Japanese studies

KU Leuven, faculty of Arts

Digital Literacies in the Curriculum

Digital Literacies

There is more to Japanese Studies than studying the language and area-specific topics. The curriculum shares a set of generic digital literacies with other Humanities curricula. 1

Literacy these days means more than what is customarily understood by it: reading and writing, processing pre-selected literature, reproducing information. These days it also means publishing on the web, sharing and curating content, sustainable authorship, handling lots of data, digital storytelling, making and building things. . .

We think these generic skills are important for every Humanities student,  including japanologists, and are still underrepresented in most curricula. A number of phenomena clearly indicate this importance: the impact of big data on research methodology, ubiquitous "search", digital identity and the webcraft that comes with it, new writing and publication formats. . .

Digital Literacies in the Curriculum

Acquiring these literacies demands time and repetition, to some extent comparable with acquiring a natural language. Therefore, it is not something to be confined to its little corner in the curriculum -- say a 'dedicated' course. Instead it is something that should be grafted onto the curriculum trunk in many places.

From the first untill the last week of the bachelor trajectory working on digital literacies is embedded in many of our courses. Besides allocating a lot of time we also try to work with data that is either student-made or closely linked to actual course content. The aim is to build a learning environment that empowers students, puts them in the driver seat and gives them an extra professional asset. Below is an infogram visualizing this curriculum-level approach.


The practice of digital literacies comes in many forms and does not cover the same content everywhere. We categorize digital literacies in four modules:

  1. Search: filter bubble, search engines and operators, databases, certain forms of reading (skimming) . . .

  2. Writing (for the web): web formats, digital storytelling, sustainable authorship, characteristics of web content, html & css, technical writing

  3. Data handling: introducing the DH toolkit, web scraping, visualisation. . .

  4. Personal learning and working environment: project management, portfolio, own your data, build network, knowledge-responsability, forming of digital identity. . .

E-learning projects, OER and student work

The e-learning projects we did from 1997 onwards are underlying this curricular approach. These projects provided us with a number of open educational resources, and helped a lot in fostering student involvement in creating resources and a general DIY mentality -- build your own tools, write your own course.

Students produce wiki-articles, blogs, cooperative web-papers, video clips, individual portfolios, infographics, banners. . . and publish 2 on the lab, a dedicated writing space, on a number of open webspaces of our own and on wikipedia.nl. The basic idea being to provide students with as many as possible curricular opportunities to use the web in meaningful ways and work at a consistent pace on those digital literacies.

Inspirational Reading

  1. Let's define digital literacies here as a set of attitudes, insights and skills related to (but not limited to) information technologies. 

  2. The authors themselves decide to publish their work completely open or limit access to the Japanese Studies community.