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If you want to measure something, first you have to define it. That’s why we’re just at the very beginning of developing assessments for digital literacy. 

One thing is certain, digital literacy is multi-dimensional. It requires an integration of cognitive abilities, communication skills, and social and ethical competencies. Digital literacy is not quantifiable with a single test. It overlaps with reading, problem solving, numeracy, logical, inferential, and metacognitive skills. Most importantly, digital literacy is sensitive to sociocultural context: it is going to look quite different in places like K-12 schools, libraries, the workplace and professional settings. That means there are a host of important assessment challenges that every librarian, educator and technology specialist with interests in digital literacy must face.

For these reasons, on December 11 at 7 p.m. EST, I will be hosting a conversation on Assessing Digital Literacy: Outcomes and Impact thanks to the American Library Association. The Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and the Digital Literacy Task Force are sponsoring this special online learning program.

Measuring outcomes and impacts are vital to demonstrating the success of any program or service so that we may improve service and advocate for additional investments. But how do we measure or assess the development of digital literacy competencies in ourselves and in our patrons? How may assessment models help us best design and implement digital literacy instruction and services? Joining me for the conversation will be:

  • Karen Hanson, Federal Program Officer at the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA). With her colleagues in the Office of Policy Analysis and Development, Karen is responsible for assessing the impact of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), the $4.7 billion program to increase access to the Internet to all Americans.
  • Dr. Julie Coiro, Assistant Professor of Reading in the School of Education at the University of Rhode Island, and a member of the Media Education Lab at the Harrington School of Communication and Media. Her expertise includes reading comprehension strategy instruction, the new literacies of the Internet, and effective practices for technology integration and professional development. She is currently Co-PI on a four-year federal research project to develop valid and reliable assessments of online reading comprehension. In 2011,  she received the Early Career Research Award from the Literacy Research Association. Her work appears in venues such as Reading Research Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, Journal of Literacy Research, Educational Leadership, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, and the 2nd Edition of the International Handbook of Literacy and Technology. She is co-editor of the Handbook of Research on New Literacies (2009).

We’ll discuss:

  • What assessment is already happening, and what are we learning from this work?
  • What tools have already been developed, and how can we better proliferate them among libraries of all types?
  • How can we best document the impact of library, school, university, and community-based training and interventions when it comes to digital literacy competencies?

We will be using Google Hangout as our platform for this virtual meeting and you can learn and participate by watching live-streaming of the conversation on YouTube and chatting with other viewers. You also can continue the conversation through Twitter using the hash tag #digilit12. Your questions and comments will be submitted to panelists throughout the program.

Please RSVP to alawash@alawash.org to learn how to participate. We also welcome comments or questions prior to each conversation. Please use “digital literacy” as the subject line.

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