Training your Community to be Digital Savvy

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A recent study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the College Board and the National Writing Project identified how today’s teens lack the necessary digital literacy skills to be able to search for information online, conduct research online and how to find credible sources of information.

The study also highlighted that teens today have more access to information than ever before and more tools by which to search and find information as well as stating how they are becoming more self-reliant researchers. Yet, the findings still highlighted some major concerns:

  • 76% of teachers strongly agreed that search engines have conditioned teens to expect to find information quickly and efficiently.
  • 83% of teachers also said that the amount of information available today to teens is overwhelming.
  • 71% of teachers said that digital technologies are discouraging teens from being able to use a wide range of sources for research.
  • 60% of teachers agree that today’s digital technologies are making it harder for teens to find credible sources of information.

These findings demonstrate that the youth of today (future news consumers of tomorrow) face a big challenge – how to become well-informed and digital savvy news consumers for the 21st century.

Nonprofit news organizations and news ventures have a great opportunity at their doorstep to extend their expertise and train their communities they serve in becoming digital savvy.

Every news organization has the expertise in-house of how to be digital savvy – look at all your journalists on staff. Your news organization has an amazing asset – your reporters and how they are able to search for information, how to find credible sources and conduct research online. This valuable asset is one that news organizations can share with the greater community and contribute an important public service at the same time.

How to Get Started

There are many ways a news venture can get started in hosting a training in their community.

First, you will want to think about what skills you would like to offer in a training. Here are a few to consider:

  • Basic and advanced online search skills
  • How to find credible information online
  • How to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter
  • How to research information online

In addition, you should consider what will be the duration of the trainings:

  • Do you want to have just a two-hour session on the topic?
  • Do you want to do a workshop for a day?
  • Do you want to extend the training over period of a weekend or several weeks (once a week over a 4-week timeframe)?
  • Do you want to make it a certificate program that lasts a few months?

Where to Host the Training

Next, you have to think about where to host the training:

  • Do you have an empty office or conference room in your newsroom or building?
  • Can you partner with the local library and use one of their computer labs?
  • Can you partner with a local community center, YMCA or senior center and use one of their computer labs?
  • Can you partner with a local college, university or high school and use one of their computer labs?

Creating partnerships with local libraries, community centers and educational institutions in your community can be a great opportunity for outreach for your nonprofit news organization and its mission in serving the public.

Costs of Training

Another important factor to consider are the costs. You will incur some costs to do this kind of training – the most obvious is the time of your staff members to provide the training to the community – whether that is a few hours or over a longer period of time.

In addition, you will need to consider the space for hosting the training. If you are able to host the training in your building, your newsroom’s office space or at the local library, your costs can be minimal.

As part of the training, you may incur costs for the training materials – by providing some handouts that people can use and refer to later after the training is over.

Another cost may be refreshments if you offer a light snack or meal before, during or after the training.

It is possible to recoup these costs and charge a nominal fee to those who attend the training to cover the basic costs of materials, refreshments, etc. In addition, you may be able to seek grants from foundations or support from local donors for your efforts.

Places for Inspiration

There are several news organizations that already provide digital training to the public and you may find inspiration for your own program by seeing what others are doing.

Here is a list of a few news organizations and their efforts:

  • TribU is run by the Tribune Company in Chicago, Ill. and they offer a variety of classes and workshops. They use their own office space for the training with their own computers and provide refreshments to the attendees.
  • The New York Times Knowledge Network is a robust training program that includes webinars, degree and certificate programs on a variety of topics that are all conducted online.
  • The Voice of San Diego has hosted high school workshops for journalism students in the San Diego area to help them learn specific digital skills.

If your news organization is currently offering or has offered digital training to the public, please contact the Hub (npjhub (at) and let us know so we can include you on the list above.

No matter what digital training you decide to offer and how it is implemented, the digital training you provide to the public is an important service that allows your staff’s expertise to be extended into the community for public good. It can also in the process help to extend your news organization’s outreach efforts and engagement strategy.

By helping your community (from teens to senior citizens) to become informed and savvy at searching, finding information and identifying credible sources online you can strengthen your community in becoming digital savvy but also an informed news citizenry.