“This time last year I didn’t own a smartphone.”

In the classroom we have been blending digital skills with literacy skills. For many of our students, technology is not only a tool to improve their literacy but something they now use in their everyday life. Here they share their thoughts on why digital skills are so important:

“I found using the tablet very handy in the class. It is just basically like your phone. I find it better to read off the phone. I can read off the phone better than reading off paper. I think it’s because I am glued to my phone for the last few years. I wouldn’t pick up a newspaper or a book but I would read little stories on my phone. The writing now looks weird and too small on the newspaper. I can concentrate better on the phone now.”

“It’s just as good because we will be using technology in the future. I am on my phone now more looking at Facebook or looking at JD sports for clothes. I would see something online and then go in to the shops. I feel more included in being able to do things that people are talking about.”

“I use Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram. I put pictures of my dinner up to show everyone. I send funny videos on WhatsApp. Nothing serious. I did find the spelling games we did great alright. I learned how to use email and type up my stories. My tutor also sent me a digital book called Book Creator to read which was great! It is something to keep me going.”

“When we used Zoom first I was ages getting on to it. I used to just do the steps! I didn’t know what I was doing but just did what my tutor told me. I clicked the coloured circle to get in to the internet. I clicked on my email. I pressed the blue writing to bring me in to Zoom. Thank god I am now much quicker and able to turn my camera on and off. I prefer classes in the centre but when we were in lockdown it was better than nothing.”

“I never heard of Zoom until we started using it in the classroom. My tutor set it up on my phone but we were weeks getting used to the camera and sound. I didn’t think I would really use it again until my daughter had her parent teacher meeting on Zoom. I can now do what everyone else is able to do.”

“I found that the phone really helped me this year. I found it is a great help because I worked out how to make it read text back to me. I know I still need to work on my reading and writing but this is great for me. It helps me to be independent. I don’t want to be asking my kids all the time for help. I want to be able to do it myself.”

“I found out how to use the app called Google Lens. My tutor showed me how to use it. She put it on my phone. We did it in the class a few times. It is brilliant. It helped me read a letter for my breast check appointment. It was a very long letter from the doctor and I couldn’t read it on my own. Now I hold the phone over and it reads it back to me. It is great! This time last year I didn’t have a smartphone. I am delighted!”

The Mitigating Against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF) provides funding to support educationally disadvantaged learners in accessing and participating in community education. The fund was launched by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD, and is administered by SOLAS, the further education and training authority, and the 16 local Education and Training Boards.

DALC is very grateful to all the partners involved in the The Mitigating Against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF) which enabled us to buy tablets to keep learning going during the lockdown. Our stories above are testament to the impact that this fund can have on positive transformative change in people’s lives.

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