From Digital Literacies to Digital Problem Solving: Expanding Technology-rich Learning Opportunities for Adults

This review discusses four online articles that provide essential background and useful instructional approaches for teaching digital literacy and digital problem solving in adult basic education classrooms and beyond.

Tyler H.J. Frank
Jill Castek
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Pima Community College
University of Arizona
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages

This article overviews four open access online articles that address teaching digital literacy and digital problem solving to adult learners. The four authors--Harris, Quann, Rosen, Vanek--of the articles reviewed, emphasize the need for adult digital literacy instruction that moves beyond teaching adults basic literacy skills so that they leaner skills that are relevant to college and career settings.  Furthering this idea, each article reviewed identifies the need for adult learners to learn how to apply digital skills across a wider set of experiences than testing, drill and practice activities. They also all agree that tasks for teaching digital problem solving should be relevant to learners’ needs and contexts for use outside of the classroom. The reviewers identify key ideas, tips, and strategies for providing adult learners a more robust digital literacy learning experience.  They highlight that basic digital literacy skills can be learned in the context of digital problem solving rather than as gatekeeping skills for more advanced skills, including four categories in the English language learner classroom: basic skills, creating and communicating digitally, finding and evaluating information online, and problem solving in technology rich environments. The reviewers also touch on the role of the teacher, and which tools to use when teaching digital literacy skills. The reviewers propose that transformative learning is more likely to occur when basic skills are are situated in authentic digital problem solving activities, such as locating resources, navigating, creating, and communicating while completing real world learner-centered activities.

What the experts say

A key issue for adult education teachers or instructors is that basic digital literacy skills are essential, but not sufficient for preparing adults for post-secondary education, jobs and careers. From Digital Literacy to Digital Problem Solving emphasizes that digital literacy skills in adult education classrooms need to be combined with higher levels of problem-solving. Since many adult educators bring students to computers to fill out multiple-choice questions designed by workbook editors or to complete essays, which can be difficult because of limited keyboarding skills, the questions of how to use computers and digital literacy in the classroom to extend learning are important. It is equally important that the cognitive task combined with the stress of using new technology doesn't overwhelm students leaving them incapable of completing either. This discussion and a serious self-reflection on teaching with technology will be beneficial for adult education instructors and administrators.

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