Digital Literacy a Key to Success

There’s a growing belief that digital skills are vital for pretty much all sectors of society in the 21st Century. However there are sectors of most societies that are becoming more disadvantaged due to the lack of these skills.

Being digitally literate means that we can engage and use all the many digital methods of communication that are second nature to many. Whether it be at work or home the ability to share, communicate and disseminate information using digital communication methods is becoming as essential as basic literacy.

Without these skills there’s no doubt people will be at a disadvantage, but many are finding themselves in this situation through no fault of their own. Most of us are at ease with a laptop, computer or tablet and will happily communicate using whatever medium is available. A chat conference via Skype sounds very complicated but the majority of teenagers would have no problem engaging with this format. If you haven’t come across these digital tools though it can seem incredibly intimidating especially in a work environment.

Just as some people will happily use something like a proxy or VPN in order to access BBC iPlayer USA (normally this would be blocked because the BBC is only available in the UK), to others it might sound hopelessly complicated. The reality is though that over the last few years most digital technologies have become incredibly easy to use.

Nearly 30 years ago the first version of the Windows Operating System required a substantial level of technological skill to operate it successfully. You had to understand device drivers, batch files, operating systems and memory management. The newest versions of Windows and indeed all the operating systems which sit on our phones, laptops and computers require virtually no technology knowledge at all, most are intuitive and a little hands on experience is all that’s needed.

That’s why engaging with people who have limited access to this technology is so important. From the outside it seems complicated and difficult but the majority of people will pick up most of this technology very quickly when given the opportunity. Setting up technology rooms or displays in libraries is an ideal way to transfer this knowledge quickly and easily.

This sort of approach is not intended to create technology experts who can configure your laptop in seconds or set up a Smart DNS system on your new TV. What it does do, is to help people who may have developed a slight fear of this sort of technology and a feeling of being left behind. Today’s technology is deliberately designed to be all encompassing and there’s little reason for any sector of society to be left behind.

Is the End in Sight for Printed Media

A recent study by  the National Literacy Trust has just completed a rather interesting study.  It surveyed over 35,000 children aged from 8 to 16 with regards a variety of subjects.  One of the most startling results although perhaps not altogether surprising is the fact that young people would much prefer to read something on a screen than written down.

Of course people and especially the young have been brought up in a screen based culture.  Mobile phones, laptops and tablets are all over our home and it is inevitably one of these that our children will reach for when looking for information.  How many of us I wonder have rows of encyclopedias or reference books which hardly get a look in any more – want to know something you’ll probably look on the internet.

The figures came in at 52% of those surveyed would rather read something on a screen than written down.  32% still preferred normal print and the rest didn’t express a preference. Of these young people, almost 39% will read something on a screen every day compared to 28% with normal print.

In  the UK now 97% have access to computer and the internet at home, in fact 77% of children sad that they had their own computer.  When questioned about other related areas like newspapers and current news affairs the pattern was repeated with most seeking  their information from a screen.

In fact  the internet is becoming part of most aspects of our childrens lives.  From research, news and socialising – much of it is done virtually using the internet.   Even traditional screen based entertainment is being affected with people often watch videos and even TV online using a computer rather than a traditional TV.  Using various technologies to watch favorite programs via laptops and iPads like this site demonstrates -, which  they can even use abroad on holiday.

National Literacy Trust director Jonathan Douglas said: “Our research confirms that technology is playing a central role in young people’s literacy development and reading choice.

“While we welcome the positive impact which technology has on bringing further reading opportunities to young people, it’s crucial that reading in print is not cast aside.”

Education in Hong Kong

When you look at the league tables for schools and literacy there are a few countries who seem to have just ’got it right’.  Of course there are fluctuations but a number of areas always score consistently well in all areas of basic literacy.  There are several Scandanavian countries from Europe, but one area that is almost always there is Hong Kong.  So what makes this ex-British colony so successful at educating it’s youngsters?

There certainly seems to be a huge emphasis on simple hard work. The colony as a whole was built on this pretext and it’s education system reflects these roots.  Unlike many countries, the concept of class is virtually unknown – if you  need to better yourself and your lives then education is the major route.

Many also point to the fact that Hong Kong itself has little in the way of welfare benefits, the state is not there to step in for people who need them.  Parents invest in their children as a form of pension, obviously this means there is much more incentive for the child to succeed.  Parents also are known for their diligience and take an extremely keen interest in their childs education.  Ever heard a parent complaining to a teacher about lack of homework – it’s something you’ll hear regularly in HK.

Parent’s also invest heavily in extra tuition and classes for their children.  It is estimated that over 70% of  secondary school pupils have some form of additional private tuition.  The curriculum is very traditional and extremely academic with core subjects which include Chinese, Maths and English.  There are other classes on art , music and drama but these are normally trimmed back in later years and especially during the run up to examinations.

Hong King also has an extremely modern infrastracture with for example very high broadband speeds.  Also Hong Kong does not suffer from the restrictive internet censorship that is practiced in China or like this in Iran, where you’re likely to get blocked a lot  -in HK it’s not necessary to spend time learning how to sidestep the firewall and video blocks – like this - over and over again.

Critics would argue that Hong Kong should be ranked highly purely because  there entire focus is on examinations.  There is a selective education system which rewards the best results with access to the better secondary school.  The pressure on young children though to succeed is extremely high and opinion is divided whether this does lead to long term benefits.