Milan Inside GalleryFor months, I have been thinking about how to utilize my media skills and research experience to advance digital literacy. I imagine working in a practical more than theoretical way, in partnership with my neighbours who live in the East Vancouver community.  I have spent most of my adult life in this community, working with video as a director, software as an editor, and arts-and community-based methods as a researcher. In 2014, I designed and led a Digital Storytelling Workshop for LGBT2Q people who have been diagnosed and treated for breast or gynecological cancer.

The Information Age is a common term used to describe our social era; while some still live without computers, skilled use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) is viewed as a prerequisite for meaningful employment and social connectivity. Yet many mid-life and older adults consider ICT training on a strictly ‘need-to-know’ basis. They have not developed a high level of confidence in their ability to use ICT.

Adults with limited exposure to computers are easily discouraged and require additional support to overcome barriers to learning. Consider a worker who has been laid off after working in the same position for years, or a recent immigrant who is struggling with language barriers as well as technological challenges. One could argue that increased confidence in ICT use more generally increases economic productivity. However, the human cost of social isolation due to a lack of computer skills is arguably more detrimental to individuals.

Digital literacy is an approach to learning that goes beyond simply acquiring new skills. Encouraging digital literacy means learning and then teaching others in your community. It means learning as a community. Digital storytelling is an effective way to promote digital literacy because everyone has a story to tell. In order to tell a story, a person learns a little about word processing to write the script, a little about databases to organize the shots, a little about video and audio production to record the shots, and a little about graphic design and editing to create the finished digital story. Creating digital stories within a familiar community of learners can empower individuals and engage an entire community. My expertise as an administrator, fundraiser and teacher enable me to launch the East Van Digital Literacy Project.