Computer and Digital Literacies Workshop Plan

Mani KS

8 minutes


Hello! Welcome to the digital literacies workshop plan. I'm very excited to be writing this and planning this out, and I hope you get some value out of it. Most of what I'd like to write in this introduction has been moved to the Why and Workshop Philosophy sections, I recommend you check those out if you're either self-teaching or facilitating a workshop. Otherwise simply use the table of contents or scroll down to browse through the activities and get started :).


Activity 1 (setup): Overview of activities and downloading software

Generally I recommend the activities be done in any order, and even to pause an activity half-way to work on another. But, I do think the installation activity will provide a good Operating System intuition and foundations for all the others, so I recommend this one is done in its entirety first. Each activity is some form of content creation or modification. I believe touching a variety of tools for different mediums gives a good "tool-intuition" for picking up any software tooling in the future, which in large part is the goal of this workshop. With that said, this activity is ""simply"" to install one piece of software/one tool for each of the mediums, you can choose to use either the software listed in the Recommended Software section, or different software of your choice.

Writing a text/"Word" document and understanding file types

This is one of the more complicated activities, because I think most people have used a Word Processor to some degree before, so I want to explore them a bit more deeply.

Problem Statement

Write a document in your preferred app that has at least four semantic headings/headers, some body text, and at least two footnotes or endnotes. Export this to PDF, if possible also save as ODT/epub/docx in that order of preference. Then, if you have a facilitator, show them your work.


Hint 1

If you're having trouble finding what a 'semantic header' is, these are also often called (somewhat confusingly): paragraph styles, styles, and accessibility headers (among others)

Exploring walkie-talkies

This one is a bit out there. The reason this one exists is honestly because an earlier (less inspired) incarnation of this workshop had the first lesson be finding every feature on a walkie-talkie. I imagine walkie-talkies are not available to most people, they can be substituted with any variety of somewhat-smart devices. Think watches, alarm clocks, mp3 players, etc. That being said, this is a mindset exercise that is beneficial but quick and not strictly necessary.

Problem Statement

Given a walkie-talkie or other relatively simple device find all the features the device has and write them down somewhere.


Hint 1

Maybe search Google for a manual? You'll have to find the serial/part number first.

Editing an image

I hope you're picking up on a common theme...this one is pretty much just editing an image.

Problem Statement

Find an image licensed under a creative commons license (one that allows remixing or modification, check the licenses page on the Creative Commons website if you're unsure). Then simply touch it up a bit, make some edits, play around. Simply drawing a line or box or something isn't enough! Get some blurs, a gradient, whatever, sink your teeth in a little. Once you're done, export the modified image to a PNG or JPEG and show a facilitator if you have one.


No hints for this one, sorry!

Editing audio

This one is similar to editing an image but accommodates making your own audio.

Problem Statement

Find or record a piece of audio and modify it in some way. My recommendation is try taking out background noise, cutting away "um"s or other pieces out, normalizing or changing the volume, etc. Once you're done, export your audio to an OGG or MP3 and show a facilitator if you have one.


No hints for this one, sorry!

Editing video

This one has the potential to be really complicated, or really simple, but other than that it's pretty close to the other ones.

Problem Statement

Edit together a video using video editing software! You can write a script, use footage of yourself, use stock footage, whatever you like. Once you're done, export to mp4 or webm and show a facilitator if you have one.


Hint 1

Video Editing programs usually have really nice manuals!

Hint 2

There are a lot of really short video tutorials about doing specific things for most video editing programs. Try mixing around your search terms if you're having trouble finding something.


As we move forward in the information age it is becoming more and more clear that digital literacies are going to be essential moving forward. But, something that may not be as clear unless you have worked with younger students of diverse backgrounds, is that younger students do not do much better than their older counterparts with regards to digital literacies. I would like to quote Dr. Doug Belshaw's The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies (which this workshop owes a great deal to):

This [differing cultures of use], of course, is why it is such a fallacy to hold that young people are ‘digital natives’ who just ‘get’ how to use digital technologies. While it may very well be true that they know how to use, for example, their mobile device in a social context, cultural expectations for using it in the workplace (or for learning) are vastly different. If educational institutions are to prepare young people for the wider world, they need to be showing them how to navigate across various digital contexts and cultures.

I would also like to quote a personal friend of mine:

Believe it or not, I've had engineering students who still painstakingly right click, move the mouse to copy, left click, slowly move the mouse where they want the information, double click where they want to paste, click again if it highlighted something, right click, move the mouse to paste, and then left click all with high concentration as if transferring acid into a burette for titration. They can do the math. They know the material properties. They understand the design constraints. They've got their design well-modularized, even. Using a computer, however, seems somehow alien to them. Once they realize that it's safe to use their computer, they're ready to open the terminal for the first time in their life and get started on their introductory python labs that are by now overdue.

I have also personally graded students who were fully capable of writing elegant and efficient code, but struggled significantly with installing Eclipse, installing Python or using our version-control software to collaborate with each other. Those students were not 'dumb' or 'incapable', the University never offered any course, training, or support regarding digital literacies, they were thrown in the water and told to swim.

Workshop Philosophy

Most people I've talked to who I would consider highly (digitally) literate individuals learned by simply spending absurd amounts of time using digital devices (including myself). Sadly, "use computers a lot" is not really a useful way to teach.

At the same time, I can not lecture digital literacies into someone. There are plenty of classes/workshops that teach specific tools like Microsoft Word, Solidworks, or Excel. But my goal here is that attendees feel entirely comfortable using computers/technology while using or learning any tool. In many respects, this workshop is a workshop on 'learning how to self-teach'.

As such this course is designed in a constructivist manner. The workshop is split into many activities (check the Activities section to see them all), the goal isn't to force any specific order or to finish all the activities during a Workshop. Every attendee should go forward at their own pace and finish as much as they can. I also recommend attendees pause one activity to start another if they get stuck. As Dr. Doug Belshaw has said:

When I’ve thought about it a bit more, the way that we are able to eventually separate skills from their contexts is through pattern-recognition as a result of immersion."

The goal here is to expose attendees to enough different tooling that they can easily pick up new tools and paradigms. Many tools assume a common cultural context and use extremely similar analogies, design language, or interface design, which hopefully this workshop will equip attendees to learn with ease.