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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26 September, 2016: Digital literacies in professional practice – continuing development

This 1-hour webinar, Digital literacies in professional practice – continuing development was 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.  Jane Cowell, Director of Engagement and Partnership, State Library of Queensland, was the presenter.

Jane Cowell began her presentation by talking about the future.  She set the scene for the importance of digital literacy now and into the future by quoting the following statistics:

  • 90% of all future jobs will require digital literacy skills
  • 50% of those will require advanced digital skills

She also quoted a study that found that:

  • 35% of 15 year olds are not digitally literate.

Cowell’s premise is that digital literacy is a mindset, not a set of skills.  She proposes that digital literacy is more than functional IT skills; it is a rich set of digital behaviours that must change across contexts and over time, because technologies are diverse and rapidly changing.

Jane Cowell’s presentation was powerful, motivating and inspiring.  It was a call to action for all librarians to become “digital thinkers”, and accept and adopt digital literacy as a mindset, not a set of skills.  She challenged librarians to continually challenge themselves to stay aware of, and learn new digital tools, so that we know what the tools can do, and can see the opportunities they present.  Cowell challenged librarians to adopt the new business model or die: to build libraries around people and their needs, not around a collection and the collection’s needs.  Cowell called for librarians to “put the oxygen mask on yourself first” (the oxygen mask being digital literacy), before helping others.

However, she cautioned librarians not to do it alone.  Collaboration was key in her presentation.  Collaboration with users to discover what they want and need; collaboration with other librarians to learn, share ideas, create and innovate.  Cowell offered opportunities and ideas for collaboration, including:

  • a “learning happy hour”
  • piloting something, learning, and “failing forward”
  • killing off ideas and iterating, because the first idea won’t be the best
  • sharing what you’ve learned on social media by blogging and tweeting.

The wonderful thing about webinars like these is that they provide a jumping-off point for further learning.  Cowell’s presentation was inspiring, and provided a catalyst for participants to share useful digital learning tools.  I found links from Cowell’s presentation post on Digial Literacies ANZ to:

  • 23 Things for Digital Knowledge, a self-directed program of digital learning that anyone can participate in to learn a wide variety of digital skills and technologies such as blogging, creating a digital footprint, using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, using digital collaboration tools such as Google Hangouts, digital curation, and much more.
  • Library Intelligence, a website created by librarian, Sally Pewhairangi,  which provides online access to short digital learning courses for library staff in Australia and NZ.

It was wonderful to see how willing librarians are to share their knowledge. I am amazed at how many resources are available for librarians to develop their digital literacy mindset.  I plan to work through the 23 Things, although I have a feeling that the subjects I have done within my current studies have covered many, if not most, of the 23 things.  This provides a demonstration of the future focus of the Graduate Diploma in Information Science I have just completed at QUT, in equipping future librarians with comprehensive digital literacy skills, and teaching us not to be afraid of technology. I have no doubt that I have received an excellent grounding in digital literacy during my course of study, and know that I will always be able to access continuing development in digital literacy now that I know about communities of practice such as Digital Literacies ANZ.

26 August, 2016: Problem-based learning in the digital space: How gamification can maximise engagement with digital literacies.

This 1-hour webinar, Problem-based learning in the digital space: How gamification can maximise engagement with digital literacies, was produced by Digital Literacies ANZ, a community of practice (COP) for professionals across Australia and New Zealand to share, learn and have ongoing conversations about digital literacies.  The goal of Digital Literacies ANZ is to provide a forum, or space, in which to explore the skills and abilities required in today’s digital world; and how digital literacies can be developed and improved in their organisations and communities.  Digital Literacies ANZ has monthly webinars scheduled in 2017 from March to November.  The webinars are free to attend or view later.  Each of the webinars I have viewed from 2016 included a presentation component, and a questions/comments component for listeners / viewers to interact with the presenter.

This webinar, from August 2016, was presented by Eng Ung, Senior Coordinator Digital Experience, LaTrobe University Library; and in it she discusses the game she developed to help orient new students to the physical space of the library.  Ung went into detail during her presentation to describe:

  • the background and rationale for creating a game with online and physical elements to replace the library tour (i.e. to increase student engagement)
  • the key design elements used (e.g. use of engaging puzzles, building in tasks to demonstrate navigation, reinforcement for successful task completion, immersive storyline, use of tactile elements)
  • the creative process (i.e. how the game was made), and took the webinar participants through an ideation activity
  • data collection and evaluation
  • “pain points”
  • The ideation process

Ung had a number of outcomes that she wished to achieve, including:

  • that as many students would play the game as had signed up for the traditional library tour in the previous year
  • that students would learn something playing a game using problem-based learning principles
  • that students would have fun doing it.

Ung’s results indicated that students who played the game did learn and had fun, but unfortunately fewer people played the game than had participated in library tours the previous year.

I was interested to view this presentation because of my interest in gamification, sparked by covering the topic during the subject, IFN612 – Emerging Technologies, in 2016.  I wrote a blog about it, and the entire class also had the opportunity to play “the game” one week, completing a series of tasks in order to gain points or rewards.  What was interesting to me is that some people were completely engaged by the gamification of the play activity that week, whilst others did not engage at all.  As someone who was completely engaged, I was surprised that others were only mildly interested in playing the game, and some were completely turned off by the idea, and chose to engage in a different play activity that week.

Clearly, gamification works to engage a proportion of the population, but does not work for everyone.  There was a competitive element to the game (rewards, points and winners at the end), as there is with all games, and I wonder if some of the people who were not engaged by the game did not like the competitive aspect to playing.  There could be any number of influencing factors and explanations, however, including time pressures, competing obligations and interests, mood, etc.

I can’t help but wonder if people would engage, if the conditions were right, and the motivation was right for the person.  I am a firm believer in making a person’s participation “worth their while”, and making learning fun by offering incentives, rewards and reinforcement.  It is the behaviourist in me, from many years of doing speech therapy with young children who need the right motivation to encourage their participation. The trouble is that the “right motivation” is different for different people, and without individualisation, not everyone will be engaged.  Whilst I can see how gamification strategies could be used effectively with the student population to increase their engagement and learning outcomes, and I think it highly likely that I would implement strategies such as these in any digital literacy programs I run with students in the future, I understand that not everyone will be engaged by such strategies, as their individual motivational needs may not have been met.

Image attribution:

“Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts”, by Duncan Hull.  CC BY 2.0