Dr. Doug Belshaw consults around digital literacies, Open Badges, and educational technology.

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Strategic approaches to the development of digital literacies

Updated! Slides now include outputs and link below to backup

AMICAL 2020 pre-conference workshop


I’m in Kuwait City today, leading a pre-conference workshop for the AMICAL consortium of American international liberal arts institutions, who work together on common goals for libraries, technology and learning.

This isn’t a ‘tools’ session but rather, as the title would suggest, a strategic look at developing digital literacies strategically across institutions.

This workshop will cover the eight essential elements of digital literacies, exploring ways in which AMICAL institutions can benefit from a strategic approach to the area. The sessions will be of particular use to those who wish to think critically about the role of universities in 21st century society. Participants will leave the workshop empowered with the...

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Truth, Lies, and Digital Fluency (ITHAKA: Next Wave, December 2019)

Update: the video recording of this presentation is now available

Truth, Lies, and Digital Fluency (ITHAKA, Dec 2019)


Tomorrow I’m presenting in New York at the ITHAKA: Next Wave event. I was given the title of the session, along with the description by Bryan Alexander, who is emceeing:

The internet and social media apps are integral to society, research, and learning today, but increasingly we are questioning the trustworthiness of digital information. How bad is it today, and how much worse can it get? What can and should educators, researchers, information professionals and the companies whose sites enable information sharing do?

The format is a bit different in that I’m presenting for 20 minutes and then in conversation with Bryan. I’ve got a lot to say, particularly given that the person speaking after me is from...

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The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies (Startklar?! March 2018)

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies (Goethe Institut, March 2017).png
Livestream recording: Periscope


I presented today in Berlin at the Goethe Institute’s Startklar?! event. I went after a keynote (in German) by Cathleen Berger, Mozilla’s Global Engagement Lead. My time at Mozilla didn’t overlap with hers, but the subjects covered in our presentations certainly did!

It was good to see Cathleen reference the Web Literacy Map, work that I led from 2012 to 2015 at Mozilla. She also referenced the recent Cambridge Analytica revelations and the DQ Institute.

My presentation, which was only around 20 minutes long, focused on:

  • Part 1: Recent news and research
  • Part 2: The problem(s) with frameworks
  • Part 3: The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

Although I like to keep things fresh by referring to recent news, and by diving into people’s specific...

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Future Infrastructure, Future Skills, Future Mindsets (ALL DIGITAL Summit, October 2017)

Future Infrastructure, Future Skills, Future Mindsets (Barcelona, October 2017)



Today I’m presenting at the ALL DIGITAL Summit in Barcelona. It’s in the aftermath of the Catalan referendum on independence that was held at the weekend and, indeed, there was a general strike yesterday in protest at the way the Spanish government dealt with the whole affair.

This is by way of context to my presentation, which initially was going to feature the ‘social cooling’ effects of surveillance society - especially when it comes to so-called 'Smart Cities’. Instead, I decided to re-focus on the technologies used by the Catalan separatists to allow the website used to co-ordinate their activities to be censorship-resistant.

From there, I go on to talk about my work on digital...

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The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies (WCCE, July 2017)

Dave Quinn got in touch with me to bemoan the fact that my recent presentations haven’t been recorded. As a result, I’ve pre-recorded the talk I’m giving at the World Conference on Computers in Education at Dublin Castle today.

Slides: Google / Slideshare
Audio: SoundCloud

Depending on your privacy settings, you should see the slides and audio embedded above. They’re also archived at

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“And she turned round to me and said…”

Star Trek - turning around

I’d always assumed that my grandmother’s use of the sentence starter in this post’s title came from her time working in factories. I imagined it being reference to someone turning around on the production line to say something bitchy or snarky. It turns out, however, that the phrase actually relates to performing a volte face. In other words it’s a criticism of someone changing their opinion in a way that others find hypocritical.

This kind of social judgement plays an important normative role in our society. It’s a delicate balance: too much of it and we feel restricted by cultural norms; not enough, and we have no common touchstones, experiences, and expectations.

I raise this as I feel we’re knee-deep in developments happening around the area that can broadly considered ‘notification literacy’. There’s an element of technical understanding involved here, but on a social level it...

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Fake News and Digital Literacies: some resources

Update: My very short slidedeck for this event can be found here. Thanks to Wayne Skipper for bringing to my attention this important article from earlier in the year: The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine.

Free Hugs CC BY-NC-ND clement127

In a couple of weeks’ time, on Thursday, 1st June 2017, I’ll be a keynote speaker at an online Library 2.0 event, convened by Steve Hargadon. The title is Digital Literacy and Fake News and you can register for it here. An audience of around 5,000 people from all around the world is expected to hear us discuss the following:

What does “digital literacy” mean in an era shaped by the Internet, social media, and staggering quantities of information? How is it that the fulfillment of human hopes for a open knowledge society seem to have resulted in both increased skepticism of, and casualness with, information? What tools and understanding can library professionals bring to...

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Can digital literacy be deconstructed into learnable units?

Earlier this week, Sally Pewhairangi got in touch to ask if I’d be willing to answer four questions about digital literacy, grouped around the above question. She’ll be collating answers from a number of people in due course but, in the spirit of working openly, I’m answering her questions here.


1. What are the biggest mistakes novices make when becoming digitally literate?

The three things I stress time and time again in my keynotes, writing, and workshops on this subject are:

  1. Digital literacies are plural
  2. Digital literacies are context-dependent
  3. Digital literacies are socially-negotiated

As such, there is no stance from which you could call someone ‘digitally literate’, because (as Allan Martin has pointed out), it is a condition, not a threshold. There is no test you could devise to say whether someone was ‘digitally literate’, except maybe at a very particular snapshot in...

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Digital Literacy is about power

Today, I keynoted the Annual Learning & Teaching Conference at Queens University Belfast. My title was the same as that of my ebook, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, but it included new and updated context.

You can find my slides here, and below:

Due to time constraints, I didn’t go into as much detail as I would have liked in the presentation about the relationship between literacy, and power. I want to rectify by adding a few thoughts in this post.

Every time we say someone is ‘literate’, we’re making a value judgement, and betraying a particular way of viewing the world. As we append literacy to all kinds of domains and use it in a metaphorical sense — health literacy, financial literacy, digital literacy — this becomes ever more problematic. We privilege certain types of knowledge, skills, and behaviours, and simultaneously (perhaps without realising it)...

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What would a periodic table of digital employability look like?

Today, in my Twitter stream, I saw this:


It’s from this site. I can’t really comment on its real-world utility, as I don’t know Azure, and I tend to steer clear of Microsoft stuff wherever possible.

However, I did think it might be a useful metaphor for the digital employability stuff I’ve been thinking about recently.

A reminder that the real periodic table of chemical elements looks like this:

Periodic table of chemical elements -  CC BY-SA Sandbh

However, it did make me think that my work around the essential elements of digital literacies could be expanded into a ‘periodic table’ of digital employability. This would have a number of benefits:

  • It’s non-linear (unlike the metro map approach)
  • Different elements can be given various weights
  • Types of elements can be grouped together

At the time of writing, there are 118 chemical elements represented by the periodic table. Interestingly, there have been plenty of suggested ways...

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