One of the advantages of digital literacy learning is that, providing you have suitable tools and technologies, learning can occur almost anywhere. For example:
- Traditional Classroom
- Place of Work
- Virtual Learning Environment
- Distance Learning
- Peer Groups
- Local Library
- Travelling on Public Transport
Characteristics of Digital Literacy Learning Environments
In the modern age, lives are becoming busier and time more precious. Therefore, it is more likely than ever that digital literacy learning will be undertaken in increasingly unconventional settings. Nonetheless, the following considers the characteristics of three of the more typical digital literacy learning environments.
1. Traditional Classroom
A classroom dedicated to teaching digital literacy should ideally be equipped with all of the necessary technologies and tools needed for both the digital literacy practitioner and the learner. Unfortunately, as many tutors will have experienced, not all venues are entirely suitable for digital literacy learning. The computers may be extremely slow and the Wifi may keep dropping out. There may be no Smart Board or projector and the internal firewall may block you from accessing sites such as YouTube or GMail. Even so, this environment allows the tutor to demonstrate a wide range of tools, technologies and techniques, via their teaching methods.
The classroom environment also offers a safe haven for digital literacy learners to explore tools and technologies that they may not normally have access to. The tutor is on hand to offer support and answer any questions. Being taught with others can also enhance the learning experience for students and facilitate collaboration.
Such venues are mostly accessible to all and able to provide a wide range of adaptations to meet the needs of the digital literacy learner. Risk assessments will have been undertaken and equipment such as desks and chairs will be fit-for-purpose.
Depending upon the location, some learners may feel uncomfortable with the venue, especially if they have negative memories of their school years. Furthermore, if the venue is not located in a community environment, with good public transport links, then that may be a barrier for some. Learners need to know that their journey to and from the classroom will be equally as safe also.
2. Place of Work
Many employers realise the benefits of having a digitally literate workforce and actively encourage learning in the workplace. Some may even allow their employees an element of study time, as part of their continuing professional development. Learning is often contextualised as it typically relates to the employer’s business. This usually provides greater meaning and understanding to the learner.
The learner may be restricted as to where and when they can study. They may also be constrained in what they learn e.g. company specific software. As business always takes precedent, the learner may be subject to interruptions or distractions, especially if they work in an open-plan office. If the learner does not have a suitable and dedicated digital device, then they may need to hot desk with other employees. They will also be constrained by their employer’s tools and technologies, as well as their firewall.
On the face of it, learning from the comfort of your own home seems a perfect solution. The digital literacy learner can pick a time for learning that is best suited to themselves; they can fit in their digital literacy learning around other commitments; they are in familiar surroundings and there’s no need to travel anywhere.
Obviously, the learner will need access to all suitable tools and technologies, which they may not necessarily have, or may not have the latest version of. Their internet connection may be slower at home, or even non-existent, and members of their family may be unwilling to share the family digital devices with them, as and when needed.
The learner may not have an ergonomically-friendly desk or chair or, in some circumstances, may not have a desk at all. Working alone, may leave the digital literacy learner feeling isolated and unable to progress.
Finally, the learner may have demands placed on their time while at home, or feel guilty about neglecting their family, especially if they have been working all day.