Digital Literacy Skills; Lifelong Learning by Anonymous
21st century stands witness to changing traditional learning patterns and a transition process happening in lifelong learning right now. Teaching and learning has evolved dramatically and theories like learner learning styles that were viewed as important back in 1990s are no longer considered impactful. Learning is no longer confined to formal educational institutions but it is now an open process reaching out to all in the society. My childhood learning can now be enhanced by adult learning in the community.
This applies to every section and aspect of learning; learning out of the box and learning as an adult. Specifically, incorporating learning technologies for everyday use. This includes digital literacy skills, often commonly confused with computer literacy and digital skills.
A great number of learning providers are at play in the community offering such valuable courses to adult learners. One such example is digital literacy skills course. Despite huge amount of grants and funding made available by the government local providers are struggling to make a success of these initiatives in FE colleges and community centres. Digital literacy skills are offered at local learning centres in the Scottish Borders.
However, cutting edge learning is not always achieved due to barriers that come into play in its execution. As an adult learner I am of the view that barriers to learning in the community do exist that need to be addressed. These can include social and cultural, practical, ethical and environmental factors.
- Attitude: Example – I am 50+ and I don’t want to go back to college but I need to because I want to be able to surf the internet at home independently.
- Lack of Time: Example – I work night shifts and I don’t really have the time to go to a class but I really want to learn how to read data, this will greatly enhance my chances of a pay rise.
- Lack of Confidence: Example – I don’t have the confidence to do this course, I can barely use computers but I am not sure that I will succeed.
- Lack of Support: Example – I am a slow learner but my tutor is not sensitive towards my needs and I don’t feel supported.
- Lack of Access and Provisions: Example – This definitely includes the poor broadband connections near home.
These barriers that I have stated stifle learning even when the learner is willing to take a step further towards positive learning and is ready to make change in his/her life.
My view is that most adult learning is problem-centred while courses like digital literacy and computers are subject-centred. So my teacher needs to clearly demonstrate the depth of subject knowledge and teaching skills in the area of digital literacy that will enable my learning.
As an adult learner I want to be able to go to a class where I will be supported in my learning, where I don’t have to travel a long distance and I am not financially burdened or challenged for trifle matters like ‘ your English isn’t good enough for this course, have you brought your own paper, pen etc’. Learning materials and equipment should be provided in the class free or at a nominal cost.
In my recent experience when I wanted to do an ECDL course for example at the local community college I would not only have to travel a distance but the course fees were too high. I don’t qualify for a grant as I don’t fall into the low income bracket. My other problem is the poor broadband connection in my area.
My barriers to learning are twofold i.e. external and internal.
- External – e.g. situational, financial, travel, broadband connection etc
- Internal – e.g. old mindset, health issues, ageing etc
Ideally, the most effective learning occurs when learner-ownership finds a chance to develop based on a learning plan negotiated with the learner.
Learning new skill like digital literacy demands commitment from the tutor i.e. negotiate a learning plan, identify goals, encourage critical thinking, check on understanding and respect confidentiality of the learner. Due to barriers mentioned above sometimes this fails to take off ground.
Providers need to adopt learning frames embedding digital literacy strategies that create firm learner-ownership learning. This means that the support that the learner receives (both external and internal) should ideally transcend all barriers initiating and creating the significant quality of learner-ownership. Adult learners will appreciate learner-ownership.
Receiving correct and up to date information about learning will help remove barriers. This in turn will enable learner empowerment and facilitate social inclusion. Armed with learner-ownership and the ability to use technology with confidence the learner will break barrier in learning with the help of the tutor. Removing barriers will promote learner participation. Effective learning will take place when the learner is presented with the right conditions and the key term is effective communication which will come about once barriers to learning are negotiated and removed.
My view on successful digital literacy learning is depicted in the following chart:
Computers have changed our lives forever. They are the future. Digital literacy is vital for my living and working in the 21st century. I do not wish to be left behind. As an adult learner I bring in a wealth of accumulated life experience, knowledge, work-related activities and previous education into the class.
In return I expect to find a suitable provision where I can become digitally literate without going through much stress and find enjoyment and fulfilment in learning. Although, I am a motivated and self-directed learner I still need the barriers to be moved in order to enhance the process my learning experience. This can only be done by providers by lessening the barriers, by negotiating with the learner what may be suitable and what may not be suitable for him/her.
Years back technology was a privilege but today digital literacy has become a necessity, and becoming proficient in the skill will enable me to use technology to efficiently navigate, evaluate and create information as well as share information. Gaps in community learning provision create a split between the learner and learning.
Removing barriers is an ongoing process.