Developing digital literacy through change – is transliteracy the answer?

Digital literacy I hear you say it’s everywhere! It is certainly a topic I hear much more frequently now than I ever used in my current role as a Career Consultant in higher education. As a term it feels ubiquitous but strangely also feels  like we’re all talking about it but sometimes with differing meanings and purposes – (do you ever get that feeling about “employability” as well?).   For example, for some of the students I work with they initially take the term to mean just using social media platforms or in some cases very specific software.  To help us understand some of the problems with becoming digitally literate it’s useful to think of our environment and starting points.

Some of you may have heard of Prensky who coined the terms digital ‘natives’ or ‘immigrants (settlers)’ as a way of distinguishing between those born into the digital age club and those amongst us (myself included) who get in via their analogue ticket (R.O.A.R).

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If you’re not digitally native you’re not coming in!

Ironically, there’s a certain paradox here in the settlers very often being tasked to aid the natives in their digital development!  Maybe there’s more going on here than meets the eye and we need to extend our view of what it means to operate in 2017 and indeed prepare for the future – I’ll come back to this later on. But coming back to Prensky the terms suggest two ends diametrically opposed and the assumption  – to use the same analogy – that both clubs have strict entrance policies and play different music – Daft Punk versus Blondie perhaps!

But at what point given the widely accepted pace that technological developments occur do those lines become blurred and the demands placed on  natives and settlers to keep pace remain equal for all concerned even if our start points are different? Now, within education (and I know I’m generalising a lot here) is it also feels like the issue dealt with in a couple of ways:

  • Staff should do more to embed digital literacy and promote its use but may not feel equipped – this could be both in capability and time.
  • Throwing an increasing supply of sophisticated technology at the problem to somehow generate capability. e.g Sign up for LinkedIn and you’ll network your way to a job.

So what is the way forward?  Without pretending to have the precise answers I believe a solid starting point is dealing with our own understanding of what is “digital literacy”. I loved reading this article 20 ways of thinking about digital literacy in higher education. Without trying to show favoursitism these are the four ideals that stood out for me.

  1. Literacy is not static.
  2. HEIs need to help legitimise digital practices without trying to own them.
  3. Engage students in this debate and ensure that they too have ownership of this agenda.

However, one statement connected with me more than the others that I think helps bridge the divide between Presky’s ‘native’ and ‘settler’ debate and allow us all entry into a club that values our diversity and capabilities.

Digital literacy as an important part of transliteracy.  It is the literacy of convergence, unifying literacies past and present across different platforms, media and cultures.

This suggests we all have a contribution to make in being able to support our own and each others digital literacy development but also acceptance of where we have all come from and who we want to be both now and in the future.  What is comforting about transliteracy is that it includes and values other measures of what it means to navigate the 21st century life. It isn’t tied to a particular concept or piece of technology and it has space for the relationship we have with technology that at times feels just like a inevitable dystopian future of job losses.

There’s a great short video about developing transliteracy from Jeremy Brueck that gets you to consider what a lifestyle in a transliterate world means.

 

But as digital literacy remains so visible amongst us I’ve also produced a short presentation that explores some of the prevailing concepts and capabilities that helps us understand its relationship to employability.

 

 

 

The Graduate Market 2016 -creating App(eal) with students

 

Rather belatedly this year I’ve got round to reading The Graduate Market 2016 produced by High Fliers.  If you want to compare this years report to previous years, I wrote similar pieces in 2015 and 2014.  If you have an interest in graduate recruitment it’s well worth a read with the research focus being the Times top 100 graduate employers.  I’m not going to summarise the report as the executive summary does a fine job of that already but rather  focus on an area that holds interest for me and my role working with higher education students; that of graduate vacancies.

gradmarket

Unfilled vacancies  – so what lies beneath? The report notes:

A noticeable rise in the number of graduates turning down or reneging on job offers that they had previously accepted meant that over 1,000 graduate positions were left unfilled last year, reducing the graduate intake at almost a third of the UK’s leading employers.

Reasons given for this included graduates becoming pickier, having increased choice due to  a more buoyant job market, last minute changes in targets and harder to fill specialist vacancies.

Missing for me within the rationale is still recruiters over reliance and focus on Russell Group universities.  I can understand and appreciate the argument of a limited resource and recruitment and marketing budget but the average number of universities targeted by employers is twenty with six of those probably appearing in most recruiters cross hairs.

It seems strange to me how given the immense talent that exists in all universities some employers – and by no means do I mean all in the top 100 – may do well to rethink their current  strategy and engage with a wider field of talent.  Now there is open interpretation by what “engage” may actually mean for employers.  For some this might be brand ambassadors in target universities and for others it may mean working more closely in curriculum.  In fairness employers aren’t ruling out applications from elsewhere subject to entry requirements but we know in a labour market that is congested with competing choices and large numbers of potential applicants diversity won’t just appear by accident.

 This led me to read with interest an article in the Telegraph  on a new app called Debut which promotes itself as “the world’s first mobile student and graduate careers platform”.  The basic premise is that undergraduates download the app and can then play employer sponsored games to get fast tracked to interview.

Now this reminds me of an up to date version of the MI6 recruitment strategy of posing almost unsolvable puzzles in newspaper ads to get an interview with them.  I do find this an intriguing approach as part of the marketing blurb on the website talks about trying to “disrupt”the graduate jobs market.  With the app being free and easily accessible to download on your device it could certainly have mass market reach.  It claims to flip graduate recruitment with the employer approaching the employee – although I’m pretty sure LinkedIn had that function nailed a long time ago.  This is all based on the profile the student completes and performance in the employer endorsed games I mentioned earlier.  There were 41 employers on board at launch so I’d be interested to see what the take up is like a year down the line – both for employers and students.  One side effect of the disruption they talk about may be students playing these games in lectures.  We shall see….

debut_app

At least in my mind part of this strategy seems just like a new tactic in the employers arsenal of trying to attract and select the best applicants.  I say arsenal as that appears to be in line with graduate recruiters vocabulary of weaponised lexicon. Let me explain! I’ve heard  the term “tag & bag” used to describe an employers attempts to get applicants selected and onboarded to their graduate scheme and “weapons of mass rejection” used to describe applicant tracking systems.  It just goes to show that with employability there is no silver bullet – no pun intended.

Social mobility and graduate earnings IFS report

I’ve just been perusing the recently released and lengthily titled report from the IFS  How English domiciled graduate earnings vary with gender, institution attended, subject and socio-economic background.  It’s interesting because it uses a big data approach tracking the student cohorts between 1998–2011.   For the record the published research from the IFS used anonymised tax data from HMRC and student loan records for 260,000 students up to ten years after graduation.

For a shorter summary the Guardian have also ran a piece based on the report “Richer students have higher graduate income, study finds”.

My own particular interest stems from two related angles.  Firstly I graduated from a post 92 university in 2001 so therefore would have been included in this data set and secondly as a careers practitioner with an interest and view on social mobility.

In many respects the report summary and article are depressing reads. Although there are a couple of exceptions with regards to graduate v non-graduate earnings and the rise in student numbers.

I’ve included a brief snapshot taken from the summary report:

Differences in earnings by parental income

“Graduates from richer family backgrounds earn significantly more after graduation than other graduates, even after completing similar degrees from similar universities. The average gap in earnings at the median between students from higher-income households and the rest was £8,000 (£5,300) a year for males (females), ten years after graduation”.

“Even after taking account of subject studied and the characteristics of the institution of study, the average student from a higher-income background still earned about 10% more than the other students at the median”.

If we were left in any doubt about the impact of family background has on future earnings we do not need to look far:

“the 10% highest-earning male (female) graduates from richer backgrounds earned about 20% (14%) more than the 10% highest earners from more modest backgrounds even after taking account of subject and the characteristics of the university attended”.

There was also the release of data concerning the impact of the subject studied on future earnings.  Perhaps no surprises in the gap in earnings of say medicine v the arts but from a careers guidance perspective stark figures on the impact of subject choice.  Further down the road you also wonder how sustainable the current policy on fees and repayment will be.  The governments own figures estimate 60% of students will never repay their loans.  To give this some context  a recent graduate with a healthy starting salary of £40k will not repay their loan after 30 years – and that is assuming 3% inflation & graduate earnings growing at inflation + 2% per year.  I’ve said for a while that student debt is effectively a graduate tax with slim hope of full repayment for most.

Gender gap

Gender pay gap issues are also exposed:

“For graduates with incomes greater than £8,000, the median income for male graduates was £30,000 compared to the female median of £27,000”.

Summary

Although government policy over the last 15 years  has done much to widen participation and access to higher education the same cannot be said of its legacy for social mobility.  Your family background, gender, what university you went to and what subject you studied all play major parts in your future career.  Structural issues in our society still persist and given the lack of diversity in both central and local government top jobs you wonder whether the will to challenge the status quo exists in any meaningful way.

Given the nature and power of careers work to impact positively on social mobility you have to question whether policy has again improved or stripped the profession’s ability to make the impact we know it can make (think Connexions and the post code lottery for careers guidance for young people  that we have at the moment).

Finally, for those of you familiar with Bill Law’s community interaction theory I thought it worth highlighting a key point concerning the power of influence has on all of us.

“Career management, then, becomes a matter, not so much of what you know concerning decisions and transitions, but of who you pay attention to among the people you know”.

Pound-coins-next-to-the-HMRC-logo

Hello. It’s me….

I was pointed in the direction of this video by a colleague and I have to say he has come up trumps this time.  I was skeptical at first as I’m not an Adele aficionado but this parody hit home.  I’m not going to throw in too much of a spoiler but it’s a satirical look at one graduate’s attempt to secure work – just in case you were wondering what is it doing on my humble blog.

Now, this does throw up one question.  Is it really that tough  a market for graduates at the moment?  Reading  Charlie Ball’s (HESCU) blog post The 2016 graduate market in the UK then no it’s not doom and gloom.  Rumour has it grads aren’t all rolling in the deep and that skills shortages in many sectors leave many graduates in a strong position.  The AGR Winter Survey 2015 also backs the trend in vacancy growth but with the caveat of skills shortages leaving some roles unfilled.

But I think there’s some truth in the video.  I don’t know if it’s just me but I’ve seen more and more stories doing the rounds on social media of motivated graduates outside train stations and the like with placards seeking work.  Fortunately many seem to have a happy ending but lets not underestimate the sheer volume of work and emotional energy it takes to keep applying for roles following rejections.

I’ve also  heard firsthand stories from many graduates of the frustration at a lack of etiquette from employers following interviews in not getting back to them – even for feedback (in fact I’ve experienced this myself on a few occasions which I’ve always thought as unprofessional at best).

If you’re a recruiter then  pick up the phone and as Adele might say “Hello, it’s me”……..

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Used under CC from www.flickr.com/photos/rakka/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rakka/

 

AI, Robots and the future

I’ve noticed  a recent spate of articles in the news as well as the  blogosphere on robots, AI and the impact on society and the labour market so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon.  I wanted to  highlight a couple of  thought provoking pieces I’ve read recently in the Guardian that reference   a recently released BOA report that drew on research from Carl Benedikt Frey & Michael Osborne in this area.

The first was Robot revolution: rise of ‘thinking’ machines could exacerbate inequality which focuses on how the global economy will transform over the next 20 years.  The content isn’t overly radical  – for example the cost efficiency of using robots over people even through offshoring – but it does summarise and tie together important themes.  Unsurprisingly there is no universal agreement on the impact of technology on society as a whole and the article duly refers to it as the “stark divide between techno-optimists and pessimists”.

So what’s my stance on this?  I blogged about technological determinism a while back “Why is everyone so busy? Why our technological future hasn’t really delivered” particularly around the lifestyle gains technology was supposed to deliver.  John Keynes is referenced again and I’m in complete agreement when the piece refers to the need for a societal rethink between the relationship between work and society.  It makes me wonder where the end game may be as efficiency gains from technology continue unabated in conjunction with the continued growth in the world population (here’s a geeky world population clock which I quite like ).  This all does make me question how sustainable education and effective career management could be as agents to offset the fast paced change within job sectors and roles in our lifetimes.

Surely, somewhere in the future the endgame is that we don’t need to work for basic human need?  This would therefore require a huge economic and cultural shift to meet John Keynes utopian vision of 15 hour working weeks.

What if we're already too late?

What if we’re already too late? Image used under CC from https://www.flickr.com/photos/25171207@N02/

The second article I read mirrors the first.  “Artificial intelligence: ‘Homo sapiens will be split into a handful of gods and the rest of us”.

Picking out a real danger from the advancement of technology  the dangers of marginalisation and inequality are identified.

“technology is leading to a rarification of leading-edge employment, where fewer and fewer people have the necessary skills to work in the frontline of its advances”

It doesn’t yet feel like society has got to grips with the demise of our usefulness in developed economies or the societal changes needed to live in a future world where our role may be one of play and leisure rather than work.  For example, the way those unfortunate enough to be out of work (most of us have been there) are often demonised as a collective group in society tells us perhaps we aren’t ready and conditioned yet.

Alas, both articles are a great read and as ever the blogosphere is a lonely place so make your views known!

Creativity in Careers Work: Pictionary anyone?

I recently attended a training session called “Creativity in the Classroom” mainly because I deliver workshops in a classroom or when required more formally ( imagine yourself saying this in a posh voice ) in a “lecture theatre”.

Some great concepts, ideas and discussion were generated over the 2 hours and I scribbled some notes and thoughts as we got through the content and activities.   Certainly the creative vibe that was fostered by the group got me thinking about the relevance and application of creative tools to my work as a careers practitioner.

So first off, what is creativity? Rather than bombard with static definitions I’ve gone with a short video to explain this from Sir Ken Robinson.

“the process of developing original ideas that have value….applied imagination”.

Some important themes emerge from video such as creativity being an evolving process we are all capable of and born with but much like a muscle is something we need to nurture and exercise to get the best results.  I also like the way Ken describes how creativity “comes with the kit” of what we are imbued with at birth.  This is perhaps why I tend to distance myself away from the TDI models/tests that are still in common usage or matching models such as Holland’s RIASEC that attempt to put people in boxes.

There is certainly creative innateness in all of us but much like play it is something that convention, time and let’s face it, the whole adult world almost drums out of us as we enter adulthood.  The causal link between play and creativity is well established and if Einstein said it then it must be true surely?

Maybe he's onto something....

Maybe he’s onto something….

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the most popular Ted Talk of all time also happens to be Sir Ken Robinson’s take down of accepted, modern (well circa 2006) education in the titled video “Do schools kill creativity?”

The act of creativity has boundless applications for our life and career.  Making new cognitive patterns of who we are and what we can achieve can be considered demonstrations of this.  For example, from our experiences we can sythenthise a completely new and often profound understanding of ourselves that alters existing perceptions of our place in the world.  This could lead us to new career goals and opportunities never previously considered.  Indeed, it may lead to creative acts such as developing our own innovative business idea or associating our current role and skillset with another seemingly unrelated one.

Widening opportunity understanding and developing self-awareness are two of the cornerstones of effective career management but often  – for the careers professionals amongst you – we are always aiming and pushing clients to think more radically and divergently from often narrow, pre-existing knowledge and perceptions of what can and should be followed.  What we are asking or wanting very often is for clients to think more laterally about about themselves and their situation to create their own solutions for life and career.

But if we take the view, as offered by Ken Robinson, then creativity is an evolving process and as such are we really expecting solutions to problems to originate in a single guidance interview?  The question should be then, how can we set the creative process in motion through a framework that encourages rather than inhibits creative thought patterns?    For example, I’d never even considered the possibility of fun or play within a guidance setting.  Obviously a client may feel slightly perturbed if you were to whisk your prize board game Pictionary out at the start of an appointment but actually, would it be that crazy an idea if it helped the client to start thinking more laterally rather than conventionally?

However, there are  tools and techniques other than Pictionary you can use with clients to encourage creative thinking which I jotted down in the session (as well as adding a few I found) that have applications in life and career  – not to mention guidance appointments for the careers people reading this.

Provocation (questioning)

Flow

Problem Reversal

Lateral thinking

Parallel thinking

Mind-mapping

Ideation techniques – brainstorming

Lego

Our own task is to try and incorporate the opportunity for creative thought processes to form and evolve in the spaces we interact with clients.  This requires some creativity on our own part in tailoring and refining our tools and communication to each client and group.

The ones I’ve leaned to and used already include mind-mapping, ideation and provocation questioning.  I quite like the idea of trying parallel thinking (role play) and problem reversal in more frequency.

I’d be keen to know if anyone out there can feedback on their experiences of these techniques and what results were yielded (for yourself or anyone you worked with).  Just reply in the comments with your thoughts.

Reading: Edward de Bono Serious Creativity

Need motivation? Just do it

Just sharing a video that has given me an awful lot of amusement today from Shia LeBeouf.  I’m actually a big fan of videos for learning and inspiration, especially the TED series.  However, the latest motivational offering from Shia has gone viral (which was the point right) and has spawned hundreds of parodies thanks to the  – likely – intentional green background. Perhaps these reductionist messages are just what we need……

Anyway, I can’t help but watch it and think he actually nailed it.  Just to warn you it’s quite loud!

You know what, I think it does work in a TED style mashup.

But on a more serious point, here is the full video.  I also admire how he is brave in stepping out to explore his craft.