We are constantly hearing that digital services are “the future”, but in actual fact we are already fully immersed in a digital life. Technology lives in our pockets, directs us round the country, gives us access to knowledge within micro seconds. We are an incredibly digitally knowledgeable species already.
Or are we? It’s easy to perceive that “everybody” has access to a computer, the internet and smart devices. Unfortunately we’re often distracted by our own access to such tools that we fail to notice that external factors such as money, education and time can have a profoundly negative effect on people’s digital literacy.
Are We All As Digitally Literate As We Appear?
Digital literacy refers to knowledge and skills with digital devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets.
16% of UK adults are classed as “functionally illiterate”, meaning they would be unable to pass a GCSE. 50% of people can’t do basic maths. These are the very basic skills most of you will have learned at an early age, and have been taught in schools for centuries. Yet 16% is an alarming proportion of the population. Imagine then that a modern skill set such as digital capabilities becoming a part of everyday life, and people having to learn them independently. Take into consideration how fast-paced and constantly-changing digital experiences are too.
Research published by the BBC has found that 21% of Britain’s population lack the basic digital skills and capabilities required to realise the benefits of the internet.
Even most people who have access to smart devices are lacking in the skills required to use them to their full potential.
Good software design should address the digital know-how of it’s potential users or else there is a high risk of limited usage of the technologies. Some of the main areas to take notice are authentication (how the user signs up and/or logging in), general user interface design, personalisation options and the clarity in the support documentation.
Digital Inclusion Strategy
The government have a digital inclusion strategy in place to ensure everyone who can be is online by 2020. They have identified 4 main kinds of challenge faced to achieving results:
- access – the ability to actually go online and connect to the internet
- skills – to be able to use the internet
- motivation – knowing the reasons why using the internet is a good thing
- trust – a fear of crime, or not knowing where to start to go online
According to the BBC Media Literacy study, 21% of people can’t use the web. 14% of people don’t have internet access at all, so 7% do have internet access but don’t use it in ways that benefit them day to day.
Addressing Digital Literacy
So how can this be combatted? There have been a number of projects and programmes that aim to address digital literacy, here are a few:
- Providing free access at public libraries
- Creating DotEveryone – the UK’s digital skills alliance designed to inspire people and organisations who want to help others build their digital capability
- The Broadband Delivery UK Programme aims to bring high speed broadband access to 95% of homes by December 2017
- Motivating users to go online by teaching them the benefits of job search software such as Universal Jobmatch, rather than simply pushing them into it
- Get Safe Online is a scheme which helps people keep themselves safe against the threat of fraud, identity theft, viruses and many other online security issues
- WEA (Workers Educational Association) are a unique adult education provider working with hundreds of organisations at local, regional and national levels. Courses include IT for Beginners, covering the use of computers, mobile devices and social media.
It’s paramount that digital healthcare providers work with adult community learning regarding digital literacy. However the challenge of usability needs to be tackled at the design stage using co-production as the process. The key to success is in the quality of the relationship between the partners in each project, and at bitjam we work in a highly collaborative manner with clients and stakeholders to research and develop innovative solutions that meet their needs.
These days, people want everything fast. Shopping, communication, money, knowledge. It’s all available at the click of a button. Some may argue this dilutes the experience, and the ease of which the user is rewarded creates bigger demand. This is reported to be putting pressure on pretty much every industry to come up with new and innovative ways to access their services. However, this demand for harder, better, faster, stronger can be more innocently translated in to a desire for improvement. A hunger to grow and develop.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are an interesting technological development for the education sector as they have been created, basically, in response to ethical pressures. Nobody should be denied access to an education, and the internet has created an enormous and high-speed gateway to learning on a global-scale. These days you could live in Timbuktu and still stream Ted Talks! MOOCs have enabled people around the world to learn and develop their skills, free of charge and with incredibly easy accessibility.
We believe great thing can happen when Moocs can be available on your mobile phone. People carry an incredible amount of resources around in their pocket, available to extract information at the touch of a button. We should focus on this mobile small scale consumption of knowledge rather than forcing people into the tired model of classroom replication.
Learners respond extremely well to bite size courses, so the ability to learn purely from their mobile phones adds to the appeal and nurtures the desire to gain more knowledge and insight in to subjects that interest them. For some, this may be The Kardashians, but for every KIMYE there’s the next Stephen Hawking accessing knowledge, information, and most of all, confidence.
So what’s next for MOOCs? Perhaps a focus switch to building mobile platforms before tackling desktop. People interact differently with online learning compared to offline. They tend to consume little and often so MOOC technology needs to adhere to this way of learning. While the intention may be there to develop their knowledge, if they’re not able to gratify this in an instant, they may become distracted and move on to something else. People spend hours of their day, shopping using their mobiles, socialising using their mobiles, learning using their mobiles. We want to feed this creativity by giving them access to the platforms they need to keep on growing.
Bitjam are keen to be involved in projects that seek to improve access to information for the masses. Helping people to grow and develop is one of the fundamental reasons behind the existence of Bitjam, and our understanding of this type of study is unrivalled in the area. We have developed a number of educational apps and platforms already, that involve researching the end users needs and we advocate designing education software for mobiles.
What makes a great novelist, musician or entrepreneur? Without a doubt, there’s more to success than the ability to read and write, play guitar or think of a business idea. Similarly, becoming a successful programmer takes a little more talent than merely understanding how to write code.
Over the past few years, we’ve been bombarded with an endless stream of positive media coverage for coding and programming. Whether it’s in school classrooms, workshops, boot camps or online courses, everybody seems to be doing it. In fact, a record number of people are now learning coding languages. Many are learning to make money – it’s no secret that computer programmers can rake in the cash – others hope to gain a competitive edge in today’s busy job market and some, well, they just don’t want to get left behind. But is coding really all it’s cracked up to be?
While it’s true that understanding coding languages is a valuable skill, it’s important not to get dazzled by the headlines. Media coverage is misleading many into thinking that learning to code is all you need to know to succeed in the digital job market. Don’t get me wrong, that a six week boot camp will certainly teach you your Java from your Ruby, but there’s a stark difference between having the ability to code and becoming a successful programmer.
Writing code is just one element in a complex and creative process. What’s important is not learning how to code but how to make coding work for you. Before throwing yourself in at the deep end and starting to develop a website or mobile app you must first understand your market, your objectives and most importantly, your desired outcome. A new coding project is essentially a blank canvas. Just like a novelist, musician or entrepreneur, your job is to create something out of nothing, a process that relies on creativity, confidence and a willingness to experiment.
Each year, bITjAM takes in between six and eight work experience students from schools, sixth forms and colleges to give them hands-on experience of programming. As opposed to simply learning the basics of coding languages, aspiring coders are instilled with a thirst for knowledge and give increasingly complex problems to solve using coding. Today, coders must become masters of researching, presenting and ultimately, creating. The programmer of the future will do far more than simply write code.
Carl Plant CEO