very much looking forward to spending some time in the Welsh capital talking to, and learning from, an inspiring group of educators. This year’s conference theme – ‘Mainstreaming Open Education’, is also integral to approach I’ve been taking in my work for Leicester City Council, and to the Open Education Schools Guidance work we’ve just released.

In Leicester, I head up the technology strand of the council’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme – rebuilding and refurbishing 23 secondary and special education schools, which support approximately 20,000 learners, mostly between the ages of 11-16. I work with the BSF team to make sure that the schools get open to time and to budget, and that secondary and SEN schools in the city have the quality of ICT infrastructure, connectivity and equipment that will support them in making effective and creative use of technology to support all aspects of their work. I’ve also been working with the BSF school communities to identify how staff and schools make use of and understand technology to support learning, teaching, and whole school community development. This has been framed by the DigiLit Leicester project, a partnership with De Montfort University and the schools, designed to identify existing excellent practice, identify gaps in knowledge, and to help schools plan for future development.

In the course of the project, we’ve carried out two city-wide surveys. This year, 701 school leaders, teachers, and support staff completed the survey. Although the survey results come with the usual caveats about the limitations of the methodology, the findings are directly useful in understanding how staff across the city make use technology. I think the data is also interesting in terms of what the wider UK schools sector is likely to look like.

In both years the survey was carried out, a lack of knowledge about and familiarity with open licencing and open educational resources (OER) amongst school staff was flagged. Where comments were left that referred to gaps in practice, these mostly referred to OER. For instance, one teacher stated:

“I have never used the Open Educational Resources – I do not know what this is.”

In May 2014 we appointed Dr Björn Haßler and Helen Neo (University of Cambridge) to support us in creating guidance to help school staff in understanding and making use of open licensing and OER. They previously worked on several initiatives which support the creation and use of use of OER by schools across Europe and internationally, including the ORBIT project and the OER4Schools programme.

The brief was to create practical guidance about OER for school staff, drawing on existing openly licensed resources where this was beneficial. We’ve built on and referred to some of the excellent work taking place internationally, to provide a straight forward introduction to the key areas of finding, using, repurposing, creating and sharing OER.

Getting back to the ‘mainstream’ theme here – my work in Leicester is not just to support already confident and creative users of technology – but to all of our school staff develop their knowledge, skills and confidence, in order to benefit all of our learners.

23% of staff completing the 2014 survey placed themselves at the lowest level (‘Entry’) of confidence in relation to at least one of the six digital literacy strands. 42.1% of staff identified themselves in the two lower levels (‘Entry’ and ‘Core’) of the Creating and Sharing strand and 37.5% placed themselves at the lower levels of the Finding, Evaluating and Organising.

This doesn’t of course undermine the incredible work going on across the city – 56% of survey respondents identified themselves at the highest level of the survey in relation to their practice in one or more of the six strands, and the quality and impact of work that the schools have carried out this year has been exceptional.

In terms of the approach we’ve taken to creating the guidance and resources, it was important to recognise that not every staff member is confident in their professional use of technology in all areas of their practice. Not every staff member has heard about every tool or approach to using technology. OER is an area that most haven’t had the chance to get to grips with, but one that offers huge opportunities for staff.

Every staff member in the schools sector will benefit from being introduced to the existence of open licensing and open educational resources. At the very least, understanding OER can support and extend knowledge of copyright and intellectual property issues in relation to their practice and the terms of their employment. At best, OER can act as a conduit to support collaboration and engagement with educators locally and globally to more effectively support learners. I very much see OER as providing a conduit for school communities to raise issues about how resources are used and created, and to take a fresh look at professional practice in relation to resources.

To support this, the resources we’ve release include four key guidance documents covering everything educators need to get started with open education and open licensing:

Alongside the four guidance documents, there are six supporting documents, with workshop activities, and step-by-step walkthroughs to help staff find, use and make open educational resources. These include using Flickr to find great Creative Commons licenced images (PDF), and how to use Wikipedia to create free topic books for learners (PDF).

The resources are packaged in PDF and editable bundles for quick download, and are available from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation

While the resources have been created for school staff they offer a great introduction to open licensing to everyone, and include information that would be relevant to most sectors – I’m very much looking forward to seeing other councils and schools, as well as other sectors and countries, make use of them.

The resources of course are only the start of the OER journey for the city, and we’ll continue to work with schools in relation their practical and strategic approaches to creating and sharing materials. The feedback we’ve had so far has been encouraging and positive. It’s very easy to forget sometimes that many of the discussions and practices relating to OER haven’t yet included the vast majority of educators. We’ve tried to produce information that doesn’t take familiarity with the area, or use of technology for learning, for granted, in order to open new opportunities for educators to benefit from and contribute to open education.

OER Schools Guidance

OER Schools icons


I’m very happy to be letting people know that Leicester City Council has released guidance and a range of practical information for schools to support staff in understanding, finding, and creating Open Educational Resources (OER).

The resource packs can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation.

I’ve worked with Dr Björn Haßler and Helen Neo to produce the resources, which have also benefited from the input of school staff, through review and trialling in pilot workshop sessions.

OER are learning materials (including presentations, revision guides, lesson plans) that have been released under an open licence, so that anyone can use, share and build on them for free.  Many openly licensed resources are available for schools to use and develop. At a time when schools increasingly work with, and rely on, digital and web based materials, understanding how copyright works, and making the most of available resources, is essential for staff and schools.

Creating OER allows schools to connect and collaborate with others through sharing work. Sharing can also help promote the great work that school staff and schools are doing.

The DigiLit Leicester initiative, designed to support schools in making the most of the city’s current investment in technology, identified a gap in support and information for school staff relating to the use and creation of OER. In response to this, Leicester City Council is releasing a range of resources to help schools in the city and beyond get the most out of open licensing.

The focus of the OER Schools project is to providing information to school staff about open licencing, and in particular, Creative Commons. Leicester City Council has also given permission to the 84 community and voluntary controlled schools across the city to create and share Open Educational Resources (OER), by releasing the learning materials they create under an open licence.  By default, the rights of work created in the course of employment are assigned to the employer, unless a specific agreement has been made. This permission makes sharing resources simpler for everyone, and provides additional opportunities for schools and school staff. Leicester City Council is the first local authority in the UK to provide its school employees with permission to openly license their resources.

The OER Schools project resources include:

School permission & policy documents:  This pack includes notification of permission from Leicester City Council to city community and voluntary controlled schools, explanatory briefing notes relating to this permission, and model school policies (which builds on the Albany Senior High School Creative Commons Policy) for schools where the LEA is the employer, and for schools where the governing body (or equivalent) is the employer.

Guidance documents: Four documents which introduce OER and open education; look at copyright and Creative Commons licences; support staff in finding, attributing and remixing OER; and cover creating and sharing OER.

Supporting Documents:  Six supporting documents designed to help staff in delivering OER workshops; provide walkthroughs for finding, using and attributing CC Licensed materials; and include an extensive list of annotated resources and related materials.

Additional materials:  A pack of existing openly licensed resources that are either referenced in the guidance or in activities in the supporting documents, provided on a standalone basis to make life easier for school staff.

All of the materials build upon existing openly licensed works and are themselves released under a CC-BY licence, and provided in editable doc formats as well as PDF.

The Council is also encouraging voluntary aided schools, foundation schools and academies across the city to review their own approach to digital resources, and to see how they can make the most of open licensing.  At these schools, the governing body is usually the employer.  All schools in the city have been provided with information about the permission, and the Council has produced model policies to discuss, adopt and adapt.

All of the resources can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation




Artists Without A Cause – Diana Arce interview

Open Knowledge Festival 2014 by Gregor Fischer (CC BY 2.0)

Open Knowledge Festival 2014 by Gregor Fischer (CC BY 2.0)

This summer I made it over to Berlin, for the a Open Knowledge Festival (#OKFest14). I was mainly there for the open education track, and to thrash out some ideas around approaches to staff development and open licensing. Click through here for a great round up of ‘Open Educating at OKFestival’ from Marieke Guy.

Neelie Kroes delivered the keynote – ‘Embracing the open opportunity’, which argued that open approaches were critical to publicly funded bodies delivering on transparency, fairness and innovation.

One of the highlights of the conference was the involvement of artists and musicians from all over the world, including Artists Without A Cause (AWAC) Bankslave, Peng! Collective, Ingrid Burrington, Josh Begley, Juliani, Sasha Kinney, Swift, The Swag, UhuruB, and Valsero. I was delighted to get to meet the irrepressible Diana Arce from AWAC, and over drinks she foolishly agreed to let me interview her:

Tell me something about Diana Arce.

I’m notorious for travelling at the drop of a hat based off a whim or a gut feeling despite the fact that I’m into organizing and planning most everything else. I’ve been doing this quite a bit over the last few years, taking my work with me and looking for new inspiration. It’s quite easy to do with less money than you think. I keep jokingly saying that I’m writing a book called Permanent Staycation to show people how to do this – which I should- but honestly, I’m quite clueless on how I pull this off and don’t really have time to write a book!

Tell me something no one knows about Diana Arce.

Some people know this but not many: I never intended to be an artist. Funny enough, I was studying law as an undergrad and my law professor soon-to-be mentor convinced me (although it was more like an ultimatum if anything) that I should focus my energies and interests in law and the social sciences into my artwork. Looking back, I’ve always been making political and cultural based work since I started out as an artist so I guess it was just a matter of time that I would end up working on something like AWAC.   

Who is AWAC? How did AWAC come into existence, and where is it heading?

Last year I was invited to participate in Tactical Technology Collective’s Info Activism Camp. For the first time in my career as an artist I was surrounded by over 120 activists and organizers from across the world. Through my participation I realized there were many artistic projects and actions that many of the other participants didn’t know about and I offered to lead a short session to discuss possibilities of developing better collaborations between artists like myself with activists and organizations working to make the world a better place. During the session many of the other participants seeked advice and suggested to myself and another artist that we should form an organization to do this. At the end of the camp we announced Artists Without a Cause and a few months later we put together a basic concept. I begin filing the paperwork in Berlin to get us non profit status and researching potential collaborators and organizations we’d love to work with. It all happened quite quickly and many things changed during the first year. My original partner left to return to school and a few months before OKFest, Jeff Deutch and Brigid Pasco joined the team. I didn’t really realize it while it was happening, but it was a pretty amazing thing to conceptualize an organization, build it and complete our first collaboration within a years time. OKFest happened almost exactly 1 year after the Info Activism Camp.

As far as AWAC’s plans for the future, we are currently talking to a few organizations about incorporating arts as a part of strategic campaigns. We are negotiating with several groups to tool kit Politaoke to make it available to organizers and Brigid is currently researching and developing a project regarding feminism and women’s rights which we hope to turn into a tour. I’m also giving a talk with Peng Collective, one of the artists we featured at OKFestival, at the #FixEurope Camp from European Alternatives this October. We’d like to connect with more organizations and discuss how working with artists can add to their campaigns!

How did AWACs involvement in OK Fest 2014 come about?

I was performing Politaoke at the Berliner Festspiele Theatre as part of the Net culture conference. I put together a program of speeches mostly from the Bundestag dealing with Chancellor Merkel’s phone being tapped by the NSA as well as a few of the greatest hits from the previous Politaoke iterations and Snowden’s Christmas address. It turned out that one of the participants was OKF’s own Beatrice Martini who was organizing OKFest. She wanted me to bring Politaoke and I told her about what we (which at this point consisted of only me)  are trying to do at AWAC. I was then invited to be on the Program Team for the festival and after a few more conversations, Beatrice was convinced that artists should be a part of the festival and AWAC began putting together the plan of what artist participation could look like.

Open Knowledge Festival 2014 by Gregor Fischer (CC BY 2.0)
Open Knowledge Festival 2014 by Gregor Fischer (CC BY 2.0)

AWAC coordinated a range of sessions at OKFest14 – My favourite was probably the Political Karaoke session. I got to reenact a George W. Bush classic, although the best speech was a French one which seemed to mostly consist of enthusiastic applause from the audience. Tell me some more about the project? Can people get involved with the project or run their own political speech-offs? 

I began Politaoke in 2007 as an experiment to see what would happen if we could remove the politician from the politics. Would the words have the same impact? Would someone believe or back the words without the politician in front of it? Political engagement has been on the downturn for so long in the US yet people were willing to vote to pick their pop stars and entertainers in mass. Additionally, becoming a politician seems harder than ever; it’s grossly expensive and requires hundreds of people sometimes even on a local US scale. This seemed like a potential way to encourage people to participate by giving them the speeches as a tool, allow people to hear something more than a news media sound bite and have some fund at the same time. I work with contemporary speeches and try to create a program that is non partisan so people have the option of performing different political viewpoints. And it works just like a karaoke bar. There are books of speeches which the audience can chose from and when they come on stage they are played for everyone to see. I’ve toured the project throughout the USA, Canada, Germany and Israel (There are several interviews about the project available on our youtube and soundcloud pages where I go more in depth about the work).

AWAC is currently working on turning Politaoke into a tool kit and training program that other organizations can use and expand upon for local use and are looking for support to do this. We also now have an instance set up on SayIt a platform created by MySociety to post open source transcripts online. Because many of the speeches we work with have no official transcripts, we’ve amassed a large collection that would be useful for other activists, organizations and artists. We want to make this available to the public.

I loved the way that artists and musicians played such a prominent part in the OKFest 2014 Programme. The approach achieved a couple of things: one, it made sure that creativity and art was as much a part of the event and the definition of open as data, science, education, government, and two, the artists provided opportunities for all attendees to engage with art and art practice. This in itself was a lovely thing, but I also think it helps practically encourage people to recontextualize, to open up :),  their own viewpoints and approaches. Is that anything like your experience  of how artists were included? Or your interpretation of what the impact was?

I completely agree with you regarding the experience. I’d like to think that artists are the next phase of data visualization – more like data dramatization per se. It was an amazing experience to see and meet so many people focused on making information open, available and transparent. We were there to help show how all this work can be presented and brought to audiences face to face, especially those who don’t know what it is or why it’s important. The more we can encourage the public to understand the importance of this work, the better it is for the people and organizations doing the work.

Typically conference organisers don’t make integrating creative practice and opportunities into the schedule a priority in the way as OKFest did. Is this the kind of thing AWAC is interested in doing – working with conferences and event organisers? Or was it a one off?

We were truly excited and proud to be a part of OKFest. I definitely have to give their organization many thanks for trusting that our vision for how to incorporate artists into the festival would be representative of this year’s theme open minds to open action. We were able to develop the project like a festival within a festival, from conception through production, and the OKFest team did a great job of presenting the projects as an integrated part of the festival. This format was helpful as it also alleviated any potential extra strain on the OKFest team and allowed us to manage the artist sessions with speed and ease. We believe this is a fantastic way for conference and event organizers to work with us and we’d love to help other groups make this possible.

Tell me a bit about the other sessions AWAC coordinated? Or point up a couple of your favourites?

I can’t really pick a favourite! If I didn’t love the work that these artists have been making, I wouldn’t have asked them to be a part of the festival! It’s amazing to see the different genres and methods of each of the artists could bring to the table and their contributing sessions are only a small glimpse into the body of work they’re creating. I truly enjoyed Ingrid Burrington and Josh Begley’s ability to deconstruct complex data sets in order to make them into a tangible story. Peng Collective is able to use humour and research in order to create interventions and point out issues to large audiences. The Spray Uzi Crew are amazing graffiti artists whose work is often more effective in reaching people than more traditional forms of outreach. And Juliani and Valsero’s musical talents are only topped by their political knowledge which they incorporate into their art. It’s amazing to know and work with so many people who are using their gifts for engaging and activating many people to question and look at many aspects of their environment differently.

Again – huge thanks for your time Diana! Was brilliant to meet you and Brigid and Jeff – thanks for making OKFest14 so fantastic.

Secondary School Staff Digital Literacy – 2014 survey results

Digilit Leicester 2014 findings - infograph

The DigiLit Leicester project is a two year collaboration between Leicester City Council, De Montfort University and 23 secondary and specialist education schools. Leicester’s secondary and SEN schools collectively support over 20,000 learners each year, with the majority of learners being between 11 and 16 years old. The project focuses on supporting secondary school staff in developing their digital literacy knowledge, skills and practice.

A digital literacy framework was developed in consultation with the schools, embedding digital literacy within secondary school practice. From this, an online survey was developed, designed to support staff in reflecting on their use of technology to support teaching and learning, and to provide individual staff members, schools and the Council with information to inform future planning around professional development.

This year’s findings!

The survey was opened for a second time between March and May 2014, seeing an increase in engagement from schools. 701 members of staff completed the survey in 2014, or 39% of all eligible staff, with 209 taking part for the second time in 2013.

Headlines for the 2014 survey findings are:

  • 56% of staff across the city who participated in the survey classified their skills and confidence at the highest level – Pioneer – in one or more of the six key digital literacy areas.
  • 23% of all those who participated in the survey placed themselves at Entry level in one or more of the six key areas.
  • Staff rate their skills and confidence highest in the area of E-Safety and Online Identity, with 43.5% of respondents scoring at Pioneer level.
  • Staff feel least confident in the area of Communication, Collaboration and Participation, with 9% of staff rating themselves as Entry level and 38.7% falling within the lower levels of the framework (at either Entry or Core level).
  • In Creating and Sharing , 42.1% of staff rated their skills and confidence in the lower levels of the framework (Entry and Core levels).
  • Analysis comparing the survey data from 2013 and 2014 shows that a statistically significant change in staff confidence has occurred, with 21% of participants registering an increase in their skills and confidence. Levels achieved increased in five of the six key areas (excluding E-Safety and Online Identity, where levels were already high).

You can find out more by downloading a copy of the report here:

DigiLit Leicester 2014 Survey Report (Word)

DigiLit Leicester 2014 Survey Report (PDF)


Share and promote Pioneer practice

1. Ensure that the work being done by city Pioneers is promoted and shared more widely. Promote and support the use of open licences to enable wider discovery, use and reuse of educational resources produced by city staff.

2. Provide encouragement, opportunity and recognition to Pioneers who support Entry level colleagues.

Support entry-level staff

3. Provide supported opportunities and resources specifically designed for and accessible to Entry level staff, particularly in relation to Assessment and Feedback and Communication, Collaboration and Participation.

Support self-directed staff development

4. Continue to provide support for self-directed staff development projects and activities. This approach is supported by the research literature, which has shown that professional development programmes that support staff in focusing on developing their own knowledge ‘are most likely to lead to transformative change’ (Fraser et al. 2007, p.167).

Encouraging contextual e-safety guidance

5. Continue to support work which supports schools in expanding the safe and effective use of social and collaborative technologies.

Increasing knowledge and use of Open Educational Resources (OERs)

6. Complete work on the project’s current Open Education schools project, and evaluate the benefit of continued focus on and additional work in this area.