Digital Navigation: A New Way of Supporting Teachers and Students in the Distance Learning EraCharlotte Tjaden, Digital Navigation Specialist
For many ABE programs, moving to distance learning has created challenges for both teachers and students. Literacy Minnesota’s Open Door Learning Centers struggled with being able to provide students access to devices, IT support and digital skill instruction. Teachers and coordinators were spending much of their time helping learners with technology issues pulling them away from other responsibilities.
To address these challenges, Literacy Minnesota created a new staff position of digital navigator. This position helps learners access devices and assists with technology support and digital literacy skills. Nick Houlson, previously an Americorps VISTA with Literacy Minnesota as well as a digital navigator with the Ramsey County TechPak Project, was hired.
To address learners’ challenges with accessing devices, the Learning Center purchased Chromebooks to be lent out to students. Nick, along with other staff, helps distribute the Chromebooks to the learners and assists (currently over the phone) with the initial setup. He helps them understand how to use the device, log in to the computer and set up accounts and passwords. He also helps students understand Zoom and other class software. Once this prep work is done, students are more easily able to join and participate in their classes.
In addition to getting students set up, Nick also provides a great deal of ongoing tech support, especially around connectivity issues. If a student is having technology problems such as not being able to log in to the computer, their teacher will contact Nick and he will connect with the student. If he is unable to easily solve the problem, Nick will connect the learner to the correct resources and coach them on how to communicate their issue.
Many ABE programs are experiencing the challenges of supporting students during distance learning. Literacy Minnesota’s Open Door Learning Centers chose to hire a digital navigator as a way to support students and programs. It has been a great way to provide support to students and free up teacher and other staff time.
If you are interested in learning more about digital navigation, please contact Digital Navigation Specialist Charlotte Tjaden at firstname.lastname@example.org or Training Director Rob Podlasek at email@example.com.
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