Motivation and competency keys to lifting adult digital literacy

ACMA-commissioned report finds a hierarchy of skills, knowledge and understanding required to participate in digital life

Low levels of competency with digital media and perceived motivation are core factors behind increasing media literacy within community segments, an ACMA-commissioned research report has found.

The Adult digital media literacy needs report found that the comparatively low level of competencies among adult Australians who are non-users or limited users of digital media and communications could be explained by the fact that many of these people have not been required to use technology on a day-to-day basis.

“As a result, they have not had the chance to familiarise themselves, and experiment, with the Internet and/or mobile phones,” the report reads. “Findings suggest that having the ability to experiment is a useful, informal means of learning which can often increase a person’s confidence.”

Because of their limited and/or irregular use of digital media, participants in the research had not been able to develop an understanding of the underlying assumptions about how digital media work, or the associated commonplace language that has developed among regular users of this type of technology, the report found.

“This means that low level users tend not to have a broad vision of how the internet works and do not pick up transferable skills,” the report reads. “Instead, they learn and memorise individual steps, in a method that is similar to rote learning. In effect, they do not have the ability to apply their learning to new situations.”

Additionally, many people did not have a clear understanding of the security measures in place for Internet banking as they were extremely hesitant about making these and other transactions online.

The other half of the equation – an individual’s own motivation to want to use a technology – was also the key driver to increasing their digital media literacy, the report found.

“For a limited user to start using the technology there had to be a compelling reason for them to want to access the Internet or a particular feature on their mobile phone,” the report reads. “People had to be able to see that the benefit would outweigh the effort.”

To change attitudes to digital technology use the report advocates communicating the possible benefits of using digital media and highlighting that digital media could increases people’s options rather than require them to give up their traditional ways of doing things.

“Essential to improving people’s digital media literacy is recognising that there appears to be a hierarchy of skills, knowledge and understanding that they need to acquire,” the report reads. “Before they can develop transferable skills, people need to understand the underlying assumptions about how digital media work and the associated commonplace language of digital media.”

Businesses, service providers, government organisations and the general public should also be made more aware of the low level competencies of non- and limited users, and should take this into consideration in the provision of online services and other digital media offerings, the report recommends.

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Tags digital media literacyAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

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