Part 1: Starting a conversation about what Digital Literacy means at Johnson County Library

Starting a conversation about what Digital Literacy means at Johnson County Library
Skills needed for a novice

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” – Steve Jobs

This quote underscores my personal belief that technology’s only real function is to work as a tool to make our lives and the lives of those around us better.

Let us have a conversation around the topic of Digital Literacy. I do not think we have a shared understanding of this topic and that is nobody’s fault. This huge topic has many ways that it could be defined. I think if we are going to make any progress on goal 2 we, as an organization is going to need to have a shared language and understanding of what we mean when talking about Digital Literacy.

The other topic that I talked about in my previous post was developing our adult teaching skills to the same level that we have developed our early childhood literacy skills.

In order to get the conversation started, I wanted to focus on one of the two areas. The first section will have us returning to the topic of how to teach adults in the most effective manner. I will be presenting some of the best teaching practices, research, and theories available today.

In the second section, I will describe a lesson plan for the novice (beginner) technologist based on the work done by “The Vermont Council on Rural Development.” This site provides an abundance of material for both students and teachers.

As the teacher it might be a good idea to define what a Novice Technologist is, these are my thoughts:

  1. Consider they may have little to no experience with computers.
  2. Consider they may have encountered barriers to learn. These could be economic or even the job they had in the past did not require this knowledge.
  3. Consider they may be intimidated by technology and may feel that everyone else knows more than they do.

Section One

Setting the learning tone I think is highly import, in gets the participants relaxed and in a learning mode.

Taking a moment to lower stress in the class can be something as easy as having them wiggle their toes to notice how they feel in their shoes. An article in the Scientific American Magazine shows how these types of techniques can help activate the frontal cortex, which is where learning occurs.

Psychology Today recommends having students write down one of their strengths and one of their major achievements to help them increase their confidence and get over any anxiety they might be feeling.

I could not find any information about where to start with learning about computers. I also did not look that hard. In my experience, you start at the beginning, and I thought that learning was about how things work.

Section Two

“How things work”

Here is an example of what you might cover. All of these topics are designed to increase digital literacy.

  1. Inspiration
  2. How does a computer work? Just the basics, mouse, keyboard, hard-drive, headphone, thumb-drives.
  3. How does the Internet work?
  4. What is software and how does it work?
  5. What are the parts of a desktop?
  6. What are the parts of a web browser?

Exercise: Have students get in teams, have them connect the power, monitor, keyboard, mouse and Ethernet cable to the computer and then turn everything on.

Exercise: Have the students pull the computer apart and identify all the components. Once they have completed this task, have them put it back together and turn it on.

I shared this idea with a friend and they said, “Yeah once you pull something apart and then put it back together you own it, it doesn’t own you.” I thought that was perfectly said. The goal should be to help people feel that way about technology.

I have added some other lesson topics you could consider based on the top 10 activities people regularly perform on the Internet.

“What is email and how do I create an account?”

“What is a search engine and how do I search for things I am interested in?”

“What is Youtube and are there other online video channels?”

“What are social networks and what are the most popular?”

“What is the safest way to purchase items online?”


Creating a relaxed and informal atmosphere is the most conducive environment for learning. Having people work together and creating interactive learning experiences is a number of peoples preferred learning style. The next blog will look at the needs of people with intermediate computer skills. I hope this post helps you think about the idea of digital literacy.