The characteristics of effective digital literacy learning delivery can broadly be broken down into three components:
Whilst the above three words are often used interchangeably, there are some subtle differences between them, as outlined below.
This relates to the capacity of an individual to be able to deliver effective digital literacy learning. For example, whilst a digital literacy practitioner may be extremely knowledgeable and skilled, this does not always guarantee that they have the capability to convey this information in an effective manner.
Skills can best be described as the competencies developed as a result of training or experience. Skills are typically learned, often via the transfer of knowledge from others.
Probably the easiest of the three terms to understand, knowledge is typically considered to be the theoretical understanding of digital literacy.
It is also important to recognise that there may be a cross-over between the above elements, particularly when it comes to skills and abilities.
Effective Digital Literacy Learning
So what are some of the factors that affect the delivery of effective digital literacy learning?
1. Tutor Knowledge
Unlike some other subjects, digital literacy is constantly changing and evolving. Therefore, it is vital that the digital literacy practitioner keeps up-to-date with current digital trends and developments. In addition to new releases of software, the tutor must also be familiar with older versions of the same software. More often than not, different teaching venues will use different versions of software. It is also important to remember that the learners may be using older software on their own computers or tablets.
One example of this is the Google Drive software. The desktop version differs from the App. In addition to this, the Android App differs slightly from the Apple App. Tutor competence is essential in order to instill confidence in the learner.
2. Advance Planning and Adaptability
The more thought that goes into preparing a lesson plan, the easier it is to deliver. However, while the lesson needs sufficient pace to maintain learners’ interest, adequate time must also be set aside for discussion, questions and answers, observation and feedback, as well as digital activities.
Nevertheless, no matter how ‘perfect’ a lesson plan may appear, it is rarely delivered exactly as originally anticipated. This is where the digital literacy practitioner needs to be flexible in their approach. Topics may need to be switched around and delivered in a different order or even format. Some learners may complete tasks far quicker than others and relevant extension activities may need to be given. Also, learners may simply not grasp what is being asked of them and further time may be required to explore further and consolidate understanding.
3. Appropriate Teaching Style
The manner in which adults learn differs vastly from that of children. Consequently, traditional pedagogical techniques are often ineffective when applied to adult learners. This is because adults have a vast array of personal and vocational experiences, which they bring with them, into the digital learning environment. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt a range of different teaching styles, suitable for adult learners.
Malcolm S. Knowles (1984)1 termed the theory and practice of adult education as andragogy. The principles of andragogy are as follows;
- Adults need to know why, what and how they are learning
- Adults often wish to be autonomous and self-directing
- Adults have a range of knowledge and prior experience which can shape attitudes to learning
- Adults usually learn best when something is of immediate value
- Adults often focus on solving problems in contexts or situations that are important to them in their life
- Motivation to learn tends to be based on the intrinsic value of the learning and the personal pay-off
All individuals have their own personal likes and dislikes when it comes to learning. This is referred to as their ‘learning style.’ Learning styles are not fixed and can change as the student gets older. Learning styles may also vary, depending upon the subject matter being taught.
Devised in the 1920’s, the Visual-Auditory-Kinaesthetic (VAK) model is a simplistic tool, used to assess learning styles. Most students gravitate towards one of these primary learning styles and tend to look for their learning style, in each learning situation, because they associate that style with learning success. This theory is supported by David Kolb2 who believes that students learn faster and more effectively if teaching methods match their preferred learning styles.
Visual learners benefit from graphs, illustrations, handouts and watching a DVD. An auditory learner prefers learning activities such as brain storming or simply listening to the tutor. Kinaesthetic learners benefit from tactile and movement activities such as examining objects or participating in role play. The advantage of teaching digital literacy is that there is an abundance of tools and technologies that can be used to meet the learning styles of every student.
Additionally, teaching methods should encompass contextualisation, in order to make the activities more lifelike to the learner. Using a variety of teaching methods which facilitate active participation, discussion and feedback are best suited to adult learners.
Finally, in addition to being put into context, digital literacy learning must also be relevant to the learner and meet their own personal learning objectives.
- KNOWLES, M. S. et al. (1984) Andragogy in Action. Applying Modern Principles of Adult Education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
- KOLB, D. (1984) Experiential Learning : Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.