The DeFT Project was successful in working with teachers, schools, teacher educators and higher education institutions in exploring digital practices in the context of digital literacy, albeit within a particular region in England. While this context is specific in terms of the curriculum and how it is organised in school and other settings the project considers many of the issues and aspects of practice to be transferable to other situations where there is technology and learners, and where teachers are active in applying this for learning. Insights gained in this project have emerged from the practice and contribution of the participants and it is the nature of this participation that has made this possible. This includes the steps taken to establish a community of practitioners including HE tutors, teachers, students, researchers and partners. This provided a creative synergy in the form of a learning network that helped establish a model for developing Digital Literacy that cuts across sectional interests and structural constraints.
One outcome of this enrichment model was a deeper understanding, whereby insights in the form of an explanatory model were gained and shared (see 2.4 Mapping Digital Literacies in the DeFT Project). This feeds forward into the dissemination of the project, the work of teachers and the research interests of members of the project team. It also comes at a time of change in the curriculum of England and Wales and while this is potentially destabilising for teachers and schools there are sufficient indications that participants in this project are better placed to respond as a result of their involvement in project activities.
Although the project was limited in resources and time, it has been extremely successful in achieving its goals. The evaluator states that:
…the project has been extremely effective, including when judged against the resources committed. In view of the necessarily limited time of many project participants and the weight of their other responsibilities, the achievements have been outstanding. The project has been extremely well managed, delivering objectives on time and to high standards of quality in every respect. (Project Evaluator, Julia Gillen)
Work with teachers brings into sharp focus issues of key relevance to the school context, such as e-safety, e-security; the ethical and pedagogical aspects of student-produced resources as well as a number of technological barriers in terms of access to web-based resources.
When reflecting on their involvement with the DeFT project, the teachers acknowledged that the case studies took up a lot of classroom time, did not always map neatly onto the prescribed curriculum areas and at times were quite disruptive to the classroom. The curriculum in UK schools is characterised by an emphasis on the coverage of content coupled with the strong arm of accountability, with an emphasis on print literacy within the curriculum. One of the effects of this is a reduced opportunity to embed DL practices or to accommodate them within the ongoing routines of the classroom. Teachers also mentioned that sometimes they would have to fight for recognition of their time as meaningful in terms curriculum as projects focusing on digital literacy would not be given the same priority more traditional projects leading to print-based, more tangible outputs. They argued it was often difficult to justify taking up two to three weeks of pupils’ time where the end result would seem disproportionate to the time and effort invested in producing for instance a one-minute video. While the teachers involved with the project were experienced professionals and did not seem daunted by these challenges, they nevertheless have to be acknowledged.
Overall, in the context of the project, the team have gained access to rich accounts of pedagogical practice with digital literacies in schools as well as a deeper insight into OER-related issues within that context.