In the final Report from the Field featured in the current issue of the Adult Literacy Education research journal, author Tyler H.J. Frank of Clark College reflects on how in the 21st century, the ability to navigate the digital world has become essential.
Frank talks about how when digital learning took over during the pandemic, he saw a number of students navigating away from the LMS to explore the internet for topics related to their lessons. This, he says, shows their understanding of and comfort using technology and their ability to be self-directed learners—all good ways to interact with the world around them. Other students, however, lack these skills for any number of reasons, which leaves them behind.
In “A Journey Through the Digital World: Fostering Digital Problem Solving Among Adult Learners,” Frank shares manageable frameworks that adult educators can use to help students overcome their digital challenges through exploring and navigating, using new tools, and evaluating information.
Read an excerpt from his report:
Since switching to completely online classes because of the pandemic, more than ever I have noticed my students leaving the learning management system (LMS) in my courses to explore the internet for additional information on the topics we’re learning. My department, whose classes serve as both high school equivalency and developmental education, has committed to using only open educational resources, which means that students do not buy a textbook, and for fully online classes all the information for the class is located on the LMS. Many students simply go where they find the information that makes the most sense to them; they are learning from the curriculum I have placed on our LMS, but they’re also learning from information they discover on the internet. In a sense the internet has become a part of the curriculum of my classes whether I like it or not. And if that’s the case then I must help my students wrestle with and make sense out of this new expanded curriculum: the entire internet.
The students who can do this are demonstrating motivation and metacognitive awareness of their own level of understanding. Those traits are necessary for becoming self-directed learners, something that needs to be fostered among adult learners. Some students, though, are not searching the internet to answer their questions about the class’s content. Many of these students may not have the experience, confidence, or even skills to do that. Some don’t own a computer and are borrowing one from the school just to be able to take online classes. Consequently, these students would benefit the most from a focus on how to navigate the internet strategically and assess the information they encounter. In the 21st century, everyone must navigate the digital world, learn new tools and platforms on demand, and parse out the fake, from the misleading, from the biased, from the authoritative.