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Digital Literacies in Higher Education: Pervasive Technology

Key messages from the JISC-funded project focussing on postgraduate students at the Institute of Education

Pervasive Technology

The study found that students’ perceptions were that technology is everywhere -- pervasive to the point of intrusion. Some went so far as to describe the presence of technology in their life as ‘saturation’. Students expressed concerns at:

  • expectations/assumptions that they would be ‘always on’ or ‘always connected’,
  • the blurring boundaries between personal/social and formal/institutional and
  • the need for complex skills in negotiating/controlling their personal and social spaces in an increasingly digitised world.


image of multiple laptops and external hard drives.

  • Students use a wide and constantly changing array of technologies in their studies.
  • The technologies included a mix of personal and institutional services and devices.
  • All students used sub-sets of the list of technologies; for any student, many technologies are irrelevant.
  • Lists are time specific, rapidly becoming dated.
  • ‘Stable’ uses of technology involves development and old practices may no longer work (e.g. obsolete versions of software).
  • The same technology can be used at different times for different ends (e.g. browsers for searching, shopping, etc.) and different technologies get used for similar purposes (e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn for social networking).

Key Messages

1. Ensure students develop a meta-level awareness of digital platforms, including social media, for various purposes.

2. Provide training for students to manage their digital footprint and become aware of the long-term implications of their digital activities.

3. Provide appropriate training in managing and organising digital information.

4. Recognise that digital literacies are now part of the academic literacies students need to study and embed these in the curriculum.

The Portability of Technology

diagram of person's use of different devices in home and work and travel environments

'For me the most important thing is portability, because I use technologies ...everywhere I go, anywhere I go.'