Digital Literacy Impact for ESL Students at our Literacy Center
Altadena Library CONNECT*: December 2016
While the foundations of adult literacy programs are to improve reading and writing skills, these days it includes information literacy, financial literacy, health literacy and digital literacy.
The University Library of The University of Illinois defines digital literacy as: “The ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”
At the Branch we strive to help our literacy learners with meeting a wide range of literacy and informational needs. We have small group ESL classes that meet Monday through Thursdays mornings. This Fall we were able to offer a 5 week beginners computer class to our eager ESL students. The bilingual computer instructors taught the students much needed computer skills. For the first time, all the students were able to sign up for their own e-mail addresses, use Word and practice typing, and learn how to search the Internet.
Many had expressed that they had been intimidated by the computers and that with this exposure, they had less fear and felt more comfortable using the computers. The students took this opportunity to practice their skills at the library during open hours.
Most of the students do not have a computer at home and rely on the library for internet access. Many students have language barriers to employment and lack proficiency in computer skills. With improved computer skills, that is one less hurdle to overcome to seeking better employment.
According to ProLiteracy, an organization that advocates for adult literacy, low literacy costs the US $225 Billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce and a loss of revenue due to unemployment. According to the World Bank, only 52.5% of adults reporting lack of computer skills were employed, compared to 72.7%. The positive effects of improved computer skills translates to improved self sufficiency and improved work opportunities benefiting all aspects of the students’ lives.
Lucio, a student from the class states, “Thanks to the personnel of the Bob Lucas Library for providing the much needed computer classes. With the lessons they taught, I am able to practice on my own and gain confidence working on the computer. In particular, I like to practice my typing which helps me run my small business as a washing machine repair man.”