There is a problem with IT education that is preventing the full engagement of the UK population with the internet, or at least the 90% who could and should be digital literate and active participants in the information age. Could this be you? Here’s a simple self-evaluation questionnaire on Digital Literacy.
According to the UK Government’s Digital Inclusion Strategy* 21% of Britain’s population, ‘lack the basic digital skills and capabilities required to realise the benefits of the internet’ and about 1/3 of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) don’t have a website.
(*Ed. updated in 2014 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web)
In a unique collaboration of the private, public, and voluntary sectors there is a lot happening to address these 4 challenges:
Access – the ability to go online and connect to the internet
Skills – to be able to use the internet
Motivation – knowing the reasons why using the internet is a good thing
Trust – a fear of crime, or not knowing where to start to go online
In one example I recently came across a start-up enterprise that is doing it’s bit at the higher end of the age range; Lxpert have started providing free personal computer advice, support and training sessions in a local AgeUK shop. This provides a safe (i.e. trusted and secure) and friendly place to access the web, ask questions and develop new skills, although of course the attendee needs to be motivated enough to book and attend the session…I will come back to this later.
This is not just a problem for groups on the outside, such as the older generation or children from deprived backgrounds, where lack of access, opportunity and education results in computer illiteracy and digital exclusion. There is the thorny issue of not knowing what you don’t know, and worse, not believing that IT even matters to you. In my experience, it’s not so much the not knowing that causes the problem with IT, it’s also about not knowing what questions to ask, and how, where, or from whom to seek the answers.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
It can be embarrassing to admit ignorance and possibly asking a daft question; of course not knowing is not the same as ignorance, and there are no daft questions, I know i’m a Business Analyst and I ask questions for a living! You all know the parable of the Emperor’s New Clothes, sometimes it’s the people who don’t ask the questions who don’t know…
Beware the unhelpful imp on your shoulder saying; what if you are the only person who doesn’t know your megabytes from your gigabits, or; why don’t you know the difference between the internet and the web?
There should be no stigma in needing everything explaining from first principles, by which I mean using simple terminology, maybe some hands-on instruction, some historical or contextual background (if appropriate), and a recognition that a little relevant information delivered in the right way is better than a whole load of bumpf (that’s a technical term!) that you never read, and wouldn’t understand anyway.
It’s not knowledge itself that is powerful, it’s applying that knowledge that truly unlocks the power.
The IT elementary Sshool motto is:
Education sets your free.
Technology provides the key.
I work in IT, so I know how complicated it can be to keep on top of the constantly changing technology, but I also know that we insiders sometimes make it tougher and more confusing than it needs to be to gain entry.
The IT elementary school is trying to help demystify some of the jargon, but of course you have to be here – on the web – to get the message. Which brings we back to Lxpert and bringing the technology to the people, an offline-2-online approach. In future months we will be collaborating to provide easy ‘how to’ guides for novices, both digitally and in good old paper hard copy if required.
(c) 2015 Antony Lawrence CBA Ltd.