On Digital Learning and Libraries

February 6, 2013, is the second annual Digital Learning Day. The Day’s sponsor, Alliance for Excellent Education, defines digital learning as:

Digital learning is any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience. Much more than “online learning,” digital learning encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and practice, digital learning emphasizes high-quality instruction and provides access to challenging content, feedback through formative assessment, opportunities for learning anytime and anywhere, and individualized instruction to ensure all students reach their full potential to succeed in college and a career. [source]

While Digital Learning Day focuses on K-12 education, it has aspects equally pertinent to libraries. Why? Libraries provide tools that support digital learning at any age. Databases, discovery services, and e-books are tools that can be used within digital learning. Many academic and some school and public libraries offer online tutorials to learn and practice digital skills. All libraries offer training classes for specific computer and cloud-based programs, electronic equipment (mainly computers, but also e-readers, tablets, and cameras), and for skills, such as search techniques and database searching. The goal of providing these resources are to allow anyone, anywhere, at any time to learn utilizing digital age skills.

The embedded librarianship model used by some academic institutions also assists with digital learning. Why? The goal of embedded librarians is to integrate seamlessly into the academic culture of specific faculty and students groups. This means they can create very specific lessons (for credit-bearing or one-shot information literacy sessions) and tutorials. These librarians also work closely with faculty to design lessons that make the most of library resources (digital and print), reputable web resources, and teach subject-specific searching skills. To learn more about embedded librarianship, you may wish to check out the blog “The Embedded Librarian” by David Shumaker. He is an embedded librarian who has taught webinars on the subject.*

NASA Visualization Explorer (iPad app)

NASA Visualization Explorer (iPad app) by NASA Goddard Photo and Video, Goddard Space Flight Center; From Flickr Creative Commons

In many ways, digital learning goes hand-in-hand with digital literacy, an issue near and dear to many librarians. Both focus on information literacy and resource evaluation relating to digital resources; these skills are the main point of digital literacy, but are also one aspect of digital learning. To learn more about digital literacy and tools used to evaluate digital literacy, check out my earlier blog post “Assessing Digital Literacy.”

Last week the American Library Association’s Washington Office issued a blog post titled “Are You Prepared for Digital Learning Day?.” Before that post, I hadn’t known this day existed, but I think it is important to be widely known. I touched on a bit of how digital learning applies to the library world, but it has greater implications in the teaching world. Educators need to realize the importance of digital learning and model some, if not the majority, of its curriculum to take it into account.

The same aforementioned ALA post also challenged readers to “write a blog about your digital learning experiences.” While I opted to base this post on how digital learning is pertinent to libraries based on my experiences, readings, and coursework, I wanted to share a specific example. In the 1999-2000 school year, my school district established its first student-use internet connection. I was a sixth-grader at the time. That winter I had my first experience with the internet when I used it to conduct research for a geography class. Granted, this was back in the day when text and fuzzy photos dominated the web, but it was an early digital learning experience. Why? It was the first time I utilized a search engine. I may not have known Boolean or other search skills yet, but I had a door to a world of knowledge open to me. I began to embrace a new technological opportunity that opened other doors and helped me to become a better researcher, librarian, and teacher-librarian.

To learn more about Digital Learning Day, please check out their website: http://www.digitallearningday.org. It offers lessons, toolkits, and ways to participate targeted to educators, librarians, students, parents, businesses, and community leaders. I know two days might not be long enough to plan an event at an institution, but knowing this Day exists may lead to making plans for 2014 or reflecting on and promoting the topic in the blogosphere and/or on social media sites.

So, will you join me and help spread the word in Digital Learning Day? Would you like to comment about one of your digital learning experiences?

*My twice-postponed post on my experiences with embedded librarianship should be up next week. Last week’s topic to go with my INALJ repost and today’s post pushed it back because their timing was more important.

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5 thoughts on “On Digital Learning and Libraries

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