Friday, 2 September 2016

Identifying & Overcoming Barriers to Digital Literacy

The Importance of our ability to connect...

Helping more people to go online can also help tackle wider social issues, support economic growth and close equality gaps.” UK Government Digital Inclusion Strategy

But, what about barriers to being digitally literate?

According to  research published by the BBC, just under 10% of the adult population may never be able to gain basic digital capabilities, because of disabilities or basic literacy skills.

Some barriers include:
  • Digital skills - being able to use computers and the internet
  • Connectivity - and access to the internet; (some areas in Wales, for example, have no internet connection or WiFi services)
  • Accessibility - services should be designed to meet all users’ needs, including those dependent on assistive technology to access digital services

Why some adults and young people may not have fully developed digital literacy skills:

Our most vulnerable...
Digital exclusion affects some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society:
Those in social housing

Those on lower wages, or unemployed                                   

Those with disabilities

Older people

Young people

There are other groups who have a higher tendency to be digitally excluded such as offenders and ex-offenders.

For all of these groups, adult digital and literacy skills are a sizeable challenge. 

Being able to improve adult digital and literacy skills is at the heart of reducing digital exclusion and helping people go online.

“Only 27% of young people who are offline are in full-time employment” - Government Digital Inclusion Strategy 

Factors that motivate adults and young people to want to gain digital literacy skills

In Behavioural Psychology, there are two forms of motivation discussed; intrinsic (internal), and extrinsic (external).
Example 1: “I want to learn how to use Facebook so I can see what my friends and family are up to and I can keep in touch” - this would be intrinsic motivation; the desire to improve personal skills for the emotional benefit of staying connected to family and friends.

Example 2: “I need to develop further computer skills so that I can search for a job online” - this would be considered extrinsic motivation; the desire to gain employment to receive financial gain and therefore a better lifestyle. 
What motivates adults and young people to want to gain digital literacy skills?
The following list is comprised of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: 
1. Search for and apply for a job, secure a promotion at work, or move into a different job or position
2. For young people, there might be peer pressure - to be doing or to have what everyone else has; to communicate with friends or family using social media, or other relevant programmes such as FaceTime or Skype
3. For adults, communication with family, understanding and using email, social media, etc., wanting to improve their own skills; wanting to feel more connected with the world around them
4. Adults may want to support children or grandchildren with completing homework assignments
5. Young people may want to gain further education and may find it necessary to develop their skills
6. Both young and adult people may want to improve their skills by learning how to apply for jobs online, upload a CV or application, access information when needed (such as medical information)

7. Recognition that in order to keep up with the rest of the world, you must be connected.
Barriers to Learning Digital Literacy Skills
Overcoming Barrier
Not having access to technology – if you are unable to access hardware, software or internet, then digital learning is unable to take place
Raise awareness to free sites and access that is within communities; this can range from libraries for computer access or sites with Wi-Fi access
Poor literacy, numeracy and ICT skills which can be in the form of learning difficulties, confidence issues, economic situations, etc. Not having knowledge of assistive technologies, or educational or home support can be a barrier
Raise awareness to the accessibilities that are available to learners; various programs to support learners with difficulties and support to develop and upskill essential skills; community education support, etc.
Negative attitudes regarding digital literacy because of comments or stories in the media or from family and/or friends. This can also be based on negative experiences and fear of technology.  This will lead to decreased motivation.
Positive educational experiences will help to overcome the negative feelings. Provide learners with a safe and interesting environment; collaborative learning, positive experiences. This will change their attitude, which will improve their motivation.
Benefits and concerns about the shift into digital learning
1. Engagement: improved learner motivation from engaging content and game-based strategies
2. Time: allowing learners to learn the way they learn best
3. Location: anywhere anytime learning creates a new world of opportunity
4. Pacing: allowing learners to progress at their own rate
5. Individualisationcustomising learning by level and modality
6. Content: rich, deep, and up to date
7. Sharing: the difference between ‘turn it in’ and ‘publish it’; the ability for tutors to share what works
8. Data: instant and multiple forms of feedback; smart profiles that will drive customised learning
9. Ownership: learners choosing what to learn, how to demonstrate their learning
10. Learner involvement: transparency and connections the classroom; collaboration
1. Infrastructure: particularly affordable broadband and internet connection
2. More of the same: the risk of layering technology on top of how we’ve always done teaching
3. Old paradigms: are we reinventing the wheel yet again with the same outcomes
4. Equity: the ability to vary time could result in fast groups and slow groups based on historical stereotypes
5. Management and scheduling: customised learning will require much better management and scheduling tools
6. Preparation & development: learning new tools will be priority, and incorporating those tools will take additional time
7. Obsolesce: constantly changing software and hardware versions make it tough to stay current
8. Inter-operability: there are lots of engaging content and cool apps but they don’t always work together
9. Security and cheating: technology will solve some problems but introduce other challenges
10. E-safety

What are some benefits and concerns that you have with digital literacy? 
What are some barriers to learning digital literacy that you have experienced or have knowledge of? 
What are some ways that you, your school/college, your community, can over-come these kinds of barriers?  
How do you see digital literacy developing where you teach?


  1. The main barrier for digital learning is EDUCATIONAL CONTENTS. #OneWorldOneAcademicLibrary brings all together to SHARE resources.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. I have looked at your website. I understand what you are saying, however, if you can't get on line that is a definite barrier; if you don't have the tools to go on line, that is another barrier. Content is good, but it does no good if you can't get connected.

    2. To accommodate people with no connectivity at all, we deliver same quality academic contents on Tablets PC we manufacture with phone line integrated. You can update contented via a phone line when ever needed. This way, everybody has same access to educational resources to bridge quality content divide gap, #1 dreams killer for all to grow equally in knowledge and develop, irrelevant to their geographic location!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


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