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Digital resilience is a compass for navigating digital challenges and learning

By The SkillRise Editorial Team

The future of work and learning is increasingly digital. More than 80% of middle-skill jobs require digital skills. But 32 million adults lack basic digital literacy. And 80% of companies reported a concern about the digital readiness of their employees. How can adult learners and literacy providers curate an instructional environment where students and staff are continuously building new digital skills together?

The answer is that it will require work — the work of exploring uncharted territory, learning new technologies and considering shifts in how we traditionally approach education. It will require resilience throughout this journey — specifically, digital resilience.

In Adult Educators Rising to the Occasion (season 2, episode 5) of the Upskill With Edtech podcast, Priyanka Sharma, project director at World Education and co-director of the Digital US Coalition, defines digital resilience as “having the awareness, skills, agility and confidence to be empowered users of new technology and adapt to changing digital skills’ demands.”

Start with the mindsets
As technology, digital literacy and workplace expectations continue to change quickly, it has never been more important to empower the workforce to be resilient, be adaptable and continue to walk confidently into the unknown future of work.

“Whether we are talking about digital literacy for our students or for our teachers, our goal is to build confidence so our teachers are comfortably using devices,” says Neda Anasseri, coordinator of technology projects at the Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN) in California. “The goal is to not give up when they don’t have the knowledge or ability to fix the problem.”

Prioritize access
Now that learning is happening anytime and anywhere, organizations must also prioritize digital access. Adult learners need to be able to connect to the internet from home so they can engage with distance learning programs and communities of learners and teachers that exist online. This involves thinking about the home as an extension of the workplace, to make sure that digital resilience continues to blossom outside of the confines of the physical classroom to enable students to learn anytime and anywhere.

Another element of digital access has to do with cost. Adult educators should prioritize conversations with learners about free and low-cost resources available to increase access. While literacy providers can't solve the digital divide, they can play a pivotal role in outreach and awareness as they help adult learners navigate a complex web of community resources. For example, EveryoneOn offers low-cost broadband service and laptops for income-eligible families. Helping adult learners find and access resources like this can be transformative for their ability to engage with online learning and participate in a lifelong learning process.

Define and celebrate progress
Measurement is another key component to ensure that learner-workers effectively exhibit digital resilience. Through ongoing assessment and benchmarks, students and staff can recognize progress and develop more personalized instructional goals. Our friends at the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL) quantify growth in digital resiliency through the use of badges in their Tech Integration Coaches Pathway. “Participants start the Pathway by reviewing or practicing basic tech skills such as how to identify the parts of a computer or navigate Microsoft products. As they make progress, activities include cultivating a list of open educational resources; facilitating training for colleagues about safely, legally, and ethically using technology and the internet; and designing a training module that meets a minimum of four of the Principles for Digital Development Standards,” says Laura Greer, manager of PD logistics at TCALL.

The TCALL Tech Integration Coaches Pathway “has a total of seven levels, each of which consists of seven tasks that align with the ISTE Standards for Students, Educators and Coaches,” added Ashly Winkle, distance learning and technology PD specialist at TCALL. “Participants receive a badge within our learning management system for each task that they complete in addition to a badge that can be added to their digital credentials through a website such as Badgr or Acclaim. ”As the participants make their way through the Pathway, the levels and tasks get more involved and detailed as they are progressing from interacting safely with technology to teaching and integrating technology into their own instruction, and then finally being able to coach others on how to utilize it in their own classrooms.”

The badging system at TCALL is a good example of how to celebrate progress and include multiple opportunities for teachers and students to see what they've learned as they continue into new and more complex goals. Building new digital skills is a challenge for everyone, and it can be filled with pain points along the way. Creating opportunities to measure progress and celebrate growth is an essential social-emotional strategy to ensure learners are staying motivated and developing their own self-reflection and resiliency skills.

Through doing this work, the TCALL team continues to build hope and optimism toward a future of digitally resilient learner-workers. “There is no age limit on the excitement of extrinsic motivation — we all want to show off our hard work!” says Katie Snow, PD Portal coordinator at TCALL. “Badges are awarded after each task and after the completion of an entire level, so there is no shortage of badges in this Pathway. We want our participants to celebrate their successes big and small, and distributing badges is one way to do so!”

As we look to the future, we envision a learning ecosystem that focuses on digital resilience. Through prioritizing conversations about access, we can ensure our students and staff are able to learn anytime and anywhere. By recognizing and celebrating progress, we can nurture the mindsets needed to persist through the challenges of a constantly evolving digital environment. And by helping our learning community adopt a growth mindset, we can curate an environment where students and staff are trying new things, embracing mistakes, learning to adapt and building new digital skills together.

Follow us on Twitter @SkillRiseOrg to stay in touch!

The SkillRise Editorial Team consists of:

- As Director of Research at ISTE, Brandon Olszewski brings experience in educational research, edtech, and adult professional learning to the project. He leads the SkillRise initiative. Find Brandon on Twitter or LinkedIn.

- Lea Downing is an ISTE SkillRise Project Manager, bringing to the project experience in adult education, community college education, edtech, and nonprofit management. She is also the Curriculum Designer for the Adult Education Program at Delgado Community College. Find Lea on LinkedIn.

- Joey Lehrman is a SkillRise Project Manager with ISTE and the Program Effectiveness Coordinator for the Adult Education Program at Delgado Community College, where he brings over 10 years of experience as a classroom teacher and administrator in adult education and career pathway programming. Find Joey on Twitter or LinkedIn.