Maria and I had a useful meeting with Helen and Ruth from the library the other day. The library already provides a lot of literacy and digital literacy training, of course, and I was particularly struck at how well they make use of feedback to adapt and develop their new training materials.
One thing that particularly struck me, however, was the news that they are working with the company which provides our library systems to develop a cross-collection search functionality. This was particularly interesting to me because of our recent LinkSphere project, which aimed to do something similar. As a consequence, I am aware of some of the issues that the initiative may face. But more importantly, for the purposes of Digitally Ready, it highlights some interesting issues around digital competencies in relation to providing new systems.
I think it is fair to say that, except in very rare circumstances, systems are designed with the idea in mind of simplifying the life of the people who will use them. In theory, then, new (or improved) systems are designed in ways that should reduce the level of digital literacy required by the users. Of course, I guess most of us can think of systems which actually fail in this regard, and it is fair to say that there is a class of systems which don’t have this as a major design criterion. Some systems are implemented to provide entirely new functionality, and these may specifically require new digital literacies on the part of the user base.
Most systems will take into account ‘usability’ when being designed and tested. However, I have seldom seen specific reference to the digital literacies the system will require, or that it may help develop. Perhaps it is time to include an analysis of the specific digital skill and competences needed to be able to ‘drive’ a new system, and of those the system will help users to develop, during the development of new systems.