Teaching and Learning

Digital Literacy and the Library

Photo credit: Rami Al-zayat, on Unsplash.com

Late in the Fall of 2022, the Library decided to pivot its approach to information literacy instruction. Instead of classroom visitation for a “one-shot” instructional session on Library resources and effective research habits, we aimed towards a more asynchronous approach through the development of interactive, research literacy toolkits. This pivot allows us to maximize the students we can reach as well as offer faculty a simple way to scaffold library support across their students’ learning journey. I also saw an opportunity in change for our librarians to cultivate other types of pedagogical pathways that would generate different types of student engagement: Outreach Workshops. Rather than limit ourselves to only the course content of a student’s learning journey, creating topical library workshops gave us the capacity to do the following:

  1. Address students’ intellectual curiosity in matters connected to course content
  2. Leverage the subject and technical expertise of our Librarian-Faculty
  3. Demonstrate to students and faculty our capacity as knowledge co-creators in spheres that overlap with information literacy.

One of our first Outreach Workshops was the virtual Spring 2023 Digital Horizons series. In many of the libraries I grew up in and was a student at, the community always saw the library as one of the central technology and digital literacy hubs. The idea behind the first Digital Horizons (DH) series was to begin the groundwork of cultivating that same perception among our BMCC community. We chose the topics of Digital Footprints, Cyber Security, and AI Literacy. With the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew that public communications, social interaction, and education would continue to be embedded in the digital world (for better or worse). We felt that proactive awareness of one’s online persona, the capacity to defend their personal data from extractive platforms or malicious actors, and the ability to critically navigate the generative AI craze were all essential competencies for the digital horizons set before our students.

Following the first DH series, the noticeable commonality across feedback submissions was the request for more practical content. Hence, the scope of our reprisal of the DH series this semester: Equipping students with practical skills for cultivating socially responsible digital habits. The DH 2.0 series has naturally built on the theoretical concepts explored in the previous semester. The Digital Footprints workshop evolved into explorations of various pathways students can take when shaping their digital identity, such as social media and portfolio sites. Cyber security focused on the realm of social media and identified tools and practices that protect our data from exploitative apps and prioritize mental health in a digital environment. Our AI Literacy scope narrowed to the very practical work of prompting a Large Language Model in response to the ensuing reality where all digital spaces will be inundated with generative AI systems. Also, we have noticed a better attendee-to-RSVP ratio for workshops that focus on concrete digital literacies, such as creating your online identity or Prompt Engineering AI systems. We think collaborating with other BMCC departments is another key step to optimizing the promotion of the workshops and expanding what topics are covered.

Part of my academic background is in algorithmic machine learning systems and information seeking, which can be difficult to explore in the regular “one shot” model of coming into a classroom and talking about library search tools. The DH series allows us to demonstrate to the students our ability to explore theoretical and practical aspects of workforce-ready topics. My hope is that Outreach workshops like the DH series signal to faculty and students that the Library is a reliable resource hub for intellectual and professional growth.

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