Adult literacy has been at the heart of World Education’s work since it was established in 1951 in India and founded the Literacy House upon the urging of Mohandas Gandhi. Sixty-four years later, while gains have been made in many parts of the world, the need for literacy education remains great: there are nearly 800 million adults and out-of-school youth in the world with limited or no literacy and numeracy. In the U.S., adults’ basic skills are falling behind those of other developed nations. For the first time, the skills of young adults are lower than those of their parents’ generation. At the same time, people need even more different types of literacies to move ahead in their lives than in 1951. World Education’s approach to literacy education and how we define it has evolved and expanded commensurate with the skills adults need to navigate systems, pursue opportunities, and address problems successfully in their personal lives, work, and communities.
To commemorate the Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, in this series of blog posts World Education/ U.S. staff share their views on what literacy means to us today and how we are helping to advance adult education in multiple ways. Our list is not comprehensive: there are not enough days in a week to feature all the types of literacy youth and adults need in today’s world! Please join the dialogue.
If you have working knowledge of computers and how they work, can use all the programs within Microsoft Office and navigate the Web like a banshee, you still might not be considered digitally literate. Say what?
Digital literacy is not only about possessing computer skills. According to the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, digital literacy comprises the skills associated with using technology to enable users to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information. So as you can see, digital literacy or readiness goes beyond the mere physical realm of accessing and manipulating information.
Why is that important? According to the results from PIAAC, the international survey of adult skills, our citizenry score is far below much of the world in the related skill of problem solving using technology. It seems we may be good at using the technology for Facebook, YouTube and other forms of social media and entertainment, but we are rather abysmal when it comes to using digital technology, communication tools, and networks “to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others, and perform practical tasks.“(OECD, 2012)
What are we at World Education doing about it? Our newly created EdTech Center has as one of its core missions to promote and improve the digital literacy of adult learners in the United States. Some ways we have approached this has been to encourage adult educators to integrate technology into teaching and learning through our Tech Tips for Teachers blog and offer professional development opportunities such as TIP and our course, Integrating Technology Using Project-Based Learning. In addition, we have been working closely with the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education on the digital literacy initiative.