From Design to Delivery: Digital Literacy + Coding Project Update

By Jessica Thornton and
Simona Ramkisson

February 22, 2018

By Jessica Thornton and Simona Ramkisson
February 22, 2018

Earlier this month we participated in Ontario’s Digital Inclusion Summit, and heard the Honourable Eleanor McMahon, President of the Treasury Board, Minister Responsible for Digital Government ask her audience to consider an important question. She asked us to ponder, “who is being served by technology? How is it being designed? And what problems are we solving for?”

This is something we have been thinking a lot about as we continue to design and iterate our Digital Literacy + Coding Pilot, announced last March.

Initially, the goal of this pilot was to build and test an accessible, scalable model for delivering digital literacy programming across Ontario, to ensure that all youth gain access to this critical 21st-Century skill. This pilot was particularly focused on engaging youth aged 12-15 from backgrounds currently underrepresented in STEM, including girls. These are young people who, according to a recent report from Actua, have an incredible appetite to learn digital skills but have suffered from a lack of access to programming.

Honourable Eleanor McMahon, President of the Treasury Board and Minister Responsible for Digital Government, addressed the Ontario Digital Inclusion Summit on February 9, 2018.

“Who is being served by technology? How is it being designed? And what problems are we solving for?”
The Honourable Eleanor McMahon, President of the Treasury Board, Minister Responsible for Digital Government

In order to do this, we convened a broad range of partners, including experts in digital literacy programming, youth engagement, community development, education policy, and evaluation to co-create a model. To test this model, our plan was to work with digital literacy programming partners to deliver the program through established community organizations that prioritize youth development such as local Boys and Girls Clubs, public libraries, and YMCAs. Throughout the program, we would evaluate the model to better understand what works and what doesn’t, in order to generate useful policy recommendations.

Initial Delivery Model

Almost a year later, a key early learning was the need to create an environment that encourages youth-led learning. For our model to engage all youth, especially those who are not currently engaged in building digital skills, the program must provide a space for youth to pursue a variety of interests and issues that they find interesting. By giving young people the ability to collaborate with instructors and curriculum designers on what they want to create, we are able to build a program that connects building and designing web-based assets to issues of real importance in their local communities. To this end, the Digital Literacy + Coding pilot is designed to shift and evolve based on the interests of participants, while still supporting the development of the same set of core digital skills.

This month, we’re preparing to roll out the pilot at four sites across Ontario, followed by an additional two in April. The pilot will run for two years to refine the model, and generate key policy insights. We look forward to formally announcing more details in the coming weeks.

As the above diagram outlines, initially we planned to work with digital literacy programming organizations to deliver the program in collaboration with community organizations. However, based on early testing, we discovered the importance of empowering community organizations to deliver the program, with the support of trained instructors. In doing so, we’re building the capacity of our host sites to catalyze and enhance digital literacy programming, increasing the likelihood that the program will continue to be delivered beyond the life of the pilot.

Revised Delivery Model

To ensure these instructors are properly supported, we’ve hired an experienced digital literacy expert, Simona Ramkisson. For the last three years, Simona led the Mozilla Foundation Hive Learning Network in southern Ontario, supporting web literacy programming. Since joining us in January, Simona has been working with our community partners to hire and train instructors, finalize curriculum, and create a digital platform in Github to ensure all resources are open and accessible.

Over the next two years, we look forward to sharing project updates, as well as key learnings and insights. In addition to unveiling pilot site locations, one of the upcoming updates will be to share the pilot’s new name, because – let’s be honest – Digital Literacy + Coding pilot is not exactly engaging. We’ve decided to let youth participants from the first cohort name the program – stay tuned.

For questions, please contact Jessica Thornton or Simona Ramkisson.


For media enquiries, please contact Coralie D’Souza, Director of Communications, Events + Community Relations at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

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