More and more organisations, in search of continuity, are resorting to training. Being it because of this economic crisis or just simply the need to form a strong knowledgeable and flexible staff.
Needless to say, informal learning — particularly Learning 2.0 — is playing a larger role herein. The reason I say this anyway, is because the learning brings with it a set of conditions concerning the new learner’s digital skills, namely: application know-how; privacy and security; source reliability and processing information.
The know-how in using the new generation of applications is naturally the basics to acquiring any kind of knowledge. Contrary to persistent and fixed belief, it’s not only those older than 35, who struggle with the digital possibilities now on offer.
Having worked as a technical writer, I know for a fact that most users only use a small portion of an application’s functions. And as a tutor, I’ve experienced time and time again that it’s more a question of attitude (eagerness to learn) and a mindset (being inquisitive), that determines a learner’s ability to handle an application. Not your birth year.
Therefore, let’s drop the digital youth myth marketing and focus on motivating all learners (regardless of age) to wanting to learn more than just the basics.
Privacy and security
The commercial embedded below, is one the best infomercials I have seen in ages. It depicts in an undisguised manner how easily we put everything out there nowadays.
This Dutch commercial shows in metaphors how a girl carelessly throws sexy personal pictures, videos, her bank account number and pin code at the world. Information you’d normally only disclose to those who are very dear and near to you.
Though this commercial is clearly targeted at the young, both the youth and the old act ‘non-savvy’ and mindlessly on the internet. Making this another issue we need to address, if you want the learner to understand ‘how to behave’ when using social networking learning environments.
Two articles have been published recently in the established Dutch newspaper Trouw, promoting a proper use of the internet: Ook jongeren verdwalen op internet (translation: The young also lose their way on the Internet) and Oud én jong onhandig op internet (translation: Young and Old fumble on the Internet). Both articles are teasers of a PhD research study done by Alexander van Deursen.
He discusses in his study, Using the Internet: Skill related problems in users’ online behavior, the problem areas for search engine users (young and old). It boils down to: ‘a lousy input generates a lousy output’. Thus confronting internet users with their poor know-how and questioning the reliability of retrieved information.
That online search engines are not neutral sources in presenting information, is nothing new. Google for instance, is known to use a link-popularity system when displaying search results. Adding to this, higher rankings are also achieved through purchasing.
It’s worrying, when you realise that most of us only check the top links in search results. And rarely ever go beyond the first page presented to us.
Another study (Wouters et al — 2004), Internet time and the reliability of search engines, shows that search engines are continuously replacing original sources of indexed documents with updated ones. And sometimes (original) documents are even deleted. All leading to a quality depletion of information online.
So what does this means? Well, simply stated, the new learner must be fully aware that search engines are not entirely reliable tools for collecting data. The learner should tap as many sources as possible (online as well as offline) and always verify.
Finally, the digital literate learner understands ‘how to use’ information he has retrieved. The new learner knows how to evaluate, categorise and store information. Besides this, he also knows which tools to use in processing information; and then how to use them in best displaying the processed content.
Learning to work according to company policies and procedures can also be a part of mastering this last skill.
Here’s a recap
To recap, the new learner must concentrate on the following skills:
- A thorough know-how in using applications;
- Digital consciousness where privacy issues and security is concerned;
- An understanding of how retrieving information works on the internet;
- Knowing how to process and best display information.
Acquiring and mastering these skills, produces a learner who’s all-round digital. But most importantly, it supports the new learner in realising his full potential in a lifelong learning program.
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