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.
It’s predicted that global smartphone use will reach 5.1 billion in 2017. This means that access to information and learning has never been greater, and tech companies are understanding the need to use technology for social good -a little like superheroes! A good example of this is Facebook, and their recent partnership with tech companies in a bid to bring internet access to every single person on earth. In 30 or so years of existence, it could be argued that the Internet has become a basic human need, as access to greater knowledge and learning is considered vital to human development.
A gadget smaller than the average adult human hand has given us connectivity to reach friends, family and strangers at the tap of a touchscreen. With the development of applications – many of which are free to use – smartphones have become instruments for creating monumental change for individuals, social groups, cultures and communities around the globe.
The encrypted messaging service WhatsApp is used to enable virtual surgeons to help barely-qualified practitioners at make-shift medical centres in Syria. Volunteer Doctors have joined the group chat to give advice and guide life-saving surgery to civilians 6000 miles away. Both in the developed and emerging world, virtual Doctors are expected to become more commonplace. Through the power of technology, healthcare will become accessible to people all over the world, who would not otherwise be able to get it. This will revolutionise the healthcare sector and create a higher standard of living worldwide. Mobile phones will be responsible for keeping whole populations healthy.
Education technology such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are having an impact on both the developed and emerging worlds, as similarly, they provide an opportunity for free learning and development to anybody in the world. A recent Bitjam project – Destiny MOOCs – envision a future where all individuals, no matter their circumstances, have access to quality education, training and employment opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential.
Bitjam was created to be a part of this positive change. From geeking out combining art with technology to working with healthcare providers on important projects, using technology for social good is at the forefront of what we do. Our work with the public sector, including healthcare, charities and education, continues to inspire us as we’ve learnt about so many issues that affect many people around the world on a daily basis and had the chance to brainstorm with some incredible people to create simple technological solutions.
We’re waiting to help your project become the next big thing in technological advancement to solve important social issues. Bitjam could be the platform you need to succeed, by offering years of digital skill, technological know-how and experience working collaboratively with the public sector.
STEAM. That’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths. Fundamental subjects that influence vitally important areas of study and career choice in later life. Subjects that have inspired some of the greatest technological advances and scientific advances in history (think smartphones! And on a more serious note, medicine such as antibiotics). So why is it so difficult to get kids interested in schools?
Aside from there being many distractions for children – again, think of those gadgets that sit in the pockets of most school children these days, buzzing and bleeping, just waiting to deter their attention – it’s never really been considered “cool” to be nerdy or really in to studying.
However, the last few years have seen the rise of the “geek”, as children are learning that knowledge is a powerful tool for success and that knuckling down will bring greater long term benefits – better jobs, nicer holidays, bigger cars etc. Games such as Minecraft even give them chance to compete with their mates! But they’re essentially solving problems and puzzles to achieve greatness.
Applying this logic to teaching methods in schools will help the education sector to encourage children to immerse themselves in STEAM, by teaching them in a way children enjoy and can relate to. The old Victorian school days that suppressed children’s creative sides are finally beginning to be replaced with a new system that actively encourages imagination and relates it back to STEAM subjects. Even creating an acronym gives these subjects a new, cooler connotation.
A brilliant example is the Trentham High School Year 8 Fractals competition that Carl Plant of Bitjam will be judging in December. The school contacted Carl to ask him to take part due to his vast experience creating technology for the public sector. Fractals are basically patterns that repeat infinitely, like a snowflake or galaxy formation. Fractals can be found almost everywhere and the desired effect is that the children might open their eyes to what’s around them, and realise what they take for granted every day. The competition requires the children to design their own fractals using digital assistance, with the most creative outcome being the winner.
It’s fantastic to see such competitions being held within an educational environment where the children can be nurtured and encouraged to take an interest in extra-curricular study (the competition is additional to the curriculum and therefore the students will only enter voluntarily). Competitions such as this could spark a revolution to the current education system, becoming part of the regular curriculum and allowing children the opportunity to become interested in STEAM, not just in school but outside of their school hours. Applying STEAM across the curriculum – like Trentham High School have done with Maths – is a key way to both focus on the progress measures, espcially in English and Maths, as well as the tech, art and engineering subjects.
Bitjam have a specific interest in STEAM, and want to promote 3 similar topics for future STEAM challenges. Amateur satellite communication, data visualisation and telehealth are all subjects that have the potential to become creative projects for schools, and Bitjam already have some ideas of how to bring these to life. If you would like to discuss these potential projects for your own learning environment, please contact Carl Plant for a chat.
We will be creating blog posts with more detail on these subjects in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for more information and to understand how these topics can relate well to school projects. We want to absorb children – the next generation! – in these fascinating subjects and help them create a legacy that they can take in to adult life and pass on to the next generation.