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Digital Skills and Self-Directed Learning in Areas of
Social and Economic Disadvantage
Mags Curley and Dr. Joanne Dolan
Du...
The Digital Skills Project
An inclusive digital skills programme based in two DCPL libraries in a
disadvantaged part of Du...
The North East Inner City Area
76 CSO Small Areas
within 10 Electoral Districts.
Population of 18,910.
The North East Inner City
One of the most densely populated parts of Ireland.
Contains a number of historically disadvanta...
The North East Inner City
A place of stark contrasts, illustrated by the diversity in residential
patterns,
• High levels ...
Prominent Demographic features of the NEIC Area
• Very high numbers of lone-parent households
• Low levels of progression ...
Our Public Libraries 2022
Libraries can play an ‘important supportive role, showcasing new digital
technologies and provid...
The North East Inner City Initiative
Government funded programme to assist with the
long-term social and economic regenera...
What is Science Capital?
The sum of all the science related ‘knowledge, attitudes, experiences
and resources’ that an indi...
Improving Levels of Science Capital.
Some activities can contribute to an individual’s levels of science
capital and their...
After some preliminary research we identified the CoderDojo
model as being the most suitable method of delivering digital
...
CoderDojo is a global movement of community-based programming
clubs for young people with a focus on peer learning, youth
...
“We live in a society that values individuals who are motivated,
persistent self-starters with initiative…To be prepared f...
We work with DEIS schools and community groups, such as those
who work with children in direct provision, to recruit parti...
Unlike other Initiatives aimed at closing the digital divide by providing
low-income communities with access to computers,...
We impart this approach to our mentors.
Many times, the natural inclination is to provide “at-risk” or struggling
students...
We consciously cultivate a family-friendly environment for our
Saturday “Dojo”, encouraging accompanying parents to make u...
For our mid-week, “Teen Dojo”, teens are introduced to project-
based work, where outputs include tangible results, which
...
Success isn’t measured in test scores but rather if the children
trust themselves to learn new skills to accomplish person...
“Children who hail from insecure backgrounds and are not academic
standouts…need to experience respect from others in orde...
Single session projects, with pre-prepared examples to introduce
specific topics, using ‘drag-and-drop’ programming.
Progression to text-based programming, which requires typing skills.
Project based work, aiming for presentations at Coolest Projects.
Hardware and ’making’ experiments.
Our experience with respect to the learning approaches used and the
communities’ reception to the providing of digital lea...
2018 Figures
Charleville Mall (ages 7-12)
36 Saturdays
2 sessions per Saturday
10-15 children in each
Central Library (13-...
“Knowing how to use computers, software, and the Internet is simply not
enough anymore. To be prepared for today's digital...
Conclusions
Providing self-directed learning opportunities to children from the
neighbouring communities has benefits not ...
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Digital Skills Self Directed Learning in Areas Of Social and Economic Disadvantage Mags Curley, Joanne Dolan

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The purpose of our paper is to share the experiences of DCPL’s pilot digital skills project, based in inner city Dublin, and to show that it is possible to establish a digital skills project which is consciously inclusive and can accommodate children and young people with differing learning abilities as well as different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

The national strategy Our Public Libraries 2022 emphasises the role that libraries can play in bridging the digital divide in Ireland. Libraries are ideally placed to deliver the necessary digital skills and to access the technology that is imperative for participation in the digital society.

In terms of the outreach activities, we identified the CoderDojo model as being the most suitable method of delivering digital skills to a diverse group on an on-going basis. We work with DEIS schools and community groups, such as those who work with children in direct provision, to recruit participants for whom the experience would be most beneficial and empowering. By providing a familiar space within the area, the aim is to make digital learning accessible and welcoming.

We consciously cultivate a family-friendly environment for our Saturday “Dojo”, encouraging accompanying parents to make use of the library’s facilities and bring along younger siblings. For our mid-week, “Teen Dojo”, teens are introduced to project-based work, where outputs include tangible results, which keep teens engaged as what is being learned has ‘real world’ applications.

Our experience with respect to the learning approaches used and the communities’ reception to the providing of digital learning opportunities to children in areas with diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds has multiple implications, including what value can be found in self-directed learning with this particular cohort and what benefits that exposing these children to the skills necessary for the future of work can be had.

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Digital Skills Self Directed Learning in Areas Of Social and Economic Disadvantage Mags Curley, Joanne Dolan

  1. 1. Digital Skills and Self-Directed Learning in Areas of Social and Economic Disadvantage Mags Curley and Dr. Joanne Dolan Dublin City Public Libraries
  2. 2. The Digital Skills Project An inclusive digital skills programme based in two DCPL libraries in a disadvantaged part of Dublin. Using a self-directed pedagogical approach to teaching digital skills to children and young people aged 7 and 17. We will introduce the concept of Science Capital as a conceptual tool to emphasise how libraries can contribute towards the development of a more inclusive digital society.
  3. 3. The North East Inner City Area 76 CSO Small Areas within 10 Electoral Districts. Population of 18,910.
  4. 4. The North East Inner City One of the most densely populated parts of Ireland. Contains a number of historically disadvantaged communities dealing with diverse social issues including- • High levels of concentrated poverty • Violent and organised crime • Drug and alcohol misuse • Long term unemployment. (The Mulvey Report, Creating a Brighter Future: 2018).
  5. 5. The North East Inner City A place of stark contrasts, illustrated by the diversity in residential patterns, • High levels of local authority housing, mostly populated by indigenous-Irish people • Private rented housing with an ethnically diverse population • ‘Gated’ apartment blocks rented by young professionals, frequently employed in the IFSC and the Docklands. (The Mulvey Report, Creating a Brighter Future: 2018).
  6. 6. Prominent Demographic features of the NEIC Area • Very high numbers of lone-parent households • Low levels of progression to third-level education • Significantly higher than average levels of foreign-born residents resulting in a wide diversity of nationalities, first languages and many Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) residents. (Securing Roots, Integrating Minority Ethnic People into Local CommunityServices:2018)
  7. 7. Our Public Libraries 2022 Libraries can play an ‘important supportive role, showcasing new digital technologies and providing access to interactive digital technology and learning opportunities’ (2018: 37). It is hoped that providing free access to new technologies will allow our patrons to familiarise themselves with new technologies and inspire them ‘to experiment, create and innovate’ (2018:37).
  8. 8. The North East Inner City Initiative Government funded programme to assist with the long-term social and economic regeneration of the area. Dublin City Public Libraries has two libraries which fall within the boundaries of the North East Inner City, Funding from the NEIC has allowed us to run three CoderDojos or coding clubs in two of our libraries since 2017 • 1 weekly Dojo in the Central Library for teenagers • 2 weekly Dojos in Charleville Mall Library for ages 7-12
  9. 9. What is Science Capital? The sum of all the science related ‘knowledge, attitudes, experiences and resources’ that an individual has at their disposal. • What science you know • How and what you think about science (including self-image, self efficacy and career direction) • Who you know that has some knowledge of or involvement in science, • What everyday engagement you have with science. King’s College London, Research Centre.
  10. 10. Improving Levels of Science Capital. Some activities can contribute to an individual’s levels of science capital and their related self-efficacy regarding scientific activities, • consumption of science-related media, • participation in out-of–school science related activities • talking to others about science. “Science capital”: A conceptual, methodological, and empirical argument for extending Bourdieusian notions of capital beyond the arts. Archer, Dawson, DeWitt, Seakins & Wong (2015).
  11. 11. After some preliminary research we identified the CoderDojo model as being the most suitable method of delivering digital skills to a diverse group on an on-going basis.
  12. 12. CoderDojo is a global movement of community-based programming clubs for young people with a focus on peer learning, youth mentoring and self-led learning. “We aim to help young people realise that they can build a positive future through coding and community.”
  13. 13. “We live in a society that values individuals who are motivated, persistent self-starters with initiative…To be prepared for success, struggling students need just as many opportunities to participate in self-directed learning as others.” Jennifer Bartell, US Teachers Guild Fellow and Secondary School educator
  14. 14. We work with DEIS schools and community groups, such as those who work with children in direct provision, to recruit participants for whom the experience would be most beneficial and empowering. By providing a familiar space within the area, the aim is to make the digital learning experience both accessible and welcoming.
  15. 15. Unlike other Initiatives aimed at closing the digital divide by providing low-income communities with access to computers, internet access, and similar technologies, we go further by applying a lifelong learning framework in an informal digital learning environment.
  16. 16. We impart this approach to our mentors. Many times, the natural inclination is to provide “at-risk” or struggling students more direct instruction, but we espouse the belief that failure is an opportunity for growth and that children shouldn’t be afraid to try new things so to practice being independent thinkers and learners. It is important for participants to know what it feels like to take pride in their own learning.
  17. 17. We consciously cultivate a family-friendly environment for our Saturday “Dojo”, encouraging accompanying parents to make use of the library’s facilities and bring along younger siblings.
  18. 18. For our mid-week, “Teen Dojo”, teens are introduced to project- based work, where outputs include tangible results, which keep teens engaged as what is being learned has ‘real world’ applications.
  19. 19. Success isn’t measured in test scores but rather if the children trust themselves to learn new skills to accomplish personal projects.
  20. 20. “Children who hail from insecure backgrounds and are not academic standouts…need to experience respect from others in order to gain self-respect and lead dignified lives. And genuine respect implies freedom and self-directedness.” David Gribble, Real Education: Varieties of Freedom
  21. 21. Single session projects, with pre-prepared examples to introduce specific topics, using ‘drag-and-drop’ programming.
  22. 22. Progression to text-based programming, which requires typing skills.
  23. 23. Project based work, aiming for presentations at Coolest Projects.
  24. 24. Hardware and ’making’ experiments.
  25. 25. Our experience with respect to the learning approaches used and the communities’ reception to the providing of digital learning opportunities to children in areas with diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds has multiple implications. Value can be found in self-directed learning with this particular cohort and there are tangible benefits to exposing these children to the skills necessary for the future of work.
  26. 26. 2018 Figures Charleville Mall (ages 7-12) 36 Saturdays 2 sessions per Saturday 10-15 children in each Central Library (13-17) 30 ninety minute sessions per Wednesday afternoons
  27. 27. “Knowing how to use computers, software, and the Internet is simply not enough anymore. To be prepared for today's digital society, all students must have the skills to find, understand, and use information, and, perhaps more importantly, to evaluate that information. In short, they must become people who are able to continually discern, adapt, and learn.” Gwen Solomon, “Digital Equity: It's Not Just about Access Anymore.”
  28. 28. Conclusions Providing self-directed learning opportunities to children from the neighbouring communities has benefits not only for the participants but also for libraries. • flexible learning allows for on-going recruitment of new participants • fluctuation in attendance does not prevent progress • as children gain confidence and interest, librarians can direct them to further resources available from the libraries • both parties belong to something larger than their area—the digital society, the global Coder Dojo community, the tech industry whose headquarters are located in the vicinity.

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