Digital Communities

A New Literacy: Addressing the Challenges of Building Digital Literacy Skills with Public Libraries and Peer-to-Peer Learning.

Abstract
In an increasingly digital world, spurred forward even faster by the COVID-19 global pandemic, people are being left behind. Social connection and learning have all been pushed online. Governments of all levels are asking for citizen input and engaging with citizens through digital means. However, the digital divide is growing and valuable perspectives are being left out of the decisions shaping communities. Society is developing in the digital sphere and that requires that people within that society are digitally literate. Public libraries could be the key to addressing the barriers leading to digital inequality. This study worked to understand digital literacy, the role public libraries are currently playing in the development of digital literacy skills, as well as the barriers libraries face in this endeavour and found that while there are many digital resources available for individual learners to increase their literacy, efforts could be improved by using a connectivist approach to learning and focusing on peer to peer level support.
About the Author
Rebecca Petricevic

A believer in the community as the centre of all, Rebecca has explored her passion for community building through her love of digital media. She has committed her adult life to working where the arts, technology, and community intersect. Rebecca believes that there is no problem too big or too small that a group of committed and enterprising individuals can’t tackle together. Through her Masters of Digital Media, Rebecca is seeking to explore the barriers experienced by vulnerable populations as our world and political life is increasingly digitized. She seeks to create something to help address and ultimately remove those barriers.

About the Project

The project started as a big unknown. I wanted to tackle an issue being experienced at the grassroots level and I took a design thinking approach to discover what that issue was, what challenges existed around it and what possible and sustainable solutions might look like. Public libraries are already unbelievable resources of knowledge and connection so I knew I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel here. The project is in it’s first iteration at the moment but the project is a guidebook to help public libraries translate their communities into healthy, resilient online communities, offering people support as they work to build digital literacy skills. 

MY NEONORMAL STORY
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I came into this knowing that I wanted to do something that would help people feel more comfortable and confident online. What I didn’t know was how relevant that would be. Or how much it would feel like a swift punch to the face. Finishing up a Masters completely digitally presented its own challenges but it also showed me how essential sharing knowledge and troubleshooting issues together is to learning. The pandemic has revamped how we connect and how we create and build community. Now that it is unsafe to meet and connect in person, humans still need to find ways to be social. While I don’t think we can ever fully replace in person community with digital communities, we can still cultivate healthy online spaces where people feel all the best things found in a good community - support, belonging, and the feeling of agency. That’s not limited to the physical realm and being pushed to translate our world to the digital, we as a society are more open to new possibilities and new interpretations of meaningful connection.