Winter Symposium: Digital Literacy & Higher Education

August 12, 2017

An invitation-only event exploring digital literacy in higher education | #DIGIURI | January 12 - 13, 2017

The Media Education Lab hosts a symposium
to explore the future of digital literacy in higher education


JANUARY 12 - 13, 2017



See Event Locations on the Google Map 



Welcome to the URI Winter Symposium on Digital Literacy in Higher Education!



Why we're gathering for this event: More and more faculty in higher education recognize the need to advance their own competencies in digital literacy and see the potential for how it may improve teaching and learning for students enrolled at colleges and universities. But at the present time, we do not yet have a good sense of "what works" to address faculty needs regarding the use of digital media texts, tools and technologies for teaching and learning activities, career advancement, and scholarly research communication, collaboration and publishing.

Our Goals: In order to develop innovative professional development programs in digital literacy to meet the needs of higher education faculty in Rhode Island and across the region, this invitational symposium brings together scholars and teachers from across a variety of higher education institutions including regional, national and international stakeholders. Through discussion and dialogue, we aim to discover how digital literacy competencies intersect with the professional and personal needs of college and university faculty. As a result of this conference, we expect to have a clear vision for the values and needs of higher education faculty that will help drive the development of new professional development programs and services to meet faculty needs.


Who is Invited: The symposium will focus on digital literacy in the context of the disciplines of writing and rhetoric, media and communication, design and the arts, the humanities and social sciences, and teacher education.


Sponsors: The program is co-sponsored by the Media Education Lab, the University of Rhode Island College of Education and Professional Studies, and the Rhode Island State Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner.  


Themes to be Explored

  1. The Digital Literacy Competencies of Faculty, Undergraduate and Graduate Students. What do we know about the knowledge, skills and attitudes of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students in relation to the use of digital texts, tools and technologies? How do our attitudes and expectations about can do with digital media affect how we teach? How do faculty anxieties and trepidations affect their use of digital media? What skills and knowledge do they bring with them to college or university? What do we want them to know and be able to do? Have the affordances of digital technology changed how research is conducted by undergraduate and graduate students?  Which competencies do we see as universally valuable and which might be particular to a discipline or field? Who is responsible for developing the digital literacy competencies of undergraduate and graduate students?

  2. Teaching and Learning With and About Digital Media. What motivates faculty to use digital and social media for teaching and learning? What excuses or justifications are used by faculty who use outmoded digital pedagogies?  What kind of pedagogies do digital media encourage? How do faculty learn to use these approaches? What opportunities are currently available for faculty to share their experiences in using digital texts, tools and technologies for teaching and learning? How do institutional norms, policies and structures challenge or shape faculty innovation? What do faculty need in order to continue to advance their knowledge and skills in using digital media and technologies to support student learning?

  3. The Digital Identity of the College Professor. Some faculty are highly visible online and their scholarly and professional work can be easily accessed using a simple Google search. Others are invisible online with barely a reference to an email or phone number available through an online search. How important is it that a college professor maintain a digital identity? How do faculty manage, control and shape their online personas? What are the professional and personal affordances and liabilities of such identities? How do faculty navigate the increasingly blurred boundaries between personal and professional identities online?

  4. Scholarly Networking and Digital Literacy. Faculty, scholars and researchers are connecting, communicating, collaborating and learning with one another through social media platforms--blogs, websites, social bookmarking sites and twitter among others. Building a personal learning network is increasingly shaping how we  present ourselves and extend our scholarship. How do we build a personal learning network? What does it mean to be a networked learner and how do we model this in our own course design? How do we filter, curate, organize and navigate information streams? How aware are faculty of the new forms of knowledge sharing in their disciplinary communities? Which new forms are truly valuable? How do faculty distinguish between them? How did you come into this mode of networking? How has it transformed your scholarship, learning and teaching?


Structure of the Symposium. An informal welcome event on late Thursday afternoon includes an orientation to the symposium structure by the conference organizers, and a focused statement on the problems we aim to address, followed by an informal dinner and social event.


On Friday morning, we hear from T. Mills Kelly, a professor of history at George Mason University and Associate Director of the Roy Rosenweig Center for History and New Media. He is a noted national expert at the intersection of historical pedagogy and digital humanities. During the morning, participants join one of four panels to explore a particular theme/frame. We expect 12 - 15 people to participate in each panel, charged with responding to an essential question relevant to the theme/frame.


A “Show Me” session enables participants to share examples of how they are using digital media and technologies for scholarship, teaching and learning.

After lunch, in the afternoon session, jigsaw groups are formed, composed of members from each of the four panels, organized around a particular disciplinary (social sciences, humanities, teacher education, communication and media, art and design) or perhaps by institutional focus (public research universities, public higher education, community college, private institutions). These workgroups consider the focus question in relation to the specific disciplinary and/or institutional context. A large group session at the end of the day provides an opportunity to share ideas and to identify points of synthesis and reflection. Participants collaboratively generate a set of “next steps” that could be advanced to support the digital literacy needs of faculty and leaders in higher education.


Mia Zamora, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Kean University Writing Program will serve as rapporteur, gathering up the insights gained from the Winter Symposium on Digital Literacy and Higher Education to develop a multimedia report that may guide future efforts to advance digital literacy in higher education.


Conference Organizers

Julie Coiro, Univ of Rhode Island

Renee Hobbs, Univ of Rhode Island

Sandra Markus, Fashion Institute of Technology

Maria Ranieri, University of Florence, Italy


Event Producer

Carolyn Fortuna

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