17 November, 2016: Learning to Code: The role of Communities of Practice to support Digital Literacies

This webinar, Learning to Code: The role of Communities of Practice to support Digital Literacieswas produced by Digital Literacies ANZ, a community of practice for professionals across Australia and New Zealand to share, learn and have ongoing conversations about digital literacies.  Matthew Davis, from the University of Sydney Library, presented the webinar.

In his presentation, Davis discussed:

  • the background and rationale of teaching library staff to code
  • the establishment of a community of practice as an approach to professional development
  • starting a Community of Practice
  • lessons learned from the experience.

Davis raised interesting points about the way learning programming extends the definition of creation in the ALA definition of digital literacy, and moves people towards being a participant, rather than only a consumer.  This statement reminded me of the philosophy of the current maker movement, which has a creator ethos. Davis discussed advantages of learning to code in providing library staff with an understanding of programming language which can allow conversations to occur between technical staff and library staff.  The intention is not for librarians to create programs, but to assist them with understanding and communicating with technical professionals.  Learning to code can allow library staff to assist with website redesign; i.e. making text more readable on a webpage by adding headings, hyperlinks, or bulleted lists.   Davis talked about how learning to code can help develop computational thinking, providing a different way to solve problems.

Davis’ idea of developing a community of practice (COP) in the library in the form of a coding club was to help meet professional development requirements.  Membership of the community of practice was voluntary. Codecademy, a free website offering coding tutorials, was used as the basis for the coding lessons.  Regular meeting times were established to discuss lessons, with an expectation that members would independently work through lessons.  Davis found that membership of the club waned over time, and the COP needed a leader to continually drive the process.  Upon review of the program, he implemented a virtual discussion group using Yammer, and found that this was a key tool in supporting the development of the community of practice.

I found this webinar really interesting.  I love the idea of being able to write simple code for websites.  I think that this skill would be valuable in any librarian role I have in the future in which I have the ability to do minor webpage editing.  This was a role carried out by a librarian at the Rockhampton Regional Library.  She was able to update the online library catalogue with the library’s new releases and current events.  We were introduced to HTML in IFN616 – Online Information Services, but did not do CSS.  I think continuing to develop skills using HTML, and learning CSS is the next step for me in learning to code.  Davis introduced free tools (codecademy) in his presentation that I had heard of, but not used myself, so my intention is to try out Codecademy, and develop my coding skills.  I can also take away Davis’ lessons learned in developing a community of practice should I attempt to implement one, or participate in one, in any future role I have as a librarian.

Image attribution:

Screen Computer Computer Code Monitor, by Max Pixel FreeGreatPicture.com, CC0 Public Domain.

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