DIGITAL READINESS GAPS

April 23, 2017


This post uses as one reference the “Digital Readiness Gaps” report by the Pew Center.  This report explores, as we will now, attitudes and behaviors that underpin individual preparedness and comfort in using digital tools for learning.

HOW DO ADULTS LEARN?  Good question. I suppose there are many ways but I can certainly tell you that adults my age, over seventy, learn in a manner much different than my grandchildren, under twenty.  I think of “book learning” first and digital as a backup.  They head straight for their i-pad or i-phone.  GOOGLE is a verb and not a company name as far as they are concerned.  (I’m actually getting there with the digital search methods and now start with GOOGLE but reference multiple sources before being satisfied with only one reference. For some reason, I still trust book as opposed to digital.)

According to Mr. Malcom Knowles, who was a pioneer in adult learning, there are six (6) main characteristics of adult learners, as follows:

  • Adult learning is self-directed/autonomous
    Adult learners are actively involved in the learning process such that they make choices relevant to their learning objectives.
  • Adult learning utilizes knowledge & life experiences
    Under this approach educators encourage learners to connect their past experiences with their current knowledge-base and activities.
  • Adult learning is goal-oriented
    The motivation to learn is increased when the relevance of the “lesson” through real-life situations is clear, particularly in relation to the specific concerns of the learner.
  • Adult learning is relevancy-oriented
    One of the best ways for adults to learn is by relating the assigned tasks to their own learning goals. If it is clear that the activities they are engaged into, directly contribute to achieving their personal learning objectives, then they will be inspired and motivated to engage in projects and successfully complete them.
  • Adult learning highlights practicality
    Placement is a means of helping students to apply the theoretical concepts learned inside the classroom into real-life situations.
  • Adult learning encourages collaboration
    Adult learners thrive in collaborative relationships with their educators. When learners are considered by their instructors as colleagues, they become more productive. When their contributions are acknowledged, then they are willing to put out their best work.

One very important note: these six characteristics encompass the “digital world” and conventional methods; i.e. books, magazines, newspapers, etc.

As mentioned above, a recent Pew Research Center report shows that adoption of technology for adult learning in both personal and job-related activities varies by people’s socio-economic status, their race and ethnicity, and their level of access to home broadband and smartphones. Another report showed that some users are unable to make the internet and mobile devices function adequately for key activities such as looking for jobs.

Specifically, the Pew report made their assessment relative to American adults according to five main factors:

  • Their confidence in using computers,
  • Their facility with getting new technology to work
  • Their use of digital tools for learning
  • Their ability to determine the trustworthiness of online information,
  • Their familiarity with contemporary “education tech” terms.

It is important to note; the report addresses only the adult proclivity relative to digital learning and not learning by any other means; just the available of digital devices to facilitate learning. If we look at the “conglomerate” from PIAA Fact Sheet, we see the following:

The Pew analysis details several distinct groups of Americans who fall along a spectrum of digital readiness from relatively more prepared to relatively hesitant. Those who tend to be hesitant about embracing technology in learning are below average on the measures of readiness, such as needing help with new electronic gadgets or having difficulty determining whether online information is trustworthy. Those whose profiles indicate a higher level of preparedness for using tech in learning are collectively above average on measures of digital readiness.  The chart below will indicate their classifications.

The breakdown is as follows:

Relatively Hesitant – 52% of adults in three distinct groups. This overall cohort is made up of three different clusters of people who are less likely to use digital tools in their learning. This has to do, in part, with the fact that these groups have generally lower levels of involvement with personal learning activities. It is also tied to their professed lower level of digital skills and trust in the online environment.

  • A group of 14% of adults make up The Unprepared. This group has bothlow levels of digital skills and limited trust in online information. The Unprepared rank at the bottom of those who use the internet to pursue learning, and they are the least digitally ready of all the groups.
  • We call one small group Traditional Learners,and they make up of 5% of Americans. They are active learners, but use traditional means to pursue their interests. They are less likely to fully engage with digital tools, because they have concerns about the trustworthiness of online information.
  • A larger group, The Reluctant,make up 33% of all adults. They have higher levels of digital skills than The Unprepared, but very low levels of awareness of new “education tech” concepts and relatively lower levels of performing personal learning activities of any kind. This is correlated with their general lack of use of the internet in learning.

Relatively more prepared – 48% of adults in two distinct groups. This cohort is made up of two groups who are above average in their likeliness to use online tools for learning.

  • A group we call Cautious Clickerscomprises 31% of adults. They have tech resources at their disposal, trust and confidence in using the internet, and the educational underpinnings to put digital resources to use for their learning pursuits. But they have not waded into e-learning to the extent the Digitally Ready have and are not as likely to have used the internet for some or all of their learning.
  • Finally, there are the Digitally Ready. They make up 17% of adults, and they are active learners and confident in their ability to use digital tools to pursue learning. They are aware of the latest “ed tech” tools and are, relative to others, more likely to use them in the course of their personal learning. The Digitally Ready, in other words, have high demand for learning and use a range of tools to pursue it – including, to an extent significantly greater than the rest of the population, digital outlets such as online courses or extensive online research.

CONCLUSIONS:

To me, one of the greatest lessons from my university days—NEVER STOP LEARNING.  I had one professor, Dr. Bob Maxwell, who told us the half-life of a graduate engineer is approximately five (5) years.  If you stop learning, the information you receive will become obsolete in five years.  At the pace of technology today, that may be five months.  You never stop learning AND you embrace existent technology.  In other words—do digital. Digital is your friend.  GOOGLE, no matter how flawed, can give you answers much quicker than other sources and its readily available and just plain handy.  At least, start there then, trust but verify.

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