DigitalLead: Rural Libraries Creating New Possibilities

Digital Literacy Instruction Playbook

This resource was developed as part of the PLA program, DigitalLead: Rural Libraries Creating New Possibilities, supported by Microsoft Philanthropies, to help libraries establish and promote hotspot lending programs. Have you created a policy, promotional item, or evaluation tool for hotspot lending at your library? Please share it with to be included in this growing playbook of resources.

Implementing a digital literacy instruction program with your library team will enhance your community’s ability to find, evaluate, consume, create, communicate and share digital content.

Digital literacy instruction is key to community technology adoption because it:

  • Creates a clear learning path for improving digital literacy skills
  • Encourages ongoing learning via handouts and other take home activities
  • Enables differentiation to meet the needs of all learners
  • Provides instructors with classroom management strategies resulting in professional and impactful learning experiences

This playbook will briefly cover the following topics. In most cases, PLA has provided links for more information rather than recreate materials.

  • Why is digital literacy important?
  • Selected articles on digital literacy training
  • Getting started
  • Staff basics
  • Training resources
  • Training the trainer
  • Training partners and support
  • Measurement and evaluation
  1. Why is digital literacy important in my community?
    What is digital literacy and why does it matter? (

  2. Selected articles on digital literacy training

    1. Tips for Teaching and Troubleshooting Technology, March 2019, by Chelsea Jordan-Makely, Technology and Support Services Librarian, Whistler (BC) Public Library
    2. 5 Tips for Teaching Tech to Seniors, April 2019, by Monica Dombrowski, Executive Director, Sycamore (IL) Public Library
  3. Getting Started

    1. Assessing staff skills
      PLA staff assessment checklist. The PLA Digital Literacy Committee developed this checklist based on the proficiencies that are most commonly called upon in public libraries. Libraries can use this checklist with any/all staff as a self-assessment or performance management tool.
    2. Identify community digital literacy needs
      Sample survey (SurveyMonkey) for library patrons
  4. Staff Basics
    Resources from the New York Public Library – TechConnect Classes
    1. Hard skills
    2. Goodwill Community Foundation
      1. Hardware
      2. Microsoft Office
      3. Internet
      4. Online Safety
    3. Soft skills
      Soft Skills Training for Employees by Deb Calvert
      1. Interpersonal skills for training or demonstrating computer use
      2. Professional Development - how to train the trainers
  5. Training Resources

    1. provides 20+ self-paced learning tutorials, on very basic computer skills, written at a 6th grade level and including video, interactivity, captioning and Spanish versions
    2. Microsoft Digital Literacy curriculum: is designed for anyone with basic reading skills who wants to learn the fundamentals of using digital technologies.
    3. Microsoft Learn: is a free, online training platform for Microsoft products and more, which can lead to certifications and skills for employment.
    4. GCF Learn provides self-paced learning tutorials.  Has over 200 topics, more than 7,000 lessons and more than 1,000 videos all completely free.
    5. Skillshare: an online learning community with thousands of classes for creative and curious people, topics include illustration, design, photography, video, freelancing and more.  This is not free after the trial period however. - $15 per month
    6. Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment: defines the basic skills needed to use a computer and the internet in daily life, employment, and higher education.
    7. Tech Boomers: a digital literacy training site geared toward older adults wanting to learn technologies.
    8. TechSoup: an organization that supports nonprofits, charities and libraries by providing access to Donations and Discount Rates on Software, Hardware and Services from Major Technology vendors
    9. Grow with Google: tools which are free and available for those wanting to grow their skills, careers, and businesses.
    10. LinkedIn Learning (with massive open online course website offering video courses taught by industry experts in software, creative, and business skills. There is a fee for this one.
    11. Partners Bridging the Digital Divide: supports and encourages agencies working to bridge the digital divide. They help organizations by providing training, internet access or computer resources to people who need digital access in underserved areas.
  6. Training the Trainer
    Competency Index to help staff identify and obtain the knowledge to support libraries (PDF)

    1. Learner Considerations
      Enabling Differentiation – #5
      1. Adult learning styles
        5 Principles for the Teacher of Adults (
      2. Classroom management
        Classroom Management for Adult Students (Reach to Teach)
    2. Planning Training: Designing Learning for the 21st Century Workforce (ATD) and Five tips for planning training sessions that actually work (TechRepublic).
    3. Training Materials: PLA’s (see includes over 80 sets of curricular materials to help library staff teach digital skills and related computer topics. Each class contains a minimum of three supporting documents, which generally include a Design Document (Instructor's Guide), an Activity Sheet, and a Handout. PowerPoint presentations, practice files and additional documents may also accompany classes. With these items, and a bit of preparation and practice, you will be ready to teach classes in no time.
  7. Training Partners and Support
    State Library Guidebook: Support for Digital Literacy in Public Libraries (PDF)

  8. Measurement and evaluation

    1. How to Evaluate your Digital Literacy Program
    2. Using Project Outcome: Evaluating your computer programs can inform future program policies and enhancements. Libraries are encouraged to use PLA’s Project Outcome, which is a free toolkit offering libraries access to training, data analytics, and standardized surveys that measure outcomes in key library service areas, including digital learning. Sample questions to be asked after a patron uses a computer or participates in a class include if learners feel knowledgeable about using digital resources, feel more confident when using digital resources, and intend to apply what they just learned.

Additional Resources

An Update on Connecting Rural America: The 2018 Microsoft Airband Initiative (PDF)

Support for Digital Literacy in Public Libraries: Guidebook

Programs that you can get help with: legal clinics, social library

Digital literacy in the classroom. How important is it?: Promethean (2016, UK site)

3 Ways to Enrich Digital Literacy in the Classroom: Jeremy Haynes 8/2/2018