Digital literacy program enables Louisiana residents to use technology efficiently
Digital navigator guides participants through digital skills training
By Elise Saloom
In today’s digital age, the ability to navigate the world through technology is more important than ever. Northstar Digital Literacy is addressing the digital skills divide by helping adults learn how to communicate, find employment and stay informed about the world around them.
The East Carroll Parish Library in Lake Providence is one of many locations in Louisiana offering the Northstar Digital Literacy program. As one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the state, the need for digital literacy in East Carroll Parish was urgent.
“There is not much to offer here, so to have the opportunity to have broadband services offered to the people in this area is great,” Krishanda Harrison Sanders, director of East Carroll Parish Library, said.
The library received grant funds from the Louisiana Board of Regents to bring the Northstar program to East Carroll Parish in August 2022.
When the program was introduced, former library media specialist Dominique Jones became the digital navigator. For Jones, a Lake Providence native, the role of digital navigator was simply an extension of the work she had been doing at the library. With a background in STEM, Jones was already assisting patrons with a variety of digital skills.
“I've been around most of the community members that need this type of support forever,” Jones said. “Not too many people use STEM here, so I wondered if I went to the library how I could incorporate my skills to help other people. If they needed technical support, I would come and help patrons with it.”
In 15 self-guided modules, Jones oversees patrons’ progress in individual and group settings. The trainings educate participants on essential computer skills, software skills and daily technology knowledge.
“The navigator has put together different programs to get people engaged,” Sanders said. “There are a lot of people in the area that are not savvy when it comes to technology, so she's been able to offer different programs to allow people to come in and feel more confident.”
The self-paced modules are tailored to meet individual needs, and Jones encourages her patrons to ask questions and request clarification on any topic.
“The patrons currently completing the program think it is awesome,” Jones said. “Northstar is helping many of them break down their guard because they don't necessarily have to complete it as fast as everyone else. We get to engage, instead of me just hovering over them like a typical classroom session.”
Upon the completion of each module assessment, Northstar offers certificates and a digital badge to show a boss or put on a resume. Even if a certification is not needed for a job, some employees can receive pay raises for having a particular digital skill, Jones said.
The Northstar program continues to gain traction at the library as residents hear more about the program through word of mouth. Engagement with digital literacy is already starting to show positive results in the community, as East Carroll Parish is steadily building the momentum it needs to become more modern.
“I had a hobby of helping people and getting our library up to date, and so far, it's working,” Jones said. “I have had a lot more patrons tell me they remember skills I taught them. It makes my day when they don't even have to call me. They want to try it themselves.”
Jones hopes to continue to grow the program to get as many East Carroll Parish residents as possible digitally equipped. With these new skills, residents will be able to more efficiently engage in technologies such as digital banking and telehealth.
“Having someone who was skilled enough to be able to assist people with this concept has been phenomenal,” Sanders said. “The library has definitely benefited from having someone here to offer the services, and the people in the community, even more so, have definitely benefited.”