New poll highlights importance of digital skills

by James Reid08 Sep 2017
Almost 90% of Australians believe people who can’t use computers are being left behind, according to a national poll to coincide with International Literacy Day, which is being marked today.

The poll, released by the Reading Writing Hotline – a free service that assists people who are struggling with reading, writing and digital skills – shows that Australians without computer skills are seen as being left behind as the digital economy grows.

Among the biggest stumbling blocks for people who struggle with digital literacy are school emails, applying for jobs electronically and understanding and managing privacy issues on social media.

Reading Writing Hotline national manager, Vanessa Iles, said that an increasing number of everyday tasks require the ability to use a smart phone, tablet or computer.

“Australians without digital skills face real challenges completing important tasks that others find second nature. Important tasks like applying for a job or paying a bill increasingly require online skills and access to technology,” she said.

“Even if people can get online, those with low levels of literacy struggle with the reading required to complete online tasks.”

Iles said her organisation’s poll found that 90% of Australians agree that knowing how to use a computer is essential to many important activities, such as applying for a job.

The poll also found 79% of Australians believe young people find all aspects of online activities, such as emailing and texting, easy.

“While most Australians believe young people have no trouble with digital skills, young people who struggle with reading actually face real stumbling blocks when completing online tasks,” she said.

“The Reading Writing Hotline has been helping adults of all ages with reading and writing skills for decades and now we’re also helping with digital skills.”
 
The latest poll follows claims made by leading Australian literacy academic, Dr Noella Mackenzie that the Australian education system has “dropped the ball” in terms of ensuring that students are equipped with strong literacy skills.
 
Dr Mackenzie said primary school children are leaving school without the handwriting and keyboarding skills to thrive in writing tasks, with some children unable to perform efficiently on tasks that require them to write – by hand or on keyboards – because they have not learned the skills or practised them enough.
 
“If our handwriting or keyboarding is automatic and fast, we can concentrate on other elements of writing, such as composing the message,” Dr Mackenzie said.
 
“But handwriting and keyboarding skills both require complex sensory, motor, perceptual and cognitive skills and we are not giving students the instruction or the time to develop and practise these skills so they become efficient and automatic practitioners.”


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