Personalisation and Digital Literacy: events, frameworks and just thinking about learning

A Framework for e-LearningTwo quite different, but equally outstanding events that I have attended recently left me with lots to reflect upon, questions to follow up and some interesting connections to make.

James Ballard, who works for our host institution ULCC, as Senior e-Learning Specialist, was first up leading a seminar organised as part of a series, by the Centre for Distance Education. This was an opportunity to update those present with the latest thinking and development of the ULCC e-Learning Framework which aims to make sense of how technology might support the delivery of personalised learning.

Practitioners and others from a wide variety of backgrounds got very engaged when Jamed asked us to design personalised learning activities based on the question: Where do volcanoes get their power?!  He went on to discuss the contradictions arising from seeing personalisation as ‘choice’ and encouraged us to position our volcanic learning activities on an ‘ownership’ matrix with high/low learner ownership and high/low teacher ownership dimensions.

The personalisation framework overlays an ownership matrix with two other key processes of e-learning:  decision making and assessment.  By mapping e-learning tools to these processes, the framework views technology as a cultural tool representative of these complex processes.Expanding the Framework

Vygotsky’s theory of learning and development is a strong pedagogical influence on the development of the e-learning framework, which is intended, writes James in a forthcoming paper (Ballard & Butler (in press))*  “to inform the implementation, evaluation and development of learning technologies and should be adapted and reappraised as this evolves”.


“It is a world in which knowing what and how to learn the next thing is as important as what has already been learnt”

This quote (Jackson and Ward, 2004) from the CDE presentation could just as easily have featured in the excellent Digital Literacy workshop held at Goodenough College in London the following day. Delivered by Helen Beetham and Rhona Sharpe from the JISC eLearning programme and supported by the London and Eastern RSCs, this workshop attracted delegates from a range of sectors who had plenty of opportunity during well-planned sessions to contextualise the different facets and ways of thinking about digital literacy to take back to their own organisations.

Both events highlighted the importance of the ‘soft skills’ and behaviours required in the modern workplace – though equally necessary in other areas of life – such as communication, teamwork, resilience, perseverance, personal development etc. Digital literacy, which the presenters defined as “the sum of capabilities an individual needs to live, learn and work in a digital society” is about a lot more than finding your way around the latest version of Microsoft Office!

Developing Digital Literacies is a series (May – October 2011) of national workshops on developing learners and learning organisations for the 21st Century. More information and booking for future workshops is available here:

You will also find materials from the workshops available on the Design Studio:

This resource includes the Literacies Development Framework and an example of its use which many of us found useful for thinking about the scope of digital literacy. The framework ranges from access to technology, skills and personal practices, to the attributes and identities of the digitally literate learner as a critical user of different technologies: creating their own learning environment, planning their learning pathways and using technology with ethical awareness and judgment.

These two very different events left me plenty to think about on the changing nature of education and the 21st Century learner but perhaps that’s another post…

*Ballard & Butler (in press) ‘Personalised Learning: Developing a Vygotskian Framework for E-learning’ in The International Journal Of Technology, Knowledge And Society

You might also be interested in James discussing his work and the personalisation framework in these two brief audio interviews recorded for Purpos/ed “What is the purpose of education?” and “What do we have to do to enable this to happen?”

by Rosemary Leadley

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