How "basic" is basic digital literacy for older adults? Insights from digital skills instructors
IntroductionWith the continuing advancement of digitalization of everyday life, digital literacy becomes more and more a necessity. As a consequence, those who are digitally illiterate experience digital exclusion, which increasingly equals social exclusion. Older adults are typically less digitally active and also less skilled in digital technologies than younger cohorts. Digital inclusion frameworks by governmental and supra-national organizations, on the one hand, and academic definitions of "digital literacy" or "digital skills", on the other hand, tend to include a broad set of competencies next to technical understanding, such as cognitive and social-emotional skills. However, we argue the problem that expectations of what digital literacy commonly entails are too high level for older adults with no pre-existing digital experience with computers, internet, smartphones, or tablets. Even what is considered as entry-level, basic digital skills, or foundational skills, can be very demanding for older adults with limited or no prior knowledge of and practice with digital technologies.MethodsTo make our point, we draw on own data from interviews with 26 digital skills instructors who give training to older adults in Belgium (collected between December 2020 and February 2021).ResultsWe provide empirical evidence for the circumstances that even seemingly basic digital skills, such as getting a device started or downloading apps, can be very demanding and anything but trivial for older adults without prior experience. We demonstrate evidence along three interrelated domains: (1) ICT-jargon and terminology; (2) Hardware; (3) Software and Internet. Each of these domains entail hurdles of knowledge and understanding that need to be overcome for these older adults before we can start addressing the higher goals of digital literacy frameworks.DiscussionThe main implication from this article is that even the most basic tenets of digital technology are neither trivial nor simple to grasp for older adults with no or limited prior experience - a point not sufficiently addressed by current frameworks of digital skills/literacy/competence.
Source (journal)
Frontiers in Education
Frontiers Media S.A. , 2023
8 (2023) , p. 1-11
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Digital ageing: How seniors can appreciate the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of a digitalizing society.
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Publications with a UAntwerp address
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Web of Science
Creation 30.10.2023
Last edited 10.11.2023
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