Levelling Up: The Quest for Digital Literacy

Levelling Up: The Quest for Digital Literacy maps the digital literacy education and training landscape in Canada. It highlights the types of digital skills that people in Canada are pursuing, sheds light on barriers to access, and identifies existing gaps and potential opportunities to improve the development and supply of digital literacy skills.

The growth of digital literacy programs in Canada is exciting. There is a wide array of programs available with promising delivery models and curricula. Some operate entirely within the formal K–12 and post-secondary education systems, while others are led by non-profit and private sector actors working alongsideand sometimes in partnership withschools, colleges, and universities. However, the landscape of opportunities for learning digital skills is fragmented and difficult for some learners to navigate. Many people in Canada are at risk of falling through the cracks, unsure of what skills they are missing or how to develop them.

This report draws on more than 90 semi-structured interviews with experts and practitioners across Canada, including: digital literacy education and training providers; school board representatives and teachers; policymakers at all levels of government; and academics studying digital literacy, the digital economy and technology in the classroom.

Read this report to help you:

  • Understand how public, non-profit, and private organizations make up the formal and informal digital literacy education and training systems in Canada, and how they work together;
  • Explore a framework for understanding types and levels of digital literacy and skills, and the range of digital literacy education and training programs that Canadians are pursuing;
  • Understand barriers to digital access, and other factors contributing to the digital divide across the country;
  • Learn about opportunities to improve access to and delivery of digital literacy education and training in Canada, from targeted support for underserved or disadvantaged people to mid-career training, more training for teachers, and rigorous evaluation of what’s working and what isn’t.

Key facts from the report:

  • Digital literacy, and the skills and capabilities that it comprises, continues to evolve as technology becomes more all-encompassing, forcing people to remain up-to-date to facilitate civic and social participation, access public services, and succeed in a digitizing economy.
  • While coding is an in-demand digital skill, learning specific coding languages is not enough in today’s evolving digital environment. Curricula should also include the more transferable skills associated with computational thinking and computer science theory needed to understand, use, and create digital tools and products. Advanced training may also involve skills related to data science, cybersecurity, digital production and creative arts, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
  • There is a wide array of digital literacy education and training programs available, some entirely within the formal K-12 and post-secondary education system and others led by nonprofit and private sector actors working alongside, and sometimes in partnership with, schools, colleges and universities.
  • However, the landscape of opportunities for learning digital skills is fragmented and difficult for some learners to navigate, even those that are digitally savvy. In their quest for digital literacy development, learners are moving between educational sectors, programs and fields, building career and learning pathways that may pivot and take sharp turns or—in some cases—missteps.
  • Many people in Canada are at risk of falling through the cracks, with  low levels of digital literacy continuing to overlap with other aspects of socioeconomic marginalization, including low incomes, low literacy and numeracy rates, and remote and un-networked communities.
  • Canada suffers from a digital divide despite public funding commitments for Internet, hardware and training. Consistent digital access (to hardware, software, Wifi and data) and training in digital skills are foundational requirements for building and maintaining digital literacy and confidence using technology.

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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