Learning environment managing digital literacy learning

Analysis of a range of environments in which digital literacy learning may take place

A variety of learning environments in which digital literacy learning can take place

Workshop setting - in centre

Horseshoe classroom set up?

The traditional classroom which has been used to teach ICT (Information Communication Technology) provides a learning environment which supports digital literacy learning, i.e. typically it has internet access and plug points etc. It is normally supported by the tools and technology. The learners are encouraged to use a variety of tools, techniques and technology to support and enhance their learning alongside the tutor. This environment is primarily tutor led with learners receiving support and guidance from them. The workshop setting would have facilities that include: PCs, Ipads, tablets, Interactive Whiteboard, Wifi, various software installed on computers and that helps the learner use certain online applications. The use of variety of equipment can itself be engaging and informative to learners, engaging them in the session fully. It also helps to make the use of equipment and software relevant to their in their lives, work, education etc. It is important to note that some learners may not feel comfortable using different forms of technology/devices. Different devices should not, not be use, however, it is important, as a tutor, to be flexible and to use their more familiar device until they feel more confident. A variety of applications should also be suggested and the learner should be allowed to pick whatever one they feel most comfortable using. This should never be pre-prescribed by the tutor.

This environment has supporting relevant organisational policies and procedures in place in the areas of teaching and learning, human resources, health and safety and ICT that enables the facilitation of the teaching and learning process, ensures safe and responsible internet and ICT use and that ensures inclusive learning can take place.

Digital technology is often on-site in this environment and internet connectivity is often consistent. The workshop offers a safe and engaging environment for learners to explore new tools, techniques and technologies. The tutor can use Prezi, Emaze or other online presentation tools to effectively present some learning using the tools that learners are also likely to try, if there is a whiteboard in the environment. Therefore, the tutor has more opportunity for delivering a multi sensory and engaging presentation which can engage learners. The workshop is a great place for a learner to practise tools and techniques with their own device. The learners can, therefore, use their own equipment in a safe and secure environment with their peers. This is also engaging. There can, however, be difficulties with certain learners who resist the use of technology and those who feel embarrassed about their lack of ability and confidence, perhaps in comparison with more able peers. This would have been picked up at diagnostic assessment stage. The tutor needs to ensure that they engage these learners perhaps by pairing them with a more able learner with whom they feel comfortable, whom will in turn gain confidence from 'teaching' the learner, as well as improving and confirming their own knowledge and skills. That way the less able learner feels like they are not taking up too much tutor time and may learner better from a peer rather than a tutor. The tutor needs to make sure the session is pitched at the right level to ensure the engagement of all learners and differentiated tasks, perhaps on the same topic, can help with this. It is also vital that the tutor explores with these learners the benefits of the use of certain software and applications to the learner in their lives. In order to do this, the tutor needs to get to know and build a rapport with the learner in order to properly engage and motivate them. Prevention is better than cure here when it comes to managing and providing an engaging learning environment and preventing/managing difficult behaviour. However, should certain frustrations give rise to difficult behaviour within the workshop format by certain learners, then this would need to be approached with them on a one to one basis, where the encouragement, rapport and motivation work will need repetition. The tutor should also review and evaluate the planned work to check if it was not too challenging for the learner involved and should re-plan the work with this learner. Delivering in a workshop format offers the opportunity for learners to make the most of the internet to conduct online research. This kind of learning could be labelled as discovery learning, which allows the learner to discover their own learning. This can be extremely engaging and motivational for them, as they learn at their own pace and 'discover' their own learning for themselves, giving them a sense of reward. It, therefore, provides the tutor with more opportunities to enhance the learning experience of the learners.

A suitable workshop set up?

In this case, it is important to consider how the workshop tables are arranged. As digital literacy involves collaboration, it could be argued that a horse shoe table set up would be best as this can enable learners to work together easily. This paired or group work can be engaging for the learner. However, the very nature of the collaboration, it could be argued should not require this, as virtual and distance collaboration is encouraged. Nevertheless, in such a learning environment a much more friendly and engaging set up in the classroom would be welcomed by the learners themselves, especially those who have had bad experiences of learning before hand. This would be motivational and engaging. Having said this, some learners may prefer to be involved at a distance. This can be engaging to them, as they can do so in the comfort of their own home, especially if they do not do well with face to face and group learning. A group of square tables together (to provide more room for the learners to work if they are using laptops) allows learners to have face to face contact and encourages learners to be social and more comfortable with each other, making collaboration a more comfortable process. This is engaging to the learner due to its social and enjoyment factor. It is proven that learners learn best from each other, therefore, such environments lend themselves to this kind of collaborative learning. Learning and supporting each other in the form of peer learning is immensely engaging as learners feel fully supported by their peers as well as their tutor. These kind of activities can be engaging as lower ability learners can be paired with more able learners and will therefore maybe respond better to their peers help and advice than a tutor's. A big table set up with all learners around it could also be good if the group is large and there are a lot of whole group activities being undertaken. The table set up really does depend on the types of activities being undertaken in the session. Again, learners will find sitting with others engaging, however, larger group activities may not be so engaging for them as they could get lost in the volume of people in the room. Realistically, there should be a mix of activities which will be engaging to the learner, therefore, the horseshoe set up is ideal as it can lend itself to all of these types of activities, i.e. paired, small group collaboration and whole group tasks as it ensures face to face contact and gives learners their own space to work on their devices individually. This is engaging to the learner as they have contact with each other and can be social and help each other learn.

This environment can be engaging as it can be decorated with engaging images etc on the walls, engaging technologies can be shown and demonstrated as they are present and can be stored in this workshop as it will be the base of the delivering tutor. It may also be important to show on these posters, displays rules for working and inappropriate types of sites that are not to be used etc (according to the policies and procedures of the training centre etc). This should be visited at every session. perhaps the learners could right their own list of rules, and the tutor could contribute this 'rule'. The consequences of breaching these rules should also be discussed regularly. Should these sites be accessed then, the learner(s) would then be subject to these consequences. The issue should be discussed with them on a one to one basis to discuss why the incident occurred before moving on to the issue being dealt with in accordance to policy and procedure.

Grouped learners

Work Based learning setting - the workplace by someone's work desk

An office

This type of learning takes place in an office where the learner is likely to use digital tools as part of their work. The type of technology, tools and techniques that they use usually reflect the type of work being undertaken. Knowledge of what tools they use and what they do within their job role provides the tutor with an idea of the types of new tools and techniques, or maybe even technologies, that can be introduced and used effectively in this environment which makes this learning more meaningful to the learner. This is engaging to the learner as they can see the relevance of what they are doing and learning. Therefore, a more flexible and appropriate method of course delivery and assessment is required, i.e. split over numerous weeks an hour or two at a time. This type of learning allows providers to provide access for learning to individuals in the workplace. This is engaging to the learner as they are not learning in their free time or are having to be released from work to complete training, which has its own pressures (such as catching up with work missed). It is not always possible for employers to release their employees, however, this can cause problems for the learner and their learning. Indeed, some learning then may have to be completed within their own time if this is the case. It is important to note that the internet may not be easily accessible in such an environment for security reasons. For example, the use of certain software (especially if it needs downloading), cloud storage and USB storage etc as well as the access to some sites, may not be accessible or require special permissioning from the employer. An alternative method of internet access in this case can be the use of mobile internet may be required instead in this case. However, the learners may then fail to see the relevance of using such tools, if they can not use them int he workplace, if indeed this is their motivation behind their learning. This can cause inappropriate or disengaged behaviour. Alternatives that can be accessed or access to the appropriate sites for the learning should be discussed with the employer directly in order to prevent this. This may not be an issue as the learner could be motivated by the tools used in other ways, such as at home with children or for hobbies/interests etc.

The tools, techniques and technologies in a work based environment will reflect a learner’s real life experience. Learners can try collaborative approaches with their team members and colleagues. Real time/life problems will present themselves and the opportunity will be there for learners to overcome issues in realistic and relevant ways. Confidence, engagement and motivation will increase by using the new tools in real scenarios, unlike in a workshop environment as mentioned above. Digital literacy learning in the workplace therefore promotes more active and engaging learning by its very nature. The work based environment is well known to the learner making them feel safe and secure, which can be a hurdle that may need to be overcome in a workshop environment, especially because people often do not know one another, this can, initially, have a negative effect on their engagement and motivation. This can also be affected by previous educational based experiences. This can be overcome by several fun getting to know one another activities with or without the use of devices/technologies, tools or techniques. This is unnecessary in the learner's own environment and teaching within 'their' environment may help to alleviate any negative views of education and learning they may have. This will engage them more in the learning. Being in the learner’s place of work may help to overcome a fear of technology as they are in a familiar environment with people they know and technology they know how to use. As such this comfortableness may motivate and engage them to try out another form of technology. If it does not, this should be approached tentatively after a number of sessions when learner confidence is deemed higher. It should be done, as mentioned above as a way of providing an achievable challenge to the learner. The tutor coming into the learner’s work place helps build and foster positive relationship with the learner and employer based on mutual respect (this can help if the tutor needs some internet access issues addressing (again see above)!) All of these aspects can help the engagement of the learner in this environment.

The tutor should be mindful of where the learner works and who with. Are they too close to a colleague, to whom they do not want to disclose any weaknesses in digital literacy. Are they in hearing distance? Is the office noisy, with a loud radio on and hard to concentrate in? The learner may also work better with music playing? These are considerations that should be discussed with the learner prior to delivery and a more appropriate session environment should be organised if appropriate with a view to increasing their engagement levels. This said, a large part of the course is to collaborate with others. If the learner is the only learner in the workplace, then they will have to identify others with which they could collaborate that they trust. They would need to be taught how to use the tool/s also. This has its own challenges as they would also need to be released from their role alongside the learner to work collaboratively. The learner could benefit greatly, however, from one to one attention during other parts of the session, even if this is not an efficient delivery method for the training provider, in this case Educ8. This said (small) group delivery, if it is possible and agreed with the employer, is a possibility. This, however, can provide some of the benefits (in terms of engagement levels) and challenges as illustrated in the workshop format above as it will need to be done in a training room, unless of course there is no more than two or three learners. There may also be issues with the bullying/judgement of the skills and knowledge of others in such a group environment, as there is in a workshop environment. These inappropriate behaviours need to be challenged. in accordance with relevant policies and procedure sin the setting and also the training provider's policies and procedures. There are also issues with accessing inappropriate sites and use of inappropriate language within the workplace (especially as the colleagues tend to know one another and have a variety of different types of relationships). This is against both the workplace and the training providers policies and procedures. With such a small group or individual learner this can be easy to police and, therefore, prevent, unlike with a larger group, however, should the incident occur the matter needs to be addressed as discussed above and also the employer would need to be spoken to about the inappropriate behaviour. Similar strategies like a list of 'rules' and consequences agreed by all parties, as discussed above, could be agreed and put in place prior to the learning taking place, i.e. including inappropriate language use when communicating online or website use. These topics would be explored in the learning accordingly, and would be one of the first sessions delivered in line with the Digital Responsibility strand of the Digital Literacy qualification. As a tutor, you have no control over the set up of the office and its decoration, in terms of how it engages the learners in their learning, however, reasonable adjustments can be made to promote learning. Again, a good relationship with the employer can help a tutor here, especially if a tutor feels that the learning environment could be changed to improve learner engagement and motivation.

Work Based learning setting - a nursery

Educational digital game used with children in a nursery

This type of learning takes place in a nursery where the learner is unlikely to use many digital tools as part of their work but is likely to spend most of their day doing practical tasks. It is likely that any type of technology, tools and techniques used already should assist in the education or/and entertainment of the children that are being looked after and in the daily running of the nursery. Again, knowledge of what they use and do provides the tutor with an idea of the types of new tools and techniques that can be used in this environment. These tools and techniques will engage these learners. Therefore, a more flexible and appropriate method of course delivery and assessment is required again. This type of learning allows providers to provide access for learning to individuals in the workplace. Which, as has been mentioned before, can provide engaging and relevant learning. There could be issues with the internet access, as in an office. Mobile internet would provide the solution to this issue, again with similar issues to those mentioned above. The technology used should be fully charged before it is used as this prevents accidents occurring with cables, wires and plugs and because there is not an array of plug sockets available in this setting because of the health and safety implications with small children. Therefore, the technology they use and are taught on should be mobile and less cumbersome than a laptop, as small children are less likely to reach it if it is hand held and make changes or cause damage to equipment or injury to themselves or others, e.g a tablet or Ipad. Presentation software that has child friendly templates could be a tool used here. In addition, the small seats in such an environment, unless there is an office or staff room available, can cause problems with posture when using a laptop to complete the learning. A tablet or iPad will allow its user to use the tool and technique standing up. This can be engaging, as some learners like to move about when they learn and report that this helps them to learn. In addition, this factor is engaging to the learner as work can be done on the move. However, it should be added here that there may certain requirements, i.e. that the video and camera function on the device should be disabled for safeguarding purposes in accordance with policies and procedures. This said any childcare worker should have had the necessary safeguarding checks completed on them, ICT and safeguarding policies in the setting should be checked before hand on this, however. In appropriate behaviour in this respect, such as the taking of images within the setting should be dealt with with utmost importance. A good relationship with the employer should be established and any incident reported to them should it occur. However, as prevention is better than cure, such issues, as mentioned in the above two scenarios, should be discussed via some 'rules' prior to the learning taking place which include the disabling of photographs and video functions. Accessing of inappropriate sites and use of appropriate language is particularly important in this environment as children maybe around the learning environment. Any bullying (if working in groups) should also be reported, as discussed above, to the employer.

The tools, techniques and technologies in such a work based environment will again reflect a learner’s real life experience. Learners can try collaborative approaches with their real team especially if they are paired with other nurseries, this can save travelling costs and time. This is especially useful if they are managers. Real time/life problems will present themselves and the opportunity will be there for learners to overcome issues in realistic and relevant ways. Confidence, engagement and motivation will increase by using the new tools in real scenarios. Digital literacy learning in the workplace therefore promotes more active and engaging learning by its very nature. The work based environment is well known to the learner making them feel safe and secure, which can be a hurdle that may need to be overcome in a workshop environment, especially because people do not know one another. Teaching within 'their' environment may help to alleviate any negative views of education, which is engaging by its nature. Being in the learner’s place of work may help to overcome a fear of technology as they are in a familiar environment with people they know. The tutor coming into the learner’s work place helps build and foster positive relationship with the learner and employer based on mutual respect. Grouping the learners into small groups, could be problematic due to staffing levels in such settings, so it is therefore unlikely that such will occur and one to one support will be what is required. However, if grouping of learners can be done, again the same challenges and benefits (in terms of engagement and appropriateness) can be found in these settings as in the others discussed above) this would be ore effective to the training provider and could help engage the learners. However, some learners may not wish their colleagues to be made aware of their lack of skill and knowledge in this area. As with an office environment it can be difficult to isolate an area away from colleagues for the learning to take place, as such places as the office desk or staff room do not offer the privacy that some learners would require to be motivated and engaged. As within an office environment, inappropriate conduct and behaviour could be caused if the learner is disengaged in the wrong kind of environment. I such cases, a workshop environment may be better. It should also be noted here that in this environment there has been a divided view as to whether young children should be exposed to technology, tools and techniques to any level because, it has been argued that too much exposure can cause developmental delay and be harmful. This has caused certain settings or individuals in settings to fall behind in digital literacy skills and also affects the motivation of the learner. It is therefore advisable to make sessions even more engaging and useful both to the learner, employer and within the workplace, as well as discussing their usefulness in moderation to the children within their setting. By doing so, you are not discrediting their views, although there is dividing opinions on this topic, yet digital skills remain a topic in many schools. You should try and challenge this view but offer a middle ground by suggesting the use of some digital tools with children but not for all aspects of learning.

In this case, the learner and tutor needs to be mindful that sessions should be delivered without children around. They should be released by their employer to work on these skills whether in the setting privately or outside the setting in a workshop. This is because they will not be able to fully concentrate on the learning if they are repeatedly being called away and being disturbed by the children, whom are naturally curious about the technology and the colourful resources the staff are using and producing. This would be engaging as they are able to take a break from constantly concentrating on the children in their care. As within the other settings it is important to get to know the learner and what they need to use technology, tools and techniques for and what they find interesting about it and not just in the workplace, e.g. with their own (possibly older) children and not just those in the setting, with hobbies/interests or at home etc. This can be the key to providing an engaging environment in which their learning can take place.

A virtual learning environment

Virtual learning

Learners have the opportunity to participate and collaborate with other learners, including the tutor, through appropriate tools and techniques at agreed timescales. This environment is fully inclusive and provides learning which may not have been possible by more traditional methods due to distance and availability of the learners. The fact that they can learn in this way is engaging in itself, i.e. learn at a time when it suits them. Learners are provided with increased flexibility and are able to work at their own pace, virtually handing in their work and receiving instant feedback. This feedback and the nature of the learning is so beneficial and engaging. Inappropriate behaviour, however, can be more problematic to challenge in this situation. Sometimes, face to face contact is a better way to confront such behaviour, as body language and facial expressions are more easily read. Video calling like Skype and Face Time are useful, however, they do not give the authority required for dealing with inappropriate conduct. Inappropriate behaviour and conduct can also be challenging to police in this situation also, as they are not being directly supervised. Again, setting rules in writing online can help with this, as discussed above, in order to prevent this before learning starts is a good idea. Inappropriate behaviour should always be challenged when it occurs in according with policy and procedures of the training provider in this scenario.

The virtual classroom can be used in addition to traditional classroom methods, which can open up communication and enable a wide variety of communication channels such as forums, discussions, threads, polls and surveys. This can make the learning engaging, by the use of different tools to communicate with and to learn how to use, as well as providing different methods of learning. Talking to others about their learning with those in learning especially, albeit, online or in person, can help cement the learning for the learner, which is engaging in itself.

The virtual classroom provides the opportunity for collaborative working to take place amongst peers and tutors. This can be in real-time which can develop a deeper conversation and understanding of context.

Tools, techniques and technologies provide a vast range of teaching and learning platforms and resources that promote and support the virtual environment. Digital resources can be developed and are accessible to all learners in a variety of different formats in order to engage them in a fully inclusive digital literacy learning environment. These can be updated easily.

Some learners are unable to travel to a workshop for various reasons, for example, if it is too far away from them or they have child are issues, so this provides a flexible alternative to a workshop setting. This can be engaging. It is also engaging that they can learn from the comfort of their own home, and collaborate at any agreed given time convenient to those with whom they re collaborating with.

Overheads are reduced to training providers such as Educ8 by doing this; however, there is a reliance on the learner to invest in equipment and internet access that is essential for the learning environment to succeed. This is not so engaging and may lead to disengaged or inappropriate conduct such as stealing. In this case, prior to starting such learning it should be discussed with the learner what resources they possess, i.e. would they be visiting a library to have access to a device and internet in order to complete the learning. The opening hours and other restrictions should be discussed before hand. Again, if the learner is using such resources, they need to be made aware of the policies and procedures of the environment/venue, such as inappropriate sites and access time limits/limited internet time extensions. It may be worth the learner and tutor finding these out and securing them in their set of 'rules' for working. This said,it is normally the case that learners will have access to the internet via their mobile phone on the move, which is engaging, as they can learn on the move, wherever they are; however, a mobile screen may not be the best learning device for such learning and it would be more engaging for the learner to be learning in an environment conducive to learning, i.e. somewhere where they are able to concentrate.

The tutor must ensure that all learners are informed of key virtual meet dates and times in advance so that all are present. This provides its own challenges at times, as people lead such busy lives and there is a danger that inappropriate behaviour (resentment in online communication, for example) and disengagement can occur if, for example, one person is harder t tie down at a particular time than the others when collaboration is needed.


Created with images by fr4dd - "In den Bergen" • Micah Sittig - "Workshop classroom" • 377053 - "mac freelancer macintosh" • FirmBee - "office freelancer computer" • FirmBee - "office tax business" • OkiPlay - "Oki Play Old Macdonald farmerlizer"

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