How to boost your digital literacy confidence

By Sally Pewhairangi

Sally Pewhairangi explains how to identify and use your digital super-power to boost your confidence in the digital sphere — and why this is important for school library professionals.

Hands up if you have ever had thoughts like these:

  • I wish I didn’t feel out of my depth when a teacher asks me to find additional sources (such as case studies or videos) for their class assignment.
  • If I was more confident in my presentation skills, I would show other teacher librarians how we teach students about fake news.
  • I don’t know anything about elearning so I can’t contribute to the school’s elearning strategy.

My guess is that some of you have, because I know librarians who have said things like this — and I’ve thought them myself. You want to, but perhaps you’re afraid.

A person browsing images on a tablet.

The good news is that, as a library professional, you possess six qualities that can help you flourish in a digital world. One of these qualities, your digital super-power, will consistently boost your confidence with things digital, no matter what the situation.

Here’s why confidence with things digital is important, how I used my digital super-power to help me and, more importantly, how you can too.

Why confidence is important

Every library workshop or training program I have ever attended emphasises competencies. When you are in a workshop, you’re likely to be taken through a step-by-step process with some time to practise. It is important that you know what to do and how to do it. It is important that you are competent.

Under this process, some school librarians will flourish with grace and flair, but others won’t — because learning how to flourish in a digital world requires both competence and confidence. Library training can overlook the importance of the latter. We often assume that library staff are either confident when they walk in the door, or will become so through the learning process and their work.

Confidence is believing that you are capable and is just as vital for success as competence because, if you don’t believe you can, whether you are able to or not doesn’t matter.

The benefits of confidence

If I had a little more confidence, I would create a video to accompany this article, in which you could see and hear my enthusiasm for librarians embracing things digital. It would convey so much more in 30 seconds than 1,000 written words ever could. I can imagine what it would look like.

It would be awesome, but I am reluctant to even try. Even though I know how to make a video (and have done it before), I lack confidence in my video-making abilities. Of course, this sounds irrational — ridiculous even. But that doesn’t make it any less real. There are lots of reasons why you might lack confidence or don’t try. Most of them boil down to fear. Fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, and fear of what others may think. Mine is the last one. But if you can overcome your fear, the benefits are huge.

More free time

When I am not confident, I spend time worrying about every single detail. I check my work unnecessarily over and over again — and that takes time. But, when I am confident in my abilities, I don’t worry about every detail and have time to spend on other things. And who doesn’t need more time?

Clear decision-making

School librarians face hundreds of decisions every day. If I lack confidence, I question my decisions and, as a result, the task takes forever. I get bogged down and nothing feels right. But, when I believe in myself and my abilities, the right decision seems obvious.

Healthy risk-taking

I am also less willing to take risks when I am unsure. There is a gap between me thinking, ‘This is a great idea!’ and acting on it. Sometimes that gap is an abyss. But when I believe I can, the gap shrinks. Confidence turns thoughts into actions. Confidence changes everything.

"When you try, you learn. When you learn, you improve. When you improve, you succeed. When you succeed, you're more willing to try something new. And round and round it goes."

Josh Spector, 2018

Six digital qualities you already possess

The good news is that you possess six qualities that can help boost your digital confidence: adaptability, critical thinking, curiosity, empathy, patience, and problem-solving. You use all of these to varying degrees for different situations. But, it is likely that one of these — your ‘digital super-power’ — boosts your digital confidence above all else. Your digital super-power is the quality that you prefer to use regardless of the situation. It is the one that comes most naturally to you, and makes you feel confident when you use it.

How my digital super-power helped me

My digital super-power is curiosity. But even though I like to try new things, I still found that I didn’t believe I could make a video like the one I imagined. I didn’t want to suck it up and just do it if there was another way I could achieve the same outcome. Creative solutions abounded!

However, after much consideration, I decided video was too important to ignore.  So, I decided to boost my confidence in this space by making home videos for the next five days. Eventually, it will lead to a video to accompany an article. I believe I can do this. What’s more, it feels good, energises me, and excites me enough to try!

My digital super-power has helped boost my confidence with things digital. Yours can too. I have created a quick research-based quiz to help you discover your digital super-power: Once you know it, follow these five steps to help your digital confidence thrive.

Step one: set a super-small goal

The purpose is to develop your confidence so that you can achieve your goals — not just improve your competence by completing tasks. The key is to choose something that you haven’t done before, but believe you can with preparation.

My super-small goal is to make five home videos in the next five days. Other super-small goals might be to write a blog post about five subject-specific websites you’d recommend to others, actively participate in a Twitter chat, or create a poster to show student feedback about the library.

How to boost your digital literacy confidence image

To help build your digital confidence, try setting small and achievable goals. Source: Sally Pewhairangi

Step two: brainstorm how

Consider how you can use your digital super-power to achieve your goal in a way that energises and excites you. Decide what to do, then how to do it.

Step three: get ready

Start preparing. This might include doing some preliminary research, making sure you have all the software and equipment you need, and scheduling time to prepare and practise.

Step four: do it

Now that you have everything ready, schedule all the time you need to achieve your goal. Give yourself a pep talk (one phrase I use frequently is, ‘This will not defeat me!’), and then do it.

Step five: celebrate

Congratulations. You did it! Acknowledge what you have achieved, and feel proud of your success.


Spector, J 2018, 10 ideas for the interested,

An adaptation of this article appears on

Sally Pewhairangi

Sally Pewhairangi