The purpose of our paper is to share the experiences of DCPL’s pilot digital skills project, based in inner city Dublin, and to show that it is possible to establish a digital skills project which is consciously inclusive and can accommodate children and young people with differing learning abilities as well as different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
The national strategy Our Public Libraries 2022 emphasises the role that libraries can play in bridging the digital divide in Ireland. Libraries are ideally placed to deliver the necessary digital skills and to access the technology that is imperative for participation in the digital society.
In terms of the outreach activities, we identified the CoderDojo model as being the most suitable method of delivering digital skills to a diverse group on an on-going basis. We work with DEIS schools and community groups, such as those who work with children in direct provision, to recruit participants for whom the experience would be most beneficial and empowering. By providing a familiar space within the area, the aim is to make digital learning accessible and welcoming.
We consciously cultivate a family-friendly environment for our Saturday “Dojo”, encouraging accompanying parents to make use of the library’s facilities and bring along younger siblings. For our mid-week, “Teen Dojo”, teens are introduced to project-based work, where outputs include tangible results, which keep teens engaged as what is being learned has ‘real world’ applications.
Our experience with respect to the learning approaches used and the communities’ reception to the providing of digital learning opportunities to children in areas with diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds has multiple implications, including what value can be found in self-directed learning with this particular cohort and what benefits that exposing these children to the skills necessary for the future of work can be had.