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Digital Learning

January 28, 2013

A summary of my understanding of Digital Learning, informed by several course readings.

Educational resources and processes are changing at a phenomenal rate due to technological developments. Educators must consider these changes very deliberately and choose best practices while avoiding popular ‘fads’ that are not supported by research. Brown (2001) describes many shifts that are taking place with digital learners. He describes the “evolving nature of literacies” (p. 70).  Information literacy provided by professional librarian instructors becomes more important in an increasingly complex environment. Brown claims that “web-smart kids” (p. 71) are adept at navigating through online resources. However, this claim ignores recent research that while today’s students may be digital natives, they do not have quality searching, research, or evaluation skills which are key to being information literate. (Thompson, 2011). Another shift described by Brown is moving from authority to discovery pedagogy. I agree this is an important consideration, however, Ertmer and Newby (1993) make an important point that a student’s ability to learn, and therefore the pedagogical strategy that should be employed, changes as the learner learns. Indeed, Tapscott (1998) also points out that the decision about whether to use Discovery pedagogy “depends on the subject” (paragraph 3.2). Prensky (2005) discusses the use of resources students are familiar with such as Google for search. My role as a librarian teaching information literacy is to scaffold this skill into using more appropriate resources and advanced research skills such as PubMed MeSH headings for medical literature.  Digital tools should be assessed along with the content (Presnky, 2005).  In essence, digital learning needs to take into account timeless pedagogical constructs of learning outcomes and instructional design, while fully utilizing the benefits and differences that digital learning brings. “We need to incorporate into our classrooms the same combination of desirable goals, interesting choices, immediate and useful feedback, and opportunities to…improve that engage kids in their favorite complex computer games.” (Prensky, 2005, p. 11).


Brown, J. (2001). Learning in the digital age. Retrieved from

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–72. doi:10.1111/j.1937-8327.1993.tb00605.x

Prensky, M. (2005). Listen to the Natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4), 8–13.

Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing Up Digital. Retrieved from

Thompson, C. (2011). Clive Thompson on Why Kids Can’t Search. Wired. Retrieved from

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