Tag Archives: education

Digital Fluency is Key to Learning this Fall and Beyond

By Matt Poland, educational specialist

There’s little doubt that both learning and work require a high degree of technology use. As schooling continues to move online in response to COVID-19, students are expected to be able to access, process, manipulate, and interpret digital content. This has brought to light a significant skill that separates successful learners from those who struggle: digital fluency. Digital fluency is a step above “digital literacy.” Learners now need to know much more than just the basics of navigating the internet, writing an email, and making their way around common productivity applications like spreadsheets. Digital fluency includes skills such as using technology tools for collaboration, marshaling online resources to solve a problem, and evaluating the accuracy of a source.

Despite the “whiz-kid” reputation of Generation Z, an alarming number of high school students lack the appropriate level of digital fluency. This set of skills is part of a larger group of key work and learning aptitudes called 21st Century Skills. A lack of digital fluency can harm students’ futures as they progress into college and careers where these skills are necessary.

Students and teachers can use Internet Archive as a collaborative tool for sharing books and digital content across remote teams or classrooms, removing the physical barriers of access to books and collaborators.

Fortunately, having students complete assignments with the aid of the Internet Archive’s digital library can help build digital fluency. Students and teachers can use Internet Archive as a collaborative tool for sharing books and digital content across remote teams or classrooms, removing the physical barriers of access to books and collaborators. They can use digital libraries like Internet Archive to conduct research for assignments, with access to 20th-century texts that aren’t available from other sources. Finally, they can cross-reference sources to evaluate the accuracy of material they may find elsewhere on the internet.

Other features of Internet Archive’s digital library promote digital fluency for students as well. For example, the site includes advanced search and sorting features that are commonly used on research websites. It is critical for students to understand how to use the right keywords to find what they need, as well as how to find the most recent (or oldest) material, particular authors or publications, etc. On Internet Archive, this can be done from the advanced search options in the left toolbar. Sorting by the number of views, title, date published or the creator is available by clicking the appropriate header at the top of the search results. Even when you have the material you are looking for, you need to know how to find the specific content within it. You can do this at Internet Archive by using the search box in the upper right corner when a particular book is open on the screen.

Nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century, learning is changing rapidly and digital fluency is becoming increasingly important for students. Tools such as Internet Archive’s digital library can help students develop these skills through activities like team collaboration, online research, and verifying sources. With multiple features that support learning in the classroom or remotely, teachers and students should consider Internet Archive a valuable resource for their work and learning.

Matt Poland is founder of MAP Consulting, an educational consulting firm specializing in workforce development.

Digital Librarians – Now More Essential Than Ever

By Michelle Swanson, an Oregon-based educator and educational consultant

It’s time to consider adding another occupation to the growing list of pandemic-era “essential workers”: Digital Librarian.

With public library buildings closed due to the global pandemic, teachers, students, and lovers of books everywhere have increasingly turned to online resources for access to information. But as anyone who has ever turned up 2.3 million (mostly unrelated) results from a Google search knows, skillfully navigating the Internet is not as easy as it seems. This is especially true when conducting serious research that requires finding and reviewing older books, journals and other sources that may be out of print or otherwise inaccessible.

Enter the role of digital librarian. 

The role is not really new—librarians have been going digital for years. School and university librarians are typically early adopters of technology, tasked with training the teachers they serve. In the public high school where I taught during the 1990s, the library was home to the school’s first open-access computers, printers, and computer lab. Our librarian, like countless other school librarians across the nation, was the go-to source for answers to thorny technical questions. By the year 2000, the notion of a digital librarian was already well established in library science literature as a type of information professional who manages and organizes digital resources, provides functionality for information and electronic information services, and remotely mediates between users and resources. 

Using Internet Archive, librarians who oversee physical libraries shuttered during the current pandemic can supplement their digital offerings with a massive digital library of over four million books, including many out-of-print titles from the 20th century. Anyone with an email address can borrow books from the Internet Archive for free. 

Like other digital librarians, the staff at Internet Archive recognize that curation is important for users to get the most out of the collection. For educators, the library makes it easy to find resources by offering lists categorized by subject, author, reading level, grade level, and year published. In addition, advanced search functions are available to further sort the library’s holdings, including tools that let users search the collection for specific text phrases. Schools that want to fully unlock the potential of Internet Archive’s digital books should have school librarians and classroom teachers explore strategies for incorporating this resource into their distance learning plans.

While digital libraries can’t fully replace the important social and civic role that physical library buildings play in our communities, they do provide a critical service to educators and learners in this time of global need. And guiding learners through these online learning landscapes are our essential guides: the digital librarians.

Distance Learning Trends are Here to Stay

By Theron Cosgrave, a California-based educator and educational consultant.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced massive changes upon schools across the world. UNESCO (the education division of the United Nations) recently estimated that over 1.19 billion students have been affected by the pandemic–nearly 70% of the world’s student population. With schools closed, teachers and students have had to pivot from a face-to-face model to an online distance learning approach. And while the results have been mixed, the transition has accelerated key trends that can ultimately benefit teachers and students. 

If you’re looking for a silver lining to this educational experiment, it may be this: students and teachers are learning new skills and routines that can reshape how schools operate. Here are two trends reinforced by the distance learning approach and how teachers can take advantage of the Internet Archive’s digitized books to benefit student learning.

Trend 1: Teacher as Learning Coach

Distance learning has required teachers to shift their role from “knowledge source” to “learning coach.” Teachers succeeding at engaging students are blending flipped learning strategies with real-time interpersonal connections. Books available through the Internet Archive can help teachers guide student skill development as they access online resources.

Ideas for Teachers:

  • Share Specific Books: Teachers of K-2 students can encourage the development of foundational reading skills by directing students to read books to an adult in their home. Stories like Eric Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab or Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together are solid picks. As students improve their reading skills, books like an illustrated children’s dictionary can support vocabulary development and word fluency. 
  • Encourage Supplemental Reading: Once students have learned to read, they can read to learn. Middle- and upper-grade teachers can encourage students to explore topics of interest. For example, teachers can guide students toward collections of books about animals and pets or a set of books that feature black girls as the main character. Older students can be coached to pursue passion projects using the library’s collections.

Trend 2: School Happens Anytime, Anywhere

Over the past two decades, the digital revolution has put history’s most powerful information machine (the internet) in the pocket of smartphone users around the globe. And while some teachers have taken advantage of web resources for years, an army of educators across the globe are now poised to take full advantage of “anytime, anywhere schooling.” 

The traditional daily school schedule has given way to asynchronous teaching and learning. Going forward, more schools–particularly at the high school level and above–are likely to renegotiate how they use time and space. This shift makes learning more accessible to students who struggle with regular attendance or face temporary interruptions (like pandemics and weather-related school closures) in their schooling. 

Ideas for Teachers:

  • Explicitly Teach New Mindsets: Teaching students to view their education in a more holistic manner is essential. Students can be challenged to see learning as something that takes place wherever they are–at school, at home, or out in the community–and at all times throughout the day. Digital libraries like the Universal School Library can be enjoyed wherever internet access is available and at all times.
  • Encourage Reading Habits by Assigning Longer Works: In a world of social media saturation, students need to build their capacity to persist in reading longer texts. The always-on nature of the Internet Archive’s book collections makes it easy for students to access books whenever and wherever using a mobile device. This increased accessibility supports the development of daily reading habits, which teachers can foster by assigning longer texts. Works of fiction targeted to student reading levels are generally good bets for books that can push students to strengthen their reading muscles. 

The pandemic is accelerating the pace of change in education. As our understanding of teaching and school continue to evolve, teachers can take advantage of these trends by using the Internet Archive’s digital libraries to help students adapt to new ways of learning.