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Portrait of a happy multigenerational multiethnic family at home.

When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, people from all walks of life scrambled to move learning and business operations online with the aid of digital devices and platforms. This urgent online movement called digital transformation caused businesses and organizations like the Alabama Cooperative Extension System to incorporate digital technology into all facets of their operations. As a result, it changed the way products and services were delivered to consumers not just in Alabama but around the world. Unfortunately, those unable to connect their digital devices to the internet during the initial outbreak learned to be creative to survive. Living in a world driven by digital technology can motivate people to become more digitally literate.

What is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy involves finding, examining, and communicating information using digital devices, such as a smartphone, tablet, computer, or watch. Digital skills are becoming more essential to live, work, and learn online. Digitally literate people have a basic knowledge of digital devices and know how to research topics, send email, pay bills, video chat, or even shop online. Mobile software applications called apps (software) enable users to perform these specific tasks on digital devices. With time and proper training anyone—including older adults—can become digitally literate.

Digital Literacy in Alabama

Literacy and Computer Science Standards

In 2018, the Alabama State Board of Education issued the standards Alabama Course of Study Digital Literacy and Computer Science. These standards are a framework to ensure that all students are digitally literate. Alabama’s educators want students in grades K through 12 to use technology responsibly for creating, communicating, and interacting with other people globally. These skills enable students to not only access and evaluate information but to engage with others in a digital technology-based world with confidence.

Expanding Broadband Service

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced that funds will be allocated to expand broadband capabilities to unserved areas in February 2024. This funding allows 16 service providers to expand high-speed internet connectivity to communities in 48 counties. The financial resources come from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund targeted for expanding broadband, digital technology, and community center projects in 42 states, including Alabama.

Alabama Extension Services

There are several ways that Alabamians can become more digitally literate through Alabama Extension programming.

The 4-H Tech Changemakers

Alabama 4-H at Alabama A&M University has trained more than 23 youth to be a 4-H Tech Changemaker. This initiative trains youths to teach digital skills to underserved audiences of all ages. For more information, contact 4-H Youth Development Specialist Angela Williams at (256) 372-5713.

Mastering the Digital Landscape

Extension Specialist Dorothy Brandon offers online basics for older adults in underserved communities who desire to become digitally literate through the course, Mastering the Digital Landscape: Online Basics for Older Adults. Classes can be customized based on the needs of a group and delivered in person for both new and experienced online users. Review the flyer (Mastering Digital Landscape) for a list of potential topics. Contact Brandon for additional information at (256) 372-5458.

Virginia Caples Lifelong Learning Institute

The Virginia Caples Lifelong Learning Institute (VCLLI) also offers digital classes to older adults from computer basics to using smartphones. Contact VCLLI Site Director Danielle Rudolph at (256) 372-4949 for more information.

Explore Learning Opportunities

Alabama Extension continues to explore opportunities to reach audiences both in person and via digital devices on multiple platforms. Visit www.aces.edu/calendar to find educational sessions near you or offered online.