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Learner Centered Digital Literacy

Updated: Sep 16, 2018

Each summer the South Dakota State Library holds a School Library "Bootcamp" for teacher librarians, and library paraprofessionals across the Mt. Rushmore State. (An aside, I have a strange fascination with state nicknames. I love to look them up ahead of any visit to a new state and as it turns out, SD has numerous state nicknames INCLUDING, I kid you not, "the swinged cat state." Mount Rushmore might get all the glory, but in my heart South Dakota will forever be the place described as being "slightly better than a swinged cat." How's that for some humility?)  Anyway, this THREE DAY professional learning opportunity revolves around a theme and represents a chance for South Dakota's library folk to gather for some focused, intensive training and inspiration before school starts. This year, I was asked to facilitate the learning for one of those days, with the requested topic being digital literacy. I'll be honest, digital literacy wasn't a topic I was super excited about. In my experience, when schools talk about digital literacy, the conversation typically revolves around what kids shouldn't do online:

  • don't post stuff you wouldn't want your grandma (someone else you love and whose opinion matters to you) to see.

  • don't post personal information.

  • don't talk to strangers.

  • don't steal other people's stuff.

  • don't use the word "password" as your password.

  • don't.... etc. 

And, I get it. That stuff is important. Our students (and our teachers!) do need to understand that everything they post online is public, permanent and potent - no matter how private or personal they *think* it might be. AND, obviously, we want our kids to be safe and aware of behavior that puts them at greater risk for danger and, of course, stealing is wrong.  But...  Our digital lives, and those of our students, are about so much more than that. Back when I was a classroom teacher, the aspirational (and too often unrealistic) career choice of my students was that of professional athlete. These days, ask your kids what their dream job is and bunches of them will say YouTuber.  The fact is, our students have never known a world without selfies, Snapchat filters and hashtag activism. For the kids we teach, these tools are not new technology. Rather, they are:

As I headed to South Dakota, I wanted to talk about digital literacy as it relates to the whole learner. I wanted to focus as much (if not more!) time on resources for helping our kids harness the power of digital tools to achieve their goals, to solve real problems and to do actual good in the world, as we did on resources for keeping them safe.  So, as part of a (digital and physical) BreakoutEDU experience on digital literacy, I created this image:

Clicking on the image itself will take you to an interactive version where you can explore resources under

each of the five "apps:" Each app leads to a google doc where I (along with some of my brilliant friends - thanks Jeannie and Tavia!) have been curating resources.  Some of the documents contain more content than others, but that's due entirely to the fact that resources were sparse in a few areas. I intend to continue to add to these documents as time goes on and more resources become available.  (That said, if you see any glaring omissions, please let me know and I'll add you as a contributor. After all, the more brains the merrier!)  

And, if you'd like to print a hi-res version of the image above, you can find it here.  

The entire BreakoutEDU part of our day was massive and contained many more resources and locks than could be explored during a traditional class period. However, we had lots of time AND one of my goals was also to expose the librarians I was working with to a variety of ways to build BreakoutEDU locks, so I went BIG.

That said, you are welcome to use any/all of this, but unless you have 3 hours to devote to the game, I'd pick and choose specific parts instead of using it as is.

Anyway, if you've ever been a part of my BreakoutEDU sessions at a conference or in your district, then I'm guessing you'll know where to find the hidden answer key for this breakout- which will also describe how to set up the physical components of the game along with all of the lock combinations. But here's a direct link for those who haven't had the pleasure of being duped by my trickery in person.  I also want to point out this activity, which focused around the idea that comparing our personal/professional lives to the ones we see online is both unhealthy and unrealistic. I've written about what I call "pedagogical face tuning"before, and I feel strongly that this is an area of digital literacy that we don't talk enough about. That said, I need to send a big thank you to Joyce Valenza and Carolyn Foote, whose work you'll see linked to as essential resources. But mostly I want to thank the librarians of South Dakota who engaged in tough, vulnerable conversations as a part of this work. Your students are lucky to have you.  Anyway, the entire day's schedule, including all of the activities and resources we explored can be found here.  I'm so honored to have been a part of learning that took place in "The Swinged Cat State" on that hot summer day in Pierre.  I don't pretend to know everything there is to know about digital literacy, but I do know that together we took some important steps towards expanding the way we talk with kids about what it means to spend much of your life online. Thank you again to the SD State Library for making this Pacific Northwest #librarianroadwarrior feel at home! I really am the luckiest librarian around.


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