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The first stages of e-literacy for older learners: a holistic approach to the development of new computer skills and learner confidence

Author(s): Helen Aberton

Journal: ITALICS
ISSN 1473-7507

Volume: 5;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 37;
Date: 2006;
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Keywords: adult learning theory | computer technology | embodied learning | age-related learning

The body of literature on adult learning theory and cognitive changes pertaining to older (compared with younger) adults’ interaction with computers, informs the instructional process in regard to appropriate programs, resources and procedures. But, according to Illeris (2002), there are three dimensions of embodied learning (cognitive, emotional and social) and I argue that all of these should be considered to maximise older learners’ successful acquisition of computer skills. This paper is based on a qualitative research study where it was found that successful learning occurred in situated learning environments. Effective learning occurred when a ‘community of practice’ (based on Wenger’s 1998 workplace definition), evolved through participants’ shared understanding of their perceptions of what constituted appropriate learning and motivation. In addition, there was more cohesive group development where other informal interaction was fostered. The learners in a shared space, could compare past experiences, discuss their concerns about computer technology and develop confidence together in the context of the new collaborative learning experience. In this way, older learners’ presence (embodiment) in an appropriate social setting, contributed to new learning despite “age-related” learning difficulties. Therefore, I argue that an understanding of the sociocultural context of learning is integral for older adults’ successful acquisition of and confidence in using new computer skills, as a sound foundation for the continued development of e-literacy. Furthermore, there are implications for future educational provision and research.
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