Literacy program pairing youth with adults to teach them how to use tech

Youth volunteers are working with their communities to help bridge gaps in digital literacy

By Halen Kooper | April 8, 2022 |5:00 am

ABC Life Literacy Canada is offering a new initiative dubbed Youth Teaching Adults, which is a free literacy program for adult learners led by youth volunteers.

Photo: Submitted

Adults are turning to Canadian youth to sharpen their skills in digital literacy.

ABC Life Literacy Canada is offering a new initiative dubbed Youth Teaching Adults, which is a free literacy program for adult learners led by youth volunteers.

Elizabeth Robinson, ABC Life Literacy’s director of programs, says that the programming they do is about engaging the whole family and learning.

“It’s about increasing digital skills across generations, and using this sort of knowledge,” she says. “The experience that younger people have to help other members of their family, other members of their community become more comfortable using technology.”

Staying one step ahead 

Technology is constantly evolving and changing, which is why it is one of the core pillars of the Youth Teaching Adults program.

“There’s a lot of people out there who are still uncomfortable using technology, new programs, new devices,” she says. “One of the best ways to learn is hands-on, one-on-one with someone to guide you and point you in the right direction.”

Robinson says the program is a series of short lesson plans with visual learning aids to help facilitate conversations between youth volunteers and members of their families or community members who might be uncomfortable with technology.

“It’s the process of figuring out how to do simple things on your device like how to use Mac applications, get directions to where you need to go, how to get email on your phone, how to open Word documents and change the size of text, things like that,” she says.

The importance of literacy 

Being literate, both traditionally and digitally, has important applications in every aspect of life, and without these skills, people may encounter important forms, medications, or instructions that are difficult to understand.

“It’s crucial to people being able to live a good life.”

Robinson points to ABC Life Literacy’s website as a great resource for people looking to help their families learn.

“We have all sorts of downloadable activities, things that you can work on together as a family, stories that you can read, all of the Youth Teaching Adults digital literacy lesson plans,” she says.

These resources are a great way to help people from feeling overwhelmed, Robinson adds. 

“You don’t have to feel like you’re on your own.” 

Making an impact 

The digital literacy workshops are already starting to show why it’s an important program for ABC Life Literacy Canada to run.

“We found that it’s easier for people to engage with their communities if they have appropriate literacy skills,” Robinson says. “They’re going to feel more comfortable with showing up on election day and voting, and voicing their opinions to their elected leaders.”

Additionally, Robinson explains being more literate can be a stress reducer because people will feel more comfortable in the environments they need to operate and make decisions.

“You’re constantly having to navigate an environment that’s not designed for you and doesn’t speak to your strengths as a person,” she says. “Becoming more comfortable with the language and reading creates a place where people can feel more at ease navigating the world.”

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Halen Kooper

Halen Kooper is a contributor at Calgary Citizen.

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