New National Digital Literacy Portal

On Friday the 13th of May the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced the launch of their National Digital Literacy Portal at

While, I applaud these efforts I’m not sure that an online resource on digital literacy skills is going to reach the people who need it the most. The good news is it makes a great resource for those of us in libraries teaching these skills.  It includes sections such as Learn the Basics, Learn Job Skills that appear to be aimed at the general public (but also useful for us) in addition to educator specific sections such as Find Educator Tools and Browse Resources.

From the Press Release

“Technology is the key to jobs in today’s economy, but more people need access to computers and the ability to use them,” U.S. Senator Ben Cardin said. “Coppin State University’s community computer center is at the forefront of ensuring that Marylanders have the skills they need to succeed and find jobs. This computer center will help make technology more accessible, and the new website – – will provide people with the computer and Internet skills needed for the digital age.”

The FAQ sheet:

Fact Sheet: Digital Literacy

We Live in an Internet Economy

  • Global online transactions currently total an estimated $10 trillion annually.[i] In the United States alone, according to the U.S. Census, domestic online transactions in 2008 were estimated to total $3.7 trillion annually.[ii]
  • By one estimate, American jobs related to the Internet contributed an estimated $300 billion of economic activity to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2009.[iii]

Digital Literacy is Necessary for Today’s Jobs

  • Ninety-six percent of working Americans use new communications technologies as part of their daily life, while sixty-two percent of working Americans use the Internet as an integral part of their jobs.[iv]
  • Between 1998 and 2008, the number of domestic IT jobs grew by 26 percent, four times faster than U.S. employment as a whole. By 2018, IT employment is expected to grow by another 22 percent.[v]
  • According to one estimate, as of 2009, advertising-supported Internet services directly or indirectly employed three million Americans, 1.2 million of whom hold jobs that did not exist two decades ago.[vi]
  • High-speed Internet access and online skills are not only necessary for seeking, applying for, and getting today’s jobs, but also to take advantage of the growing educational, civic, and health care advances spurred by broadband. For example, an increasing amount of activities – such as taking college classes, monitoring chronic medical conditions, renewing your driver’s license, tracking your child’s school assignments  – are now commonly conducted online.

Digital Literacy Training is Needed

  • Despite the growing importance of the Internet in American life, 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet at all.[vii]
    • Nearly one-third of U.S. households (32 percent) lack broadband service.[viii]
    • The two most commonly cited reasons for not having broadband Internet access at home are that it is perceived as not needed (46 percent) or too expensive (25  percent).[ix]
    • There are notable disparities between demographic groups: people with low incomes, disabilities, seniors, minorities, the less-educated, non-family households, and the non-employed tend to lag behind other groups in home broadband use.[x]
    • While there is no single solution to closing the broadband adoption gap, increasing digital literacy skills among non-users is key to bringing them online and opening doors to opportunity. Provides Easy Access to Free Resources and Tools

  • is an online portal that makes it easy to find resources and tools that teach computer and online skills. Practitioners in service-oriented organizations — such as libraries, schools, community centers, community colleges, and workforce training centers — can provide feedback on and share digital literacy content and practices. Anyone can use the web portal to identify the skills needed for various jobs, locate suitable training, and search for employment. Includes:

  • Workforce development materials such as tutorials, presentations, and reports that teach individuals how to find a job, create a resume, and use productivity software such as word processing and spreadsheets.
  • Curriculum materials such as lesson plans, student handouts, and class exercises that teach basic computer and online skills in formal and informal classroom settings.
  • Train-the-trainer materials such as presentations, handouts, and exercises used to teach individuals how to teach digital literacy skills to others.
  • Games and interactive tutorials that teach digital literacy skills to various audiences through active use.
  • Reports and articles on a range of digital literacy topics.

Interactive and User-Friendly Features

  • Easy Navigation: A user-friendly taxonomy and search feature helps visitors find resources by general topic, skill type, skill level, format, audience, user-rating, and keywords.
  • Collaboration: Discussion threads allow users to post comments and share ideas on a wide-range of digital literacy topics.
  • Rating System: A star rating system allows visitors to provide feedback on resources.

Digital Literacy Partners

  • was created by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in collaboration with the Department of Education and other federal agencies: the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Federal Communications Commission, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor.
  • augments NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, a Recovery Act grant program that is investing in projects to expand broadband access and adoption in America. Many of these projects are teaching digital literacy skills, and is a central location where grantees can upload and share content and best practices with other practitioners and the general public, leveraging the value of these projects. In launching, NTIA is building on knowledge gained from managing its broadband grants program in order to provide digital literacy resources to all Americans.
  • NTIA is partnering with the American Library Association and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to promote the use of the portal by the nation’s 16,600 public libraries where, in 2009, over 30 million people used computers to seek and apply for jobs.

[i] Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), The Internet Economy 25 Years After .com  (Mar. 15, 2010),

[ii] U.S. Census Bureau, E-Stats, May 27, 2010,

[iii] See John Deighton et al., Economic Value of the Advertising-Supported Internet Ecosystem (2009) at 12, available at

[iv] Pew Internet and American Life Project, Most Working Americans Now Use The Internet or Email at Their Jobs, Sept. 24, 2008,

[v] U.S. Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force, Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework, Green Paper (Dec. 2010),

[vi]Economic Value of the Advertising-Supported Internet Ecosystem at 6.

[vii]Digital Nation: Expanding Internet Usage, NTIA Research Preview (Feb. 2011) at 5,

[viii] Id. at 2.

[ix] Id. at 24.

[x] Id. at 2.

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Transliteracy as pedagogy (LOEX 2011)

Image courtesy of longhorndave on Flickr (CC BY-2.0)

I’d like to thank the organizers of LOEX 2011 for a great conference in Fort Worth this past week-end; my head is still swimming with great ideas for tweaking our instruction program. I would also like to thank the attendees, who provided overwhelmingly positive feedback on my presentation, “Bridging the Gaps: Transliteracy as Informed Pedagogy”.

In a nutshell, my presentation was an examination of what the concept of transliteracy has to offer library instruction. Specifically, what does the ability to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media mean for library curriculum design? Moreover, doesn’t information literacy already cover everything relevant to library instruction? This last question is unfortunately common, so I’ll answer it first…

No. Information literacy is primarily an evaluative concept that only barely touches on the operational skills needed for effectively navigating the web. Though ACRL Standard Two comes close to covering information media (“The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently”), the desired outcomes involve the sort of linear, syntax-driven search behaviors that librarians love, while ignoring the more discovery-based, refinement-driven search behaviors students learn outside of our databases (cf. Holman 2011). As I’ve argued elsewhere, transliteracy is tied to the descriptive, medium-specific, literal “literacies” that are distinct from the evaluative literacies covered by information literacy (See Slide 27). This is pretty much just a rehashing of the original Transliteracies Project research and subsequent PART discussions, but it is important because it shows that transliteracy is not a replacement for information literacy, it is a complement to information literacy and the two are conceptually and logically distinct. So, library instructors out there, put down your pitchforks! Transliteracy is not a replacement for information literacy, it is just an incredibly useful concept to add to your instructional toolbox.

So, anyway, here are the slides. If you don’t want to go through the whole presentation, the moral of the story can be found in three keys for library instruction that I think logically follow from the concept of transliteracy:

  1. Effective information use requires several information sources. (Slides 30-34)
  2. Information resources do not stand alone, they interact (Slides 35-39)
  3. Navigating this interaction requires transferable skills (Slides 40-50)
Putting them together, we find that transliteracy encourages instructors to take students’ pre-existing skills seriously and harness them for academic research, rather than try to replace them with something else.
Anyway, here are the slides. (Make sure you view it on Slideshare if you want to see the speaker notes.)

Collaborative Transliteracies in Open, Mobile, and Online Learning by Thomas P. Mackey, Ph.D

This is the keynote address presented by Thomas P. Makcey at the Transliteracy conference*  sponsored by SUNY FACT2 and the SUNY Librarians Association.

Articles referenced:

found via Transliteracy and Metaliteracy

*No one who writes for the Libraries and Transliteracies Project was involved with or present at this conference.

Transliteracy and Making Your Own Luck – A Guest Post by Jamie Hollier

A Libraries and Transliteracy guest post from Jamie Hollier

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca

Many people think I have been pretty lucky in my life, and in many ways they are right. I recently started a great new job, found a wonderful home in a great neighborhood when we moved for that job, and could not have done it all without my amazing husband.

So yeah, I am pretty lucky; but like all luck, these things stem from preparation and opportunities that came my way because of my digital literacy and internet access.

I got my masters online and stayed up with things happening in library land through resources such as this blog to help me prepare for getting the job when the opportunity came through my RSS feed.

I researched neighborhoods and found a great house at a great price from afar thanks to knowing were to look online and how to spot a scam. In fact, I even met my husband online.

Digital literacy has been the key to success for me and that is what this blog and the job I have now are all about. Bringing internet access and transliteracy to people is bringing them the ability to prepare and find opportunities to live a lucky life.

So what is this great job where I help people prepare and find great opportunities?? I am the project coordinator for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) that is being administered by the Colorado State Library. The goal of this project is to establish 77 new and enhanced public computer centers where people can get access to the internet and training on all the diverse benefits and uses that come with access.

These centers will be used by libraries, community centers, and tons of different community partners to make sure that the people of their community have the same opportunities as others. The main target of these centers are the unserved and underserved in their area: the people that have not been lucky enough to have easy access to computers, affordable internet, instruction with these new resources, and the environment that fosters an understanding of the value of digital literacy.

Our project is one of many happening all over the nation. In fact, the project I am working on is just one of seven happening in Colorado alone. BTOP grants were funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and are administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The goals of these project, as stated on the BTOP website are as follows:

“In the long term, these Recovery Act investments will help bridge the digital divide, improve access to education and healthcare services, and boost economic development for communities held back by limited or no access to broadband – communities that would otherwise be left behind. For example, the investments made in broadband infrastructure, public computer centers, and sustainable adoption will:

• provide job training to the unemployed or under-employed,
• help school children access the materials they need to learn,
• allow rural doctors to connect to more specialized medical centers, and
• allow small businesses to offer their services to national and international markets.”

Some of these projects are geared toward infrastructure itself and increasing broadband capacity for those communities with little or no access to the internet at all. Right now, according to the national broadband map (, it is estimated that about 5-10% of all Americans do not have internet access available to them that is fast enough to download basic websites.

These projects are the first stage in building digital literacy across the nation by first making sure all people have access to the necessary tools to benefit from online resources.

The other types of grants that were funded are Public Computer Centers and Sustainable Broadband Adoption. These projects are focused on digital literacy education and assuring that people have the knowledge and skills to utilize online resources and opportunities.

This is becoming increasingly important as the internet and digital access consumes more and more media forms, making literacy in most media reliant on digital literacy first. Below are a just a few examples of how BTOP projects across the nation are approaching different aspects of digital literacy:

Health Information Literacy –

The Colorado State Library and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine are partnering to bring more knowledge and understanding about online health resources to the people of Colorado. As a part of the Public Computer Centers project, trainers and medical librarians will be working together to provide online and in person trainings about what to look for in medical resources and the best sites for trustworthy information. (

Financial Literacy –

Tech Goes Home is a great project in Boston that is providing computer and digital literacy training along with incredibly affordable netbooks and internet access for low income families so that they continue to use the resources they are learning at home. Their trainings cover a range of topics, including tutorials for online tools to help manage finances (

Education Literacy –

Connect Your Community is a program that is providing computers and training for 26,000 low-income families. One of the really empowering elements of their program is the inclusion of tutorials for online parent resources. These classes allow parents to play a more active role in their children’s education and build stronger connections between home and school lives. (

Social Media Literacy –

New Mexico, through a Sustainable Adoption grant, is providing training in many areas, including social media marketing for businesses. The New Mexico State Library reports that one of the most empowering areas of their training is the work they are doing with small businesses, especially the cultural entrepreneurs (jewelers, musicians, painters, etc.) that are so vital to the economy of the state. (

Cultural Literacy –

Colorado State Library – Southern Ute  Cultural Center and Museum will be opening in May. As a part of the Colorado State Library’s BTOP project, they have a computer lab going into their new center. This lab will be equipped with computers and software to assist tribal members with recording and cataloging culturally significant artifacts and items. This project will help to build understanding of culture and history for the tribe.

This is just a very small sampling of the examples of the many different projects taking place. The list of training being developed and given across the country through BTOP projects is extensive. Visit the BTOP site ( to see examples of other ways in which local communities are getting involved in bridging the digital divide and fostering transliteracy in their communities.

The work of the BTOP projects and all the similar projects being undertaken by libraries, schools, and other community organizations to bring greater digital literacy to our nation is incredibly important. Being able to provide people with the skills and resources to prepare and find opportunities for their lives is an amazing experience and I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity.


We are living in the middle of a major paradigm shift that is transforming the way people interact with information and libraries. Jamie’s position at the Colorado State Library as the Project Coordinator for Public Computer Centers allows her to work with many diverse libraries and help them flourish as they strive to meet their goals to provide information and training to communities. Jamie brings a unique perspective to the challenges facing libraries today via her partnership in an internet marketing agency. She has previously worked in libraries as a branch manager at a rural library and as a visual resource librarian for an education publishing company. More about Jamie can be found at

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