Digital Inclusion in Adult Education

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 3.42.01 PMTechnology is a driving force in every aspect of our lives and access to technology and the Internet could be considered a basic human right. 21st century learning is about digital inclusion. Stephen Reder explains inclusion. “Digital inclusion is the ability of individuals
and groups to access and use information and communication technologies. Digital inclusion encompasses not only access to Internet but also the availability of hardware and software; relevant content and services; and training for the digital literacy skills required for effective use of information and communication technologies.”

Consider the implications of lacking access to these resources. Individuals lack access to employment because many jobs are advertised online or require applications to be filled out online. Banking is online and many banks charge minimal fees if a user maintains traditional paper banking statements. What about education and healthcare? Technology is a very large part of everyday life and wellness. Considering the importance of technology, how do you get students started using tools and resources in a meaningful manner?

The first step is to survey your learners and understand the technology resources they have available. Many students may have computers at home, access to a smart phone with Internet capabilities, or regularly use technology resources available at convenient public locations such as libraries.
 Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 2.51.03 PMAccording to the Pew Research Center: U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015 10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have any other form of high-speed internet access at home beyond their phone’s
data plan.
Using a broader measure of the access options available to them, 15% of Americans own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of ways to get online other than their cell phone.

After you have an understanding of the technology access of adult learners, it’s time to make an action plan. Digital inclusion begins with access. Check out Everyone On.  This is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide low-income individuals and families with affordable Internet service and computers. Additionally, this site contains free digital literacy courses. Helping to ensure students have access to technology is the first step in meaningful integration.

After evaluating technology access, connect learners to resources, the next step is to guide learners to relevant resources. Check out the following:

Technology instruction goes beyond simply teaching students how to use a computer. We are moving toward digital inclusion. Technology connects individuals to education, employment, government services, health care information, and other critical services. Teaching students how to access technology and use resources in a meaningful way is a part of our educational mission.

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