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Transliteracy, social software and learning

July 13th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Tuesday (10 July 2007) I was a co-faciliator of an ‘unconference’ session at a JISC Emerge meeting which aimed at helping to consolidate the Emerge community of practice.

Wikipedia  provides a definition of an unconference: “An unconference is a conference where the content of the sessions is driven and created by the participants, generally day-by-day during the course of the event, rather than by a single organizer, or small group of organizers, in advance.“

So my co-facilitator, Brian Kelly (I have ‘borrowed some of his report for this blog entry) and I had to prepare for an event driven by the participants and not by ourselves. The approach we took was to prepare for a number of ways of stimulating discussion, if this was needed. However on the day it turned out that this was not needed as two interesting discussions took place in our two sessions: one on transliteracy and one on the ethical aspects of use of social networks.

Professor Sue Thomas of De Montford University introduced the ‘transliteracy’ topic. Again looking at Wikipedia I find the definition of Transliteracy given as “The ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.“. (This has been taken from the PART (Production and Research in Transliteracy) Group Web site).

Whilst we were downstairs having an ongoing and evolving discussion around these issues, upstairs  a series of round table discussions (once more participant driven) were being held. Participants in the JISC Emerge community are preparing a series of bids for project under the JISCX Users and Innovation programme.  Most of these nascent projects focus on the use of Web 2.0 technologies for learning – including simulations, games and tagging.

But it seemed to me that many of the issues we were discussing – social practices in the use of technologies, skills and competencies required by users – both learners and teachers, ethical issues and  issues of ownership and control – are the real issues which  underpin the use of Web 2.0 and social  software.

Here is a list of key words I jotted down during the discussion:

  • Ethics



    acceptable use




Cool apps are great – but it is the social environment and practices which will define their use and their usefulness in practice. So it may be that if we want to start developing some great (social) learning applications we need to think through all these issues at the same time.

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