23 Things for Digital Knowledge

[This blog post is part of a series written for the Edinburgh Teaching Award (EdTA) to achieve accreditation as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. ]

In 2016 I was tasked with creating an online course for staff and students at the University to increase knowledge and confidence with digital tools, security, and literacy.

The brief included promoting digital wisdom and literacy skills, aligning with the University’s current strategy towards Digital Transformation and meet the rising need for “21st-century digital skills…needed to participate in the knowledge-based workforce and to put employees in charge of their own learning” (Laar, 2017).  The course needed to include a focus on re-using existing open access and openly licensed content, to be openly licensed itself, and be of broad appeal and access to learners both internal and external to the University.

I anticipated and designed towards three levels of participation:

  •      Those who wished to sign-up in order to see how the course was constructed (e.g. other educators) or to access the information for use at a later time.
  •      Those who wished to pick and choose from the course content according to their own development goals and interests.
  •      Those who wished to work through the content from beginning to end with recognition of their achievement.

Inspired by 23 Things Oxford and based on the original 23 Things program  run at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County in the USA in 2006, I used the established structure of twenty-three ‘Things’ – with each ‘Thing’ being a subject or tool. I modified the topics, tools, and applications to incorporate media, tools, technologies, and subject areas of importance to our institution.

The content was presented with each ‘Thing’ in bite sized portions including an introduction to each tool or literacy, followed by a task, additional suggested readings, and resources. In this way, participation was estimated at 1-2 hours per week with an emphasis on autonomy and encouraging the development of a regular learning habit.  I designed the course to scaffold key concepts in order to develop an understanding of digital literacy and the development of digital wisdom incorporating areas highlighted in the JISC Digital Capability Framework.

This was achieved by:

  • Addressing key concepts of diversity, accessibility, security, and footprints in digital environments.
  • Encouraging the playful exploration of digital tools.
  • Embedding guided blogging activities encouraging reflection of and the examination of tools both familiar and unfamiliar through the lens of these concepts.
  • Incorporating aspects of playful learning into the content and activities to boost retention and engagement of our learners,

Reflective and open blogging is used both as assessment and a tool to create a community of learners, to share different perspectives, uses, and understandings of the Things being explored. The reflective assessment approach using blogs was appreciated by our learners and proved effective in monitoring the level of learning and skill development being achieved by our participants.

The blog is also used to submit completion of the Things to be eligible for an Open Badge, and can be used as evidence for reflective learning towards CMALT accreditation or other Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Many participants were teaching or support staff working in Higher Education, and some working in primary and secondary education, all of whom blogged on how they appreciated this course as an opportunity to build their digital skills in order to keep up with new demands for technology use in their practice.


The course was awarded the LILAC 2017 Credo Digital Information Literacy Award for an innovative/high impact digital resource developed by a UK-based individual or group.

In the 2017/18 academic year the course was integrated with the Edinburgh Award for Digital Content Creation in the School of Social and Political Science, and recommended to students on other Edinburgh Award programmes and will continuing to do so into the 2018/19 year. In the 2018/19 academic year the course is being integrated into the Centre for Open Learning Access course and is also being considered for creation as a for credit online course (V2). I was also invited to Lund, Sweden, in June this summer and ran two workshops about the course and on digital confidence for the Skåne regional public libraries.

The course was also highlighted in the ‘Improving Digital Literacy’ section of The NMC Horizon Report: 2018 Higher Education Edition (p.27).

Using augmented reality apps for the Digital Confidence and 23 Things workshop in Lund, Sweden. June 2018.



23 Things Oxford (2009), The University of Oxford, UK. http://23thingsoxford.blogspot.com/2009/12/about-23-things.html

Laar, E., et. al. (2017). ‘The relation between 21st-century skills and digital skills: A systematic literature review’, Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 72, p 577-588.   https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.03.010 

Open Educational Resources Policy (2016), Learning & Teaching Senate, The University of Edinburgh, UK. https://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/openeducationalresourcespolicy.pdf

JISC Digital Capability Framework (2015),  https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/building-digital-capability

The Learning 2.0 Project – 23 Things, (2006) Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg (PLMC) County, USA. https://plcmcl2-about.blogspot.co.uk/

The NMC Horizon Report: 2018 Higher Education Edition, https://library.educause.edu/resources/2018/8/2018-nmc-horizon-report

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