Interview: Jeni Scott on digital literacy

There’s a major focus on developing people’s digital literacy as the world becomes more interconnected and tech-dominated.

The Welsh Government has already made it an Essential Skill and recently announced plans to add digital competence to the curriculum.

We speak to Jeni Scott, one of the country’s first qualified digital literacy specialists, about digital literacy and about her role in the area.

TD: How do you define digital literacy?

JS: Digital literacy is a set of skills that are needed for work, enjoyment, learning and life. As the world develops into a digital by default stance, it’s virtually impossible to escape any kind of digital involvement: in employment, at leisure, in training, and life in general. Digital literacy can empower people to adapt to change and development in this fast paced digital world.

In the Autumn of 2015, Essential Digital Literacy Skills (EDLS) will become a relevant qualification supporting learners across a range of abilities, contexts and learning environments across Wales. It moves away from the idea of ‘computer skills’, focusing on using the MS Office suite of products to working and learning remotely or collaboratively on a wide range of platforms and devices, but also understanding the benefits and implications of responsibility, information literacy, collaboration, creativity, productivity and learning in this digital age.

TD: Why is it so sought after?

JS: Wales is at the forefront of digital change with a pilot scheme being run to allow practitioners from all learning environments to work collaboratively and professionally develop and shape the future of ICT delivery in Wales. As a practitioner, it’s given me the opportunity to engage and share practice with peers and colleagues all over Wales.

The digital literacy qualification will allow learners to have an increased employment opportunities as well as developed strategies for learning and living in this digital era. Eventually, it’s likely that any practitioners wishing to deliver Essential Skills will be standardised with supporting essential skills qualifications.

TD: How does it benefit everyone and society?

JS: The onset of Universal Credit and Welfare Reform means that everyone has to learn a new skill very quickly if they need to access any type of government support including welfare, tax and health. If you can harness the power of the web, with all its web based tools and resources, you can achieve whatever it is you want!

TD: Why did you want to become a digital literacy specialist?

JS: All my computer knowledge is self taught, through experiences at University, in employment and through experimenting with different technologies to see how they can work for me. I’m passionate about sharing my knowledge in an enthusiastic manner.

I completed my post-graduate teaching certificate focusing on using ICT in the adult literacy classroom to be given the opportunity to have a formal qualification in place to show my expertise, especially within teaching and learning.

I get to share my knowledge with business, community learning, further education colleges, housing associations and many more, which is more liberating than just being an ICT tutor teaching MS packages when there are so many interesting things any one can do with the power of digital literacy.

I have always loved technology, and I’m a qualified literacy specialist by trade so it appeared to be a combination of the things I love the most, helping people, tech and language, the web has a language of its own. The power of technology for productivity and creativity needs to be harnessed in society but in my own learning and social environment too. We all need to keep up with technology that evolves more quickly than we can even anticipate.

TD: How did you find the training process?

JS: The training has been fantastic so far. It’s been stimulating, trialling new apps, enduring the ups and downs of wifi connectivity and other factors that could impact upon the delivery of digital literacy. More so, the chance to shape the future of qualifications in Wales in such an innovative fashion is just thrilling.

It’s been energising to challenge my own set of skills. Some many peers sharing so many different uses for applications in the classroom has provided serious food for thought. It may be that I’ll never write an essay again, just present my information in a podcast, video, infographic or animated video.

It’s also been great to discover small apps and watch them develop and learn to use them fully. I did this with Easel.ly and found that many app developers are approachable and friendly; they want you to pick up on something they might have missed and welcome the input from any user! It’s exciting to be a part of something so fresh.

TD: How do you envisage your career panning out over the coming years?

JS: I’m seeking to develop and document my progress of different applications and web-based tools on my website that I created using a blended learning approach.

I will be working to cascade information to not only teachers but support frontline staff and digital champions in any workplace and creating resources such as QR treasure hunts and quiz podcasts for the adult learning and developing my own digital literacy skills. Facilitating change will also be important.

TD: What more could be done to develop digital literacy?

JS: Everyone can challenge their own digital literacy skills. There isn’t a tech stereotype, there isn’t a smartphone stereotype. It is everyone, from all walks of life; it is not an exclusive club. I believe that more can be done to challenge the stereotype and iPads and user-friendly, intuitive technology can be the way in.

I was celebrating young people’s digital futures at a NIACE & Welsh Government where it was great to see the young people telling the policy makers and government their dangerous ideas on how ICT should be taught and developed in schools but it shouldn’t stop there. Everyone needs these skills.

Image credit: Evan Bench/Flickr