MA Digital Literacies, Culture and Education

Photograph of children gamingDigital media are integral to the lives of children and young people, providing rapidly changing opportunities for communication, creativity and participation. This has important implications for literacy and learning, prompting urgent questions which need to be addressed. How do children learn literacy in the digital age? How can we support young people to be authors as well as players of games? How do we ensure contemporary teaching of literacy is inclusive and socially just?

This programme has been designed to enable teachers, educators and creative practitioners to respond to these challenges. We will provide opportunities to develop expertise in the contemporary media cultures that children and young people are engaging in, reflecting on how these shape their literacy (ies) and learning at home and at school. There will also be opportunities to develop new schemes of work, learning resources or materials relating to teaching digital literacies. We offer a module focused on how to make media with children and young people in order to extend creativity and criticality.

The programme is underpinned by research in the area of new and digital literacies and a key feature of the programme is the link to the existing programmes of activity of our ‘Literacies Research Cluster’, with opportunities to participate in current projects, an active reading/viewing group and a seminar programme. We are also part of a vibrant network of regional and national organisations who are working with us to provide students with opportunities to engage with new digital tools and resources as they are being designed.

Course Structure

Course structure

Photograph of students in seminar

The course begins with a one week induction to the University, to the School of Education, and to developing criticality and collaborative working practices at Masters level. This is followed by six months of taught modules and six months of supervised research study for the award of the MA. There are four taught modules. The first two, which are studied from October to December, provide the foundations of the MA, introducing new ways of analysing and understanding children’s digital, social and cultural worlds in international contexts. Emerging understanding of children’s cultural lives inform Module Two which runs concurrently and is focused on the way the concept of literacy in education is constantly changing and the implications this has for teaching and learning. In the subsequent two modules, from January to March, students put new ideas into practice by learning to make digital media with children and through the development and evaluation of new schemes of work or learning resources.

From April onwards students work on their independent research study, which is submitted in August. This independent study, the dissertation, aims to develop students’ ability to conduct rigorous practice-based research or textual analysis relating to digital literacies, culture and education as well as putting to use a range of different digital tools in order to disseminate research and practice,


The dissertation enables students to develop expertise in an area they have become particulrly interested in through their engagement with the course. Students are alloacted a supervisor who provides guidance, advice and support throughout the study period (April to August). A wide variety of study is possible and could include practitioner research, film or media production, textual analysis or reviews of current research. Students will be encouraged to explore the possibility of designing their study with a research partner such as a school, a cultural organisation or creative industry. The dissertation is 15,000-20,000 words or equivalent in length.

Students can exit with a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma if they do not wish to complete the Masters course.


Photograph of child using VR equipmentModules

Digital Culture and Childhoods (30 credits)

This module introduces students to thinking broadly and critically about the roles that digital texts, media and devices play in childhood. The module will involve analysing international examples of contemporary digital culture and diverse childhoods, encouraging critical engagement with multiple ways of understanding these phenomena. Drawing on theory relating to literacy, learning, identity and play, and including recently emerging digital literacies frameworks, students will be encouraged to reflect on implications for their own professional contexts.

Digital Literacies in Education (30 credits)

This module develops students’ understanding of rapidly evolving digital technologies and how this impacts on the many ways children communicate, read and create texts, and play. The module charts key changes in how literacy has been theorised, researched and taught, providing an important context for the development of pedagogic practice to meet the needs of 21st century children. This is underpinned by a commitment to social justice and an aim to increase access to digital literacy learning for children and those who support their learning. Learning is assessed by portfolio, including a scheme of learning activities and a reflective rationale.

Media Making and Creativity (30 credits)

This module will enable students to become practitioners who can facilitate digital media making using everyday tools such as phones, tablets and computers, for example creating animation, games design and news production with children. A key focus in this module will be on increasing expertise in pedagogies which enable creativity in a variety of education contexts such as museums, makerspaces, libraries and schools. The module will include digital media production workshops where students will work on a series of group and individual creative projects.

Researching Digital Childhoods (30 credits)

This module enables students to develop the skills, knowledge and awareness needed to carry out practical, high-quality research about digital childhoods. Students will engage in a series of practical research activities including data collection (visual data, paired interviewing and life history accounts), data analysis, (secondary data - quantitative and qualitative, visual and verbal) textual analysis (semiotic, multimodal, narrative) and dissemination (poster production, blog entry and podcast). Having taken part in the practical research activities based on existing datasets, students will be asked to produce a reflective account of ethical and meaningful ways to research digital literacies with children and young people.

Dissertation (60 credits)

In this module, students are supported in planning and implementing a piece of original research, and in writing or producing a dissertation (of 15,000 words in length or equivalent). The research will be empirical, utilise qualitative methods or textual analysis, and focus on something from the students’ engagement with the programme, their professional context, or in response to a brief from a creative partner organisation. Links to these organisations will be facilitated by the School, and it is anticipated that the 'Digital Literacies in Education' module will allow students to start imagining possible projects with external partners.



Photograph of person gamingOur assessment strategy reflects our commitment to enabling students to bridge academic research and professional practice. We encourage students to view their assignments as a portfolio of work which will enhance their practice and strengthen their progression to further employment opportunities. Some assignments have therefore been designed with partners from professional contexts for digital literacies, pedagogies and learning, while others prepare students for future academic research.

We incorporate a range of assessment opportunities that allow students to develop their skills across different forms of expression and modes of communication. These include presentations, critical analyses, the creation of a scheme of digital learning activities, reflective accounts and the production of media texts. There are clear synergies between the modules which allow students to draw from their learning across the MA. Mentoring and peer and industry critique are integral to the teaching and assessment strategy.

The dissertation study consists of a research dissertation of 15,000- 20,000 words and there will again be opportunities for students to build on links with partners to develop their research in response to a specific issue or area of interest. Students will be supported by an experienced research tutor with expertise in the appropriate field.

Course Team

Course Team

As a student on our MA Digital Literacies, Culture and Education, you will be one of a growing community of digital literacies scholars here in Sheffield. You will be encouraged to participate in our active programme of research events as a member of the Literacy Research Cluster and to learn from our recent and ongoing international digital literacies research projects, such as DigiLitEY and MakEY. You will be taught and supervised by experienced academics with a range of research interests and professional experience. We have strong links with national organisations such as the Lego Foundation, The UK Literacy Association (UKLA) The National Videogame Museum, The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF) and The European Children’s Film Association. We also regularly work with schools and creative organisations such as, The Site Gallery, Sheffield Museums and Galleries, The Night Zoo Keeper and Twinkl, impacting on the development of content and exploring new research partnerships.

Dr. Becky Parry (Programme Director)
Dr. Fiona Scott
Dr. Jessica Bradley
Professor Jackie Marsh

Dr Becky Parry is the Programme Director of the MA in Digital Literacies, Culture and Education. Her research is focused on children’s media cultures in terms of what they play, read, watch and participate in and what they create and share. She is especially interested in developing pedagogies which support children’s creativity and criticality in relation to digital media.

Our course team also includes Dr Fiona Scott, whose recent research with CBeebies employed sociomaterial theory to theorise very young children’s intra-actions with digital devices and texts. She is concerned with child and family practices in relation to the digital and, in particular, the role played by social class.

You will also have the opportunity to be taught by Dr Jessica Bradley, an ethnographer with research interests in language and creative practice in formal and non-formal education. Her recent research investigated how street artists work together to create productions and perform.

Professor Jackie Marsh has conducted world-leading research on children’s digital literacy learning in homes, nurseries, schools and informal learning settings. She has co-produced research with teachers and the children’s media industry.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.