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My Learners are not Technologically Savvy

Kim Huynh Education, Flipped Learning, K12 Education, Vocational Education 0 Comments


We may live in the 21st century, yet something I hear quite often from educational providers is that “my learners are not technologically savvy” or “they don’t really use technology”. Another common statement I hear is “my learners are remote so they don’t have access to technology”.

I have heard this so often now and every time I do, I cringe!!!

 

Another response I have heard that I find particularly disturbing is something like this ‘oh it’s a very hands on job and training, our apprenticeships are chefs, learning commercial cookery’ (or they may mention learning another trade) and ‘nah, there is no practical use for them to use technology in their course’. Not only are these comments condescending but they are actually quite prejudiced. I am quite confused by such remarks as,

My learners are not technologically savvy.”

The words haunt me, intrigue me, worry me. No technology? So they do not have smart phones? No internet at home? They don’t send emails? They don’t have an email address? Do they ever look up the internet to research, Google, pay for things, do internet banking? Do they have and use social media accounts????

No??

Whaaaattttt????

Really?????

I guess I have a lot of questions. If you notice an element of surprise, disbelief or shock in my comments, then you are absolutely right. Who on earth would NOT want to have access to technology, use it to save time, to have things available readily at their fingertips? If you live remotely, wouldn’t having access to technology make your life easier? With nothing around for miles, it can’t possibly be realistic to expect to drive miles each day to have access to basic needs and performing tasks such as banking, reading, shopping or even ‘Googling’ for research purposes. The time constraints in our lives also mean that we can’t go to someone for the answers every day. We have to take our own initiative and find out things for our self. Our lives at work and the environment we operate in today is self-directed, self-paced and highly demanding.

 

If I try and think of the many things I do in my life with technology, I could list several. I pretty much research everything on the net, from holidays, look up Wikipedia, read digital versions of newspapers, journals, articles, watch YouTube, download music, use internet banking, pay for things, and the list goes on. Yes, I do need access to the internet to perform these functions and I do have that at my fingertips since I have a smart phone. The biggest asset that access to the internet has given me is that it saves me time! Imagine how many places I would physically have to go to do the things I stated above, without the internet. Another advantage is that I keep soft copies of things and have access to everything digitally. Heaven knows we have done enough damage to our rain forests and don’t need the clutter either.

Aside from the access to the world wide web, having things at your fingertips, and saving paper, there is another vital implication of technology reinforcement and that is ‘it is the right thing to do’. And by that I mean ethical, practical, essential, a no-brainer. Whether you are an educator, parent, student or an employer, if you are not encouraging the use of technology in your life, you have your blinkers on.

 

I recently completed the TAELLN411 – Address adult language, literacy and numeracy skills unit as part of my Certificate IV TAE training package. And I remarked to my trainer how interesting it was that ‘Technology’ did not form part of the core skills described by the ACSF. The ACSF described five levels of performance in the core skills area being:

  • Learning.
  • Reading.
  • Writing.
  • Oral.
  • Numeracy.

 

Ultimately, the goal of a qualification or a training package is to transfer employability skills onto the learner, so when they finish their course, they can walk in to a workplace and know exactly what they are doing. Imagine walking in to a workplace and not knowing how to do one or any of these:

  • Switch on a computer.
  • Attend or create a webinar.
  • Attach files.
  • Complete a module of your induction online.
  • Use Google drive or documents.

What skills are we transferring onto learners and employees if they are unable to step into the work place and perform the job they were hired for – especially after paying for their course or undertaking work based training. The responsibility of transferring these skills is the educational provider’s, the school’s and the employer’s. It is quite appalling in this day and age we are still printing paper and doing a lot of ‘telling’ and ‘talking’.

 

There is also the distant learner, who needs a bit more engagement than being sent a series of documents via soft or hard copies and then be left on their own. A friend of mine (who shall remain anonymous) recently told me that she had inquired about doing a course online or via distant learning, sine her job is a ‘fly-in fly-out’ of the state. She mentioned to me that the VET provider she rang said that materials would be sent to her via email or the post, and she would then be ‘left to her own devices’. The level of support given, she was advised was that she could call up ‘if she was stuck’. Her ‘next option’ for a slightly higher price was to ‘come in for a few face-to-face sessions also’. Neither of these options appealed to my friend who has studied abroad. She was quite surprised and taken aback about the lack of engagement and interaction she would receive by doing the course. This story did not surprise me at all however. I hear similar remarks on a daily basis from RTOs who tell me they are offering online/digital and eLearning, when they are simply supplying the same face-to-face materials, just accessed online, or emailing learners the content. If they spent some time researching what is out there in the market and what they can offer learners, things may come as a bit of a shock.

If you are not using technology, then I am afraid you are a dinosaur. There is really no sugar coating this one. I am a Generation X-er and when I was in school, computers were launched for the first time. I haven’t looked back since. To access technology, you will need the internet, and most people have smart phones these days. If your learners don’t have the internet at home and can’t afford it, there are many other options. Local libraries offer free internet and learners can access it there, someone in their friend circle or in their family will have it, educational institutions should provide it at their facilities also. If not, there are plenty of reasonable internet providers that are available in Australia. It is possible to compare prices online or ring around for a few quotes.

When you start a job today, the employer makes the assumption that you, the employee, will know their way around technology. So the expectation from day one is for the employee to know the basics (operating and using technology being one of them). Imagine the shock of the employee who didn’t realise or wasn’t informed they would need to use basic and simple technology functions on the job!

 

Ultimately it boils down to some questions:

  • What are we doing to narrow the gap for our remote learners?
  • How are we driving engagement for distant learners?
  • How can we make learning more meaningful?
  • How can we ensure our training courses are arming our learners with the employability skills they need?
  • Are we recognising the changing trends in education, learning and development and when will we spend time thinking about what can we do differently?

 

 

 

 – By Jacqueline Xavier

 

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