Hello Integrating Technology colleagues,
No doubt you are aware of the continuing digital divide. You may also be aware of some of the solutions being provided by those who are interested in increasing digital inclusion and digital equity; one of these solutions is referred to as digital navigation services, or often, just digital navigators.
Digital navigation services are offered in at least eighteen states and, with federal emergency funding to address needs during the pandemic, more of these programs are being offered every month. National organizations such as The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), World Education’s Ed Tech Center, Rural LISC, and Literacy Minnesota have been helping local public libraries, adult education programs and local collaborations to start up digital navigation services programs by providing free web-based resources, technical assistance, online communities of practice, and in other ways.
Now we have a very useful case study of the implementation of a digital navigation services program at a public library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s called The Digital Navigators Toolkit and it covers topics that could be useful to many other Digital Navigation Services programs such as: a description of what a digital navigator does; Identifying and working with community partners; hiring digital navigators; training digital navigators; managing a digital navigation services program; and measuring and assessing outcomes. There is also a Lessons Learned section, and an Appendix with links to additional resources.
I would be interested to know if you find this article useful.
Also, check out an earlier LINCS Integrating Technology discussion about the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) that includes digital navigation services; you will find it here .
David J. Rosen
Hello Integrating Technology colleagues,
In the Fall 2021 issue of the Adult Literacy Education Journal published today, for my regular Technology Solutions column, I wrote an article on digital navigation services.
I hope that you find the article useful.
David J. Rosen
I love the idea of Digital Navigators and feel they are a much needed resource today. Although there are a number of services available to the public today, it is often difficult for an individual to be aware of who has what and how the person might best get in touch with that organization. When seeking formal program support challenges are often encountered in terms of timing, location and prescribed plans within those organizations. In contrast, a digital navigator is often available as need arises and often offers that one on one support people crave but often do not get to experience when in need.
I have found the digital navigation experience to be a much more organic and conversational interaction where people navigate systems together, each sharing their experiences, needs and expected outcomes along the way. Many times, this navigation experience mutates as more and more information is shared or discovered. The client seeking information often discovers aspects and perspectives previously unknown and that causes a shift in directions they seek. The flexibility to shift with the discovered learning one experiences is very difficult to facilitate within many other forms of more formal educational constructs, but in a digital navigation scenario discovering and opening new doors is an expected norm in every journey.
Those providing the navigation support gain much from these journeys as well. When navigators really listen to the needs, spoken and unspoken, from those they are facilitating, the navigator learns new perspectives, new values and often gets exposed to different interests a learner may express. Educators often share that their richest moments are not economic; rather, they are those moments of connection between people in which both are richer for the shared experiences.
In my experiences as a digital navigator, I have felt I experienced many more successes than I have in other educational efforts. I find that my perspectives broaden more and my exposure to the needs of others is increased more with every navigation experience. With each success, I feel more comfortable and competent that each digital navigation journey will be enjoyable and fruitful for all parties involved. The more people help others navigate, the better they see the real life destinations and paths available today.
I want to highlight several of your points. You wrote that:
1) A digital navigator:
- is often available as learners' needs arise
- often offers one-on-one support people crave but often do not get to experience when in need
- offers a much more organic and conversational interaction where people navigate systems together, each sharing their experiences, needs and expected outcomes along the way
2) Those providing digital navigation navigation support gain much from these journeys as well. When navigators really listen to the needs, spoken and unspoken, from those they are facilitating, the navigator learns new perspectives, new values and often gets exposed to different interests a learner may express.
I would add two more points that I know you will agree with:
3) Digital navigators start with the learner's presented need, for example
- how to get affordable Internet access at home
- how to get a home computer, Chromebook, or tablet
- How to get basic digital literacy skills to accomplish their own education, job-related , health-related or other purposes, for examples: complete an online job application; create a resume; create an online job interview video; improve basic reading, writing and/or math skills; prepare for particular employment-related or academic certification; write an email; find an email or document stored on one's computer, and many other needs and purposes
4) In an education program or school, the digital navigators also work closely with the instructors who may make referrals, describe technology problems their students are having, learn from the digital navigators what kinds of issues their students are having in accessing class remotely in real time, etc.
I would like to hear other LINCS members' questions, thoughts, and possibly concerns about digital navigation services.
David J. Rosen
A few weeks ago in Pennsylvania we had a networking session via Zoom with Student Support Coordinators across our state. The focus of the session was how technology was both a barrier and solution for adult learners in our state. Pennsylvania has some very rural areas with absolutely no cell service or access to high-speed Internet service, while other areas of our state have great broadband service, but adults still have trouble accessing and sharing devices in the home. During the networking session, the practitioners discussed the top three technology-related struggles they were helping adult learners deal with in order to be able to participate in adult basic education services and they came up with this list:
- Access to internet/good broadband (we also worked on defining "good")
- Access to devices
- Learners have all different types of devices and sometimes those are not owned by the learners (child’s device from school, borrowed device from program, etc…)
From there, we did some group problem solving and shared various resources, ideas, and materials. We also developed a list of partners that could provide help and support around these problem areas. Although we couldn't eliminate all the struggles, it was a great way for individuals that are often serving as informal "digital navigators" to come together and share ideas and resources.
David, I love the additions 3, and 4 ! (as you knew I would)
I wanted to just throw a like on each of those additions, but I did not even find a way in LINCS to like your response.
The LINCS dev team needs to look at ways to put some simple feedback system on responses. A simple drop down or emoji system that offers a list of options, perhaps like these....
- Agree 100%
- This got me thinking
- I want to hear more
Having a simple way to react to a response may help the more vocal contributors in a conversation steer discussion more towards readers' interests. Of course we would love to have people posting their thoughts more often, but maybe a simple response system might be more comfortable for those used to smashing a like Facebook button or putting out there an emoji of a sad face?
David, thank you for the great article. I shared it on the Career Pathways Group discussion as well as a link to a new webinar that discussed how some libraries are helping individuals improve digital skills. Some of the folks in this group might be interested in that webinar and some of the resources shared on the Public Library Association website.