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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Adult Literacy and The Internet:What motivates adult learners to improve their literacy skills in this digital world: Report on a project providing online training and one-on-one tutoring in the home in low-income multi-cultural communities

Barbara Craig.

A project using computer technology to build connections between families and school in impoverished communities demonstrates that adults will seize new technologies that bridge geographic, social and language isolation and seek education and employment opportunities. We documented Internet usage: as a superhighway (access to jobs and training ); as entertainment; as communication (seeking family connections and exploring cultural identity). Families communicated with extended family in the Pacific and created Web pages, finding new purpose for using first language. Parents, isolated by lack of phone or transport,
used the internet most frequently to 1) look for jobs or look for information about training or online courses and 2) to just pass the time and have fun. This paper explores how computer access in the home can offer learning opportunities for adults who have had unhappy formal educational experiences in the past. These adults were motivated to become computer literate as they saw ICT as the way of the future for both themselves and their children. We offered one-on-one tutoring in the home using computer-based resources rather than traditional pen and paper. We assessed learning preferences and attitudes as well as literacy and numeracy skills of 20 adults before and after a 12-week online training course. This paper reports on their experiences of one-on-one tutoring in the home and their experiences of reading and writing on the computer. Reflecting the growing importance and ubiquity of new technologies this paper argues that the digital divide must now include the impact of limited reading, numeracy, and problem-solving skills. The majority of adults in this study were motivated to improve these skills and computer skills in the privacy of their own home.


Barbara Craig  (New Zealand)
Senior Lecturer
School of Education
Victoria University of Wellington

Barbara Craig has been teaching in the area of ICT and Education at Victoria University since 1989. She had been a Research Associate at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research evaluating the use of computers in schools. She was educated at Canterbury University in New Zealand and Harvard University in the US. Most recently she has been involved in a digital divide project Computers in Homes working with parents and children on literacy, numeracy and computer literacy skills. This project won an education prize in the Stockholm Challenge 2001.

  • Adult Literacy
  • Computer Literacy
  • New Technologies In Low-Income Communities.
  • Action Research.

(30 min Conference Paper, English)