Language, literacy and numeracy skills – how technology can help

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited Consultant

Did you know that one in two adult Australians are below the internationally recognised level of literacy and numeracy to effectively function in the workplace and beyond? Allison Miller explains the implications of this shocking statistic for the VET sector, and how technology can help to address the issue.

What’s all the fuss about language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) and foundation skills?

The need to raise people’s language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills is becoming more evident within the VET sector as new units of competency now incorporate and map explicit foundation skills. This move is being supported by VET practitioners now undertaking the TAELLN411 Address adult language, literacy and numeracy skills unit of competency as part of their Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40110).

These changes come as a response to the low skills levels of literacy and numeracy in adult Australians, with only around 50% of working age Australians with literacy and numeracy skills of a Level 3 or above (Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, Summary Results, Australia, 2006). This means that 1 in 2 adults are below the internationally recognised level of literacy and numeracy to effectively function in the workplace and beyond.

Service Skills Australia defines:

  • Language as the main way we make and understand meaning as humans.
  • Literacy as the ability to read and use written information as well as to write appropriately, at home, at work and in the community.
  • Numeracy as the ability to use the mathematical concepts needed to function effectively in work and social context.

In other words we are talking about basic skills required in order to effectively navigate our world.

Leap into action with the best ways to build your learner's foundation skills

What does this mean to VET practitioners?

It is crucial that VET practitioners not only support learners with low LLN, but also develop and help improve the LLN of their learners. This means that all VET practitioners need to identify strategies to recognise, support, and build these skills into their existing training programs.

Technology to the rescue!

You will be pleased to learn that it’s not all doom and gloom – the effective use of digital technology to develop digital literacy has been shown to be a traversal enabler of key competencies such as language, literacy and numeracy (LLN, Ferrari, 2013).

Here are some of the ways people are integrating technology into their training program to help build their learners’ LLN:

  • Providing video/audio and text – including the text version of a person speaking means that learners can listen to what is being said while reading the words.
  • Scripting and recording audio answers – allowing learners to record their answers verbally means that they can practice their language skills, and then listen to check whether it makes sense.
  • Storyboarding and recording video – allowing learners to provide video answers / stories means that they can brainstorm and storyboard their work before recording.
  • Writing forum/blog/micro-blog posts and commenting – getting learners to write forum/blog/micro-blog posts means they are writing for a wider audience than just their teacher. This helps learners focus on the quality of their writing, and also encourages the analysis and response on other people’s posts.
  • Setting up online calendars – asking learners to schedule their assessment due dates and set up regular reminders in an online calendar helps learners manage their study commitments while improving their time management.
  • Utilising online mind-mapping tools – getting learners to visually brainstorm and link ideas through online mind-mapping tools mean that they can build connections between ideas and concepts while improving their spatial awareness.
  • Accessing open online content and activities – the Web is full of free online activities to help develop LLN. One good example is the Khan Academy, which provides online tutorials and seminars on maths and many more areas.
  • Incorporating social media groups – encouraging use of groups in social media sites like Facebook and Google+ allows learners to view video/text content as well as share their own work and ideas for review and critique by their peers.

Connecting digital technologies and LLN

You have now read about several ways in which digital technology can be used to build the language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) of your learners. The following table summarises the skills upon which each technology will have impact.

Technology Language Literacy Numeracy
Video/audio with text X X  
Audio X X  
Video X X X
Forums / blogs / micro-blogs X X  
Online calendars   X X
Online mind-mapping tools X X X
Online content and activities X X X
Social media groups X X  

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander

The beauty of using digital technologies in your training means that all learners will get the opportunity to improve their LLN, resulting in better engagement with their studies in general – not to mention the positive impact this will have on their careers and lives. It does need to be acknowledged, however, that not all learners have ubiquitous access to the internet. Alternative options should therefore be considered for these learners such as providing access to internet enabled devices or computer labs.

Yes there is support out there

If you are looking for cost-effective and time-efficient ways to build and increase your learners’ language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills you might like to review the resources and events on the LLN and VET Meeting Place website. If you are not sure how to incorporate this approach into your online content, then contact eWorks’ content development team.

One thought on “Language, literacy and numeracy skills – how technology can help”

Comments are closed.