Major elements of our society are increasingly moving online. Accomplishing anything these days, from finding a job to engaging with your child’s school, requires using the internet. However, according to a recent PEW report, 13% of American adults don’t use the internet. That means more than one in ten are not engaged with online tools and content, creating negative impacts both at the personal and societal levels.
Barb Macikas, Director of the Public Library Association, had this to say about the benefits of digital literacy: “On a personal level, digital literacy fosters economic and social inclusion, public participation, positive educational outcomes, and improved health and well-being. On a global level, it allows the United States to compete economically, educationally, and intellectually.”
Getting online and gaining basic digital skills can be a difficult barrier to overcome for many reasons including limited access to computers and the internet, apprehension about learning new things, and not having support systems such as trainers and tutors to assist with skill attainment. Organizations such as libraries, nonprofits, and community groups are leading the way in providing methods to overcome these barriers and at the forefront of the work to support learners is the role of the adult education teacher. However, many of the tutors and trainers working with adult learners and teaching digital skills often have their own barriers to supporting their learners effectively, including limited time and resources to meet the demands of all their students.
Out of this need for better support and resources for digital literacy trainers, the Public Library Association, with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, created DigitalLearn.org. This site provides both self-directed classes that trainers can leverage for their students and a community where trainers can share tips, tools, and conversation around meeting the needs of digital literacy learners.
There are currently twelve classes in English and two in Spanish but more are in the queue to be added to the site soon. Once a user has completed a class on the site, they can type in their name and they will get a certificate of completion that they can save or print. All of the classes on DigitalLearn.org are free to access and use in whatever way you would like, wether using them as a practice session for a learner outside of class, as a link from your site, or even just a place to refer learners.
In addition to the “Learn” portion of the site, trainers can connect in the “Teach” portion of the site to share resources, ideas, ask questions, etc. This portion of the site can be accessed through the “Help Learners” button on the homepage and all of the content can be read without logging in. However, if you want to comment or post in this area of the site, you simply need to register and login for that functionality. If you register, you will also be signed up for our email newsletter that is sent out twice a month with articles, blogs, and interviews relevant for the digital literacy community.
As we look toward the future of the DigitalLearn.org site, we will continue to add new classes and fresh content for the community in order to meet the constantly shifting needs of those gaining new digital skills. Your feedback, ideas, and input on the content we focus on moving forward is always welcome and incredibly helpful. Feel free to reach out to Jamie Hollier if you have questions, comments, or ideas for the site.
The Public Library Association (PLA) is a division of the American Library Association. PLA’s core purpose is to strengthen public libraries and their contribution to the communities they serve, and its mission is to enhance the development and effectiveness of public library staff and public library services.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Through grant making, policy development, and research, IMLS helps communities and individuals thrive through broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning.
Jamie Hollier is an entrepreneur and consultant who is passionate about technology and how it can be used to create stronger communities. Jamie is the Co-CEO of Anneal, Co-Owner of Commerce Kitchen, and the project manager for DigitalLearn.org for the Public Library Association. She has been honored as a White House "Champion of Change” for her work related to digital literacy and libraries and serves as a board member for the Digital Public Library of America.