Having an open mind and a commitment to lifelong learning is in my view one of the most difficult aspects to overcome when attempting to improve the digital literacy fluency of library staff.
I know dozens of library staff who have had the opportunities, skills and practice to advance their digital literacy, yet fail on the final hurdle because of their mindset. Changing the way we do things is difficult because we have to let go of what we know and accept something new. We fear that this new thing won’t be as good or as useful as what we currently do. Change takes time and for some of us it takes longer to get to grips with than for others.
So how can we ensure any digital learning opportunities reduce the friction that change brings with it? I believe a mindset that is reluctant to change can largely be overcome by designing learning opportunities that quickly puts learners ‘in the zone’ or a state of flow.
Flow is defined as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter…” (Anderson, 2011. p. 162). Flow results when the challenge is equal to a person’s ability. If learning opportunities are too easy, boredom results. If they are too challenging, people become overwhelmed.
If digital literacy learning was designed to minimise both the anxiety and boredom of learners then it is easier to create an open mindset and become a critical, informed, expert user of digital technologies.
You might think this is easier said than done but based on my experience training hundreds of library staff in many aspects of digital literacy, the following 7 techniques will help reduce the anxiety and boredom of digital literacy learners.
- Make it as easy as possible for learners to focus on learning by eliminating as many environmental concerns as you can. Anxieties are anxieties and sometimes they aren’t related to the training being offered. This could range from providing information on nearby parking in a face-to-face world or clear navigation and technical support in an online space.
- Ensure digital literacy learning is relevant to the learner (not the learner’s manager or organisation). This can best be achieved by the teacher either knowing the learner well or having a similar background or understanding to the learner and as a result they are able to provide the context that the learner needs to frame and scaffold their digital literacy learning. In-house training by peers and on the job learning are two methods that take advantage of this technique.
- Incorporate digital literacy activities or exercises that allows each learner to demonstrate their learning within their own context, experiences and abilities. Reflective exercises are a great example as they allow the learner to mesh what they know with what they are learning – to make sense of it (The reflective learning process, n.d.).
- Set clear and measurable digital literacy learning objectives and make them known to learners. With clear objectives the learner will know what they will learn and what they are expected to do. They are able to assess the suitability and relevance of the learning opportunity before committing to it.
- Only include content that enables learners to achieve the stated digital literacy learning objectives. If learners are required to sift (or sit) through irrelevant content not only will they find it difficult to recognise and pay attention to the relevant bits but they can also easily become overwhelmed and shut down.
- Tell, show, do, apply. Tell the learner what they need to know in a context they can understand. Show them how this information can be applied by demonstrating an example. Give the learner the opportunity to practice what you have taught them. Provide an opportunity for the learner to apply (or plan how they will apply) what they have learned in their own environment (Gardner, 2013).
- Find and share the joy in digital literacy learning. Digital literacy learners have often felt frustrated because they couldn’t get a piece of technology to work or ‘dumb’ because they didn’t know all the answers to assist a library user. Show them what successful learning looks like. Ignite their curiosity through hands-on discovery and experience. Give learners the confidence to work a solution out for themselves.
What techniques do you use to reduce digital literacy anxiety?
- Anderson, S. (2011). Seductive interaction design: creating playful, fun and effective user experiences. Berkeley, CA : New Riders.
- Gardner, J. (2013, March 27) Tell, show, do, apply: the anatomy of good instruction [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://elearningindustry.com/tell-show-do-apply-the-anatomy-of-good-instruction
- The reflective learning process (n.d) Retrieved 7 June 2015, from http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/writing/medicine/reflective/3.xml