Digital Learning within Libraries

Wednesday (Feb. 5) is the third annual Digital Learning Day.  Last year  I wrote a bit about different types of digital learning libraries support:  products offered, training provided, and embedded librarianship.  I also drew comparisons of digital learning to digital literacy and wrote about my first experience with digital learning.  This year, I wanted to reiterate the importance of digital learning.

To recap, digital learning is:

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]

In our ever-growing dependence on technology, digital learning is going to predominate.  Now days most children are exposed to technology at a young age.  Two local school district provide in-class tablets for the elementary schools students.  Middle schoolers through high students are provided with laptops to use in-class and at home.  In the former case, various educational game apps are used to teach skills such as spelling, basic math, and more.  In the latter, almost all assignments have gone digital.  So have most textbooks.  However, it is important to remember that this is not the case everywhere.  Some places lack funding and/or adequate internet access to provide this to students.  Plus what about adults, especially older adults, who lack experience with technologies?

Since I have been working at a public library I have been able to observe a bit more about adults’ experiences with digital learning.  First, most who come in lack internet and/or computer access at home.  In many cases, this is due to cost.  Basic computer classes are offered to teach technology skills and the reference staff is there to provide individual instruction as requested.  Quite frequently when someone asks for help at the circulation desk before being referred to reference what the adults are asking to learn are basic:  copy and paste; download photos; scan something; etc.  Sometimes is it more difficult, such as using Craigslist or a YouTube video downloader (on the latter, I do question legality).  Occasionally, the questions pertain to e-reader, tablet, or smartphone use.

My point in drawing this comparison between students and adults?  Simple.  As technology permeates society, the young are given greater changes to use technology and gain digital learning skills.  This will only benefit them throughout life.  On the flip side, the adults without technology experience lack the opportunity to gain digital learning experiences like the tech-heavy students do because digital learning builds upon the technology skills one learns.  Perhaps this is best demonstrated by a blog posted yesterday on Designer Librarian.

In the graphic created by Designer Librarian‘s Amanda Hovious, she correlates different technologies and digital learning skills to the six elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy:  Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Understand, and Create.  I highly recommend following the above link and taking a look at the infographic.  For those of you who don’t know what Bloom’s Taxonomy is, here’s the short version. They are a set of learning objectives where each successive objective builds on the one before it.  Thus after one learns about something they need to be able to relate it to other things, gain an understanding, and use the information or skill gained to create something, often a class assignment.  In digital learning, this often means learning how to use technology and manipulate it to meet an end, say conducting a strong search (in information literacy) or to create something like a graphical representation for an idea or concept.

En short, digital learning is tied to other buzz terms like information literacy and digital literacy.  It’s as I wrote last year:

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.”

That is why libraries need to provide tools such as databases, discovery services, and e-books to use in the context of digital learning and provide instruction for their use.  The aforementioned instruction can be conducted one-on-one, in one shot or regular classes, and in the form of online tutorials, much like I have tried to do with the posts that made up my “Researcher’s Corner.”  After all, one goal of providing these resources are to allow anyone, anywhere, at any time to learn utilizing digital age skills.  Thus, librarians, like classroom teachers, are essential for ensuring digital learning needs are met for all age groups, especially adults without the greater technology exposure modern students receive.

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.

Lastly, on a non-digital learning note I do plan a return to a history topic in the next couple weeks.   I know I’ve been a while without one.

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