Teaching Adult Learners about Broadband Internet: A BTOP Digital Literacy Program

Since October 2010, I’ve been working with a team of educators to create learning content to support digital literacy skills and an understanding of broadband Internet. The goal of the project, which was funded by NTIA/BTOP is to increase broadband adoption in our participating states by supporting digital literacy, proving the relevance of high speed Internet to our learners, and teaching how to make decisions about finding and buying broadband Internet.

We are using software created at Portland State University called the Learner Web. This online tool is a framework for grouping existing resources, like websites, into learning plans and placing the resources in front of learners at just the right time, so that they can make use of them to reach learning goals.

Developing the digital literacy part of the project was fairly straightforward. We had a list of benchmarks on which to base our learning plans.  However, figuring out how to address instruction about broadband consumer education was more difficult. Our task was to show that broadband is relevant to our adult learners and teach them language and processes for learning about broadband technology, access options, Internet service plans, and contracts.

We are now in the piloting phase of the content creation.  We created learning plans on the following topics:

What is broadband Internet?

Defines different broadband technologies and where to access them.

How Can You Be a Savvy Consumer?

Instructs on different aspects of selecting a broadband Internet service plan.

Do You Need a Computer?

Connects learners to local resources showing them where to find public computer labs or nonprofits that sell or give away refurbished computers.

How Do You Prepare to Buy Broadband?

Prepare learners for the actual buying experience. Provide tips for asking good questions and talking to a salesperson.

Finding resources for this learning content was difficult. We found some fun YouTube clips like “Dial UP” about how dial-up can be so slow.  However most of what we found was either not from the US, like these great resources from Great Britain, or were commercially developed to promote a specific Internet company.

To fill the void, we created some of our own modules. Please check out the resources we created. I'd love feedback and to hear about instructive links you've found as well!

Jen Vanek, Learner Web Consultant
Minnesota Literacy Council

For more BTOP-related tools and resources, vist TechSoup's Broadband Stories.