Personal digital devices: researching learning

Students working in College using personal digital devices

As part of an ongoing study with CSM students about ways in which they use personal digital devices within their daily ‘living and learning’, a cohort of postgraduate students completed an online questionnaire at the first stage of their research. This article acts as a fleeting interpretation of the data, and pulls out some insights for further exploration.

The data reveals a hyper-connected group with few hard-core gamers; many students learn on the move (40% on public transport) but shy away from museums, galleries or public libraries as places of study*; the majority don’t publish through Twitter or a blog service; and two students are avid users of social bookmarking service

In terms of the College locations where they choose to study – the Learning Zone, library, open learning spaces, and the course studio were all identified as the main venues. However, away from the College most find themselves working in a café or at home, with a few students choosing to study ‘outside’ when the weather permits.

Students studying in a College open learning space


Themes that emerged which will be explored further include:

Interpretations of digital literacy  There was a strong understanding of digital literacy as being proficient in the technical use of digital tools, with a minority of students noting the need to be able to evaluate critically sources of information found on the internet.

Digital literacy is the ability to use digital media and tools

Prevalence of iPhone adoption  The vast majority of students chose iPhones and noted the ease of use when syncing to other Apple devices, the range of ‘good apps’, and the convenience of storing and sharing using the Cloud.

iPhone! Has many service on gaming, reading, chatting! Up to date my email constantly!

Personal blog publishing   There are relatively few students engaged in creating personal blogs as part of their learning activities. Those for whom blogs are part of their practice use them in different ways; eg collating, sharing, researching, promoting self.

I have a Tumblr, which I use to collect images and practice curating content and trends mostly in architecture, art, fashion, graphic design… I also use tumblr to follow blogs I enjoy and admire.


The results from this study regarding personal blogs, match another cohort’s response. Given the considerable variety of ways in which blogs are being used to support arts and design education at the College (portfolios, personal diaries and sketchbooks, international group collaboration, commentary aiding critical reflection, and so forth), there is an opportunity to communicate further the ways that blogs can be incorporated into learning.

In addition, the need to develop a collective understanding of what it means to be digitally literate within arts and design higher education is further evidenced by the students’ own largely ‘tools-based’ definitions of digital literacy. Alongside this is an apparent ‘tethering to Apple’ that is coming through in the research thus far. An uncritical adoption of proprietary systems can lead a designer, or artist, to a form of unwitting self-corralling, with significant political and economic impacts upon the person.

CSM colleagues and students who wish to help shape the understanding of 21c digital literacy within arts higher education, should contact Chris Follows – manager of UAL DIAL project.  You can contribute either online or in a group get-together, and your insights and enthusiasm would be hugely appreciated.


DIAL Project

Digital Literacy definitions


* For anyone wondering why students from CSM are not spending much time studying in museums and galleries, please note that this particular cohort are not studying arts/design based subjects.