CROSSING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: a basic kit for the adult learner

EGSA would like to introduce the Media Literacy blog’s first guest blogger: Anne Peoples, University of Ulster:


Now seems a good moment to reconsider the Digital Divide and how to equip adult learners to get across it.  We’re led to believe that the Divide is geographical and/ or generational but is this really the case?

Helene Blowers has identified the new Digital Divide (Reality Check 2.010), as one between those with the skills to find and use information and those without.  Among some of the skills she highlights are:

  • Knowing how to “think” about search
  • Knowing how to validate soft information
  • Knowing how to get information to travel to you instead of chasing it
  • Knowing where to find information in new “hot” channels

These skills are neither intuitive nor acquired by osmosis.  Their acquisition is critical to successful learning but they are undervalued and frequently ignored by teachers and students. Mark Moran in a recent posting highlighted growing concerns about children’s information illiteracy, indicating that so-called digital natives have in fact very limited information skills at their disposal.  What hope then for the adult learner’s information literacy skills in the digital age?

Social media can provide a solution and it is worth investing time to put together a learning toolkit, to support a personal learning environment that is fit for purpose.

So how to go about this?  These are my top 10 recommendations to include in a study skills programme for adult learners.  All are free.

  1. Learn about different tools.  Follow one of the many 23 Things courses independently.
  2. Use the online reference resources provided by Libraries NI, or any public library. Library members can access these from home.
  3. Improve search skills and don’t stick to Google. YouTube is the second biggest search engine, offering a vast array of tutorials and lectures on video.  Slideshare is also a useful source for unique content, as are Facebook’s Groups and Pages.
  4. Storing and keeping track of useful web pages is made much easier with Delicious, the social bookmarking site.  Delicious is also a useful search tool in itself.
  5. Personal start pages are a great way for individuals to access their most used social media tools and sites in one place. Try iGoogle  or Netvibes
  6. Get a Google account.  Access books and articles online on Google Books and Google Scholar.  Travel the world on Google Earth and Google Images
  7. Access educational content from universities, broadcasters, museums and individuals on iTunesU, by downloading podcasts from iTunes and check out free course material from Open Courseware and the OU’s OpenLearn .
  8. Read and follow relevant blogs. Subscribe by e-mail or via an RSS feed like Google Reader.
  9. Blogging reinforces learning and focuses thinking.  A private learning blog can record individual learning progress and form the basis of an e-portfolio.  Blogger is easy to set up and use.
  10. Filter information and cut out the timewasting sites. Use De Montfort University’s Information Source Evaluation Matrix, developed as a self-help evaluation tool for students to assess the quality of websites.

Learn how to use these tools and resources and the adult learner will be across the Digital Divide in no time

Anne Peoples


Profile: Anne Peoples has many years experience as a senior manager in public libraries in Northern Ireland, and is a Fellow of CILIP. Anne is currently a tutor in Library and Information Management at the University of Ulster, and jointly co-ordinates the modules on Improving Library Practice and Leadership in Libraries. She develops and delivers introductory courses on Web 2.0 to adult groups and at present is working with her local University of the Third Age. In 2008 she was appointed as a Trustee of the National Museums of Northern Ireland. She uses social media on a daily basis for her personal learning and professional development.

Media Literacy e-bulletin from Ofcom (Jan 2010)

Some highlights from the latest Ofcom ebulletin:

BBC unveils 2010 media literacy activity

The BBC have a strong showing in March with BBC Radio 2 running a media literacy campaign throughout the month and BBC2’s Working Lunch having a ‘digital inclusion week’.

Online Basics course for adults launched

New courses launched to help adults gain the skills and confidence to get online: http://www.onlinebasics.co.uk/

‘Get Digital’ campaign

Digital Unite and NIACE have announced a new digital inclusion programme, ‘Get Digital’.  The focus will be on digital literacy skills for older residents in sheltered housing.

Northern Ireland – Ofcom Media Literacy Workshop

Ofcom will hold a Media Literacy workshop entitled: ‘Digital Content: One man’s journey of exploration’ on Thursday 11 February.

National Digital Inclusion Conference: Digital Participation – 11 and 12 March

The conference will bring together digital inclusion players, providers, policy makers and practitioners to share best practice, make connections and practical pledges to make digital inclusion happen. The line-up of speakers looks really good with the following to confirm: Martha Lane Fox, Tim Berners Lee, Stephen Timms MP and the Obama administration.

Games Based Learning Conference – 29 and 30 March

This again looks like another very good confernce.  It’s aimed at those interested in the positive impact that video games, social media and augmented reality technology are having on learning.  Having seen a demo of serious game technology in relation to healthcare at a recent conference in the University of  Ulster I feel this presents an exciting advancement in learning and skills development.

The full January Media Literacy ebulletin can be accessed on the Ofcom website.

Becta: Embracing technology to support adult skills

In the recent publication of ‘Update’ by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), there is an interesting article on how Becta is helping to address the issues raised in the Digital Britain report and the Independent Review of ICT User Skills.

Digital Britain identifies four barriers to embracing digital technologies:

  • availability
  • affordability
  • capability
  • relevance

In addition to their role as the government agency that helps schools, colleges and training providers use technology more effectively, they are also rolling out the national Home Access Programme. This programme will bring computers and connectivity to low-income households around the UK.

We see an opportunity here not just to support young people to use technology to benefit their learning, but to provide access for their parents who can use technology to improve their skills, whether it’s basic IT, a specific work skill, or leisure learning. Following the publication of The Learning Revolution White Paper earlier this year, we are also working with government and key national partners on plans to improve access to informal learning opportunities through technology and digital media.

Read the full article: Embracing technology to support adult skills

Get Online Day 2009

Yesterday, the 23rd was Get Online Day (although the campaign runs from the 19th to 31 October).

Its aim is to help people who are not online to try computers and the internet at their own pace.  However, it’s not all about beginners; if you have the experience then you’re encouraged to “Pass IT on” to friends and family.  The “Pass IT on” home page has helpful resources including a fun personality test.

Locally, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson speaking at an event in Ormeau Library as part of this nationwide campaign said:

“The Delivery and Innovation Division within my Department has joined forces with the University for Industry (UFI) to run this excellent digital inclusion initiative, allowing people to step into the virtual world and discover what the internet has to offer.

This includes a series of sessions called ‘Internet Made Easy’ being held in libraries across Northern Ireland in October to offer citizens the chance to learn how to use the internet and a range of interactive services.  (Visit http://www.ni-libraries.net/ to find your local library)

Acknowledging the reality for many, Mr Wilson said:

“There are still many communities and individuals across Northern Ireland who feel digitally excluded. These sessions aim to help communities to overcome any barriers to technology and show residents how to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities digital technology and the Internet has to offer. For example, the new government website www.nidirect.gov.uk makes accessing government services and information easier.

In conclusion, Mr Wilson said:

“Digital technology can be used to boost individuals’ employability and to transform people’s access to learning and ICT in everyday life and work, so I would encourage citizens to get involved and take part in the Get Online campaign.”

Get Online Day has been promoted widely by the government’s digital champion, Martha Lane Fox, in various social media spaces including her twitter account.

Further Reading:

Quotes taken from:  22 October 2009 – Wilson encourages citizens to get online

Useful Resources: nidirect – Today is Get Online Day

22 October 2009 – Wilson encourages citizens to get online

Web 2.0 in teaching and learning

Web 2.0 and social media are everywhere on the internet and the idea of sharing and collaborating now seems to be the norm.  We know it is used extensively by media literate internet users; is constantly in the news; and has all sizes of organisations scrambling to embrace it as a means of connecting with their clients and customers.

One area of particular interest, to this blog, is web 2.0 and social media within learning.  In a previous post I had drawn your attention to its use within the classroom and last week a colleague of mine discovered the work of John Larkin.  He has created a great resource on Web 2.0 in teaching and learning that could form the basis of many workshops in the classroom.

“John Larkin is an educator and instructional designer presently living in Australia. He has a rich experience in the development and application of educational technologies in primary, secondary, tertiary and corporate educational fields.
About John

One of the benefits of John’s work is that he has made it available under a Creative Commons licence (some rights reserved) so others can share it.  If you believe his work will be of benefit to you it may be worth sending him a quick email.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Internet

myguide is a website that offers an easy and clear introduction to the internet for absolute beginners.

It provides free email, internet search and basic IT courses.  It is also possible to personalise your experience by saving settings such as colour scheme, text size and screen resolution – a very useful feature.

The ‘Welcome courses’ require no registration and will provide a great way for many learners to address any online fears, particularly the ‘Feeling fine online’ course which includes video feedback from learners.  Courses within the other categories of ‘First & Next steps’ and ‘Moving on’ do require registration but after the ‘Welcome courses’ this should not be a problem.

This is a very useful starter tool for those who wish to embrace the benefits of the internet and join the digital revolution.  Visit AbilityNet to read more about this website.

myguide appears to be English based so if you’re looking for any local basic IT courses in Northern Ireland try the free EGSA course search or telephone one of our helpful advisers on 0845 602 6632.

YouTube: What Is It Good For?

Well, apparently, delivering babies!

The guardian.co.uk reports how a father delivered his baby son after watching DIY baby delivery video clips on YouTube.  So being media literate came in very useful.

The father is also reported to have learnt how to play the guitar and solve the Rubik’s Cube from watching YouTube videos.

There’s obviously more to YouTube than watching pets do funny things!