“Just hop online” is a phrase we hear all the time. There is increasing expectation from businesses, community organisations and government agencies for staff and the general public to be able to access and use digital technology. The thing is, people need to have a certain level of digital literacy skills to hop online to complete their workplace and everyday tasks.

Jill Finch, the presenter at QCAL’s most recent professional development session, has extensive experience in developing and delivering tailored adult literacy and digital literacy programs. Jill’s presentation – Horses for Courses: Focussing on Context and Learner – focussed on how literacy tasks are changing due to workplaces becoming more digitalised.

Jill has been working with a successful customised digital literacy program over the past five years. We were taken through the process of creating the learner-centred program and shown a range of learning activities that were developed to support the upskilling of an organisation’s older, experienced workers. The workers fitted the characteristics of ‘classic’ adult basic education students being mostly from an English-speaking background; mostly >45 years old; mostly schooled to Year 9 or less; mostly male.

We learnt that an initial skills audit helped identify what the workers knew and what they did at work. Lots of respect, humour and collaboration were encouraged throughout the program and all activities were relevant to the workers’ world of work. Flexibility was built into program delivery times to cater for shift workers. Activities were practical and hands on. Lots of revision was incorporated.

Jill pointed out that it was often a revelation to the workers that there are alternative ways to do things on a computer (e.g. when saving information, printing or navigating a document). Workers involved in the program appreciated being told the big picture of why they needed to learn certain skills and how systems link together. They also appreciated their organisation giving them the opportunity to gain digital literacy skills.

QCAL digital lit Finch March 2020

I have four main takeaways from the session –

Takeaway No. 1 – it is important to keep in mind that hopping online is not an easy task for everyone. To confidently hop online and complete tasks we need to make sure our learners have the relevant digital literacy skills.

Takeaway No. 2 – let learners know that learning in a digital learning context is often different due to the alternative ways available to reach the same outcome ( e.g. when saving, printing, formatting, performing calculations, copying and pasting, etc.).

Takeaway No. 3 – support learners to develop critical literacy skills to help them ask who, what, why, when, how questions when dealing with texts in different contexts.

Takeaway No. 4 – paying attention to adult learning principles will help us focus on the needs of our learners and value what they know.

After sampling some tasty treats at morning tea (thanks to the QCAL committee for providing morning tea) we finished off the session with lively group discussion about how we’d approach teaching learners to fill out a form online.

It was great to see such a good turnout for this Saturday morning PD. The Chermside Library is a wonderful venue and the café proved a popular pit-stop for catching-up before and after the session. Fancy a library having a café! What a great idea. It’s not only the digital world that has surprises!

Gillian Tilney

Some photos from the day: