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Towards progressive-reflective digital practices in Higher Education

Buerki, Andreas ORCID: 2022. Towards progressive-reflective digital practices in Higher Education. Presented at: TechHighEd Pakistan 2022, Islamabad, Pakistan, 23 - 24 February 2022.

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The digital is an area of life that in many societies has become so essential that non-participation has significant drawbacks for individuals and organisations. The digital no longer offers merely remediated content and activities, but forms of information and activities that have no clear analogue equivalents – reality as perceived includes digital reality. Against this background, and against increasing calls for Higher Education to do more to support society’s move to the digital era, it is important to take a reflective approach to digital practices to ensure that they enable and encourage positive progress of individuals and societies across the globe. In this paper I propose four main areas of importance to consider: 1) equality of access to the digital, 2) critical digital literacy, 3) adaptation of content and pedagogy to digitisation, 4) resisting a re-colonisation of the curriculum, the academy and people. While the first of these is fundamental, in this paper I mainly focus on the latter three. Critical digital literacy takes a step back from technical aspects and looks critically at what happens when students and staff engage in digital practices and the effects of these behaviours, as well as the power structures, interests, pressures and biases that may be inherent in digital practices and tools. An important aspect here is enabling people to become aware of and protect themselves against negative effects while making conscious use of new and exciting opportunities. While students hopefully come to university with a sensibility for some of these issues, they require re-addressing in the context of the university experience and the academic subjects studied. The adaptation of content and pedagogy to digitisation is perhaps the most obvious area to consider, with recent pandemic-induced experiences having served as a crash course for many Higher Education institutions. In terms of pedagogy, the digital medium requires specific pedagogical techniques and perhaps surprisingly, recent experiences appear to suggest that analogue aspects are highly priced by students in Higher Education. On the content side, digital aspects, e.g. the ‘Digital Humanities’, have been around for a long time in research, but do not appear to have made transformative inroads into undergraduate curricula, particularly in the Humanities. This is an area of subject-specific development where deficiencies appear evident and I take a number of examples from practice to show how progress here is possible. Finally, a number of theorists have discussed current efforts by large (mainly American) corporations at digital colonialism. This colonisation is economic in terms of the privatisation of technological knowledge and the monopolisation of digital infrastructure such as software, services and platforms, but also exploitative, for example in terms of data gathering, and potentially culturally neo-colonial in terms of design and usage assumptions, issuing in exploitation, marginalisation and domination of individuals and communities. The modelling of resistance in this area and the promotion of alternatives is therefore an important final aspect of progressive-reflective digital practices in Higher Education across all disciplines.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
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Last Modified: 10 Nov 2022 11:04

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