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Cautious Clicker or Traditional Learner? Pew Looks at Adults' 'Digital Readiness'

From adults' technology adoption to parents' attitudes towards teen social media use, the Pew Research Center has in recent years emerged as a leading source of insight on how the country's grown-ups are adapting to the digital age.

Last month, Pew took a new tack, seeking to gauge the "digital readiness" of U.S. adults by surveying them about their confidence using computers, ability to get getting new technology to work, use of digital tools for their own learning, ability to determine trustworthiness of online information, and their familiarity with popular ed-tech terms. PI_2016.09.20_Digital-Readiness-Gaps_1-01.png

Among the more interesting findings: just how unfamiliar most adults are with common ed-tech resources or concepts. Almost 70 percent of adults, for example, say they're not familiar at all with digital badges, Khan Academy, or massively open online courses. Nearly half say they're not familiar at all with distance learning.

Overall, Pew maintains, "digital readiness" consists of skills (e.g., using the internet), trust (when it comes to the information found online), and use (the degree to which people use digital tools to carry out online tasks).

The report breaks U.S. adults into five groups: 

  • The Unprepared (14 percent): This group is characterized by low technology adoption. They lack confidence, don't use the internet for learning, need help setting up new devices, and are not familiar with ed-tech terms or where to fund reliable online information. Adults in this group are more likely to be women, older, less-educated, and lower-income.
  • Traditional Learners (5 percent): This group is made up of active learners who have technology, but don't readily use the internet for learning purposes and are skeptical about online information. Adults in this group are more likely to be women, older, minorities, and lower-income.
  • The Reluctant (33 percent): This group has some digital skills, but low levels of awareness of popular ed-tech terms, which leads to relatively low use of the internet for learning. Adults in this group are more likely to be men, older, less-educated and lower-income.
  • Cautious Clickers (31 percent): These individuals have high levels of tech ownership and are confident in their ability to find trustworthy information online. But they're still not very familiar with ed-tech terminology and not very likely to use online tools for learning. Adults in this group are likely to be higher-income and in their 30s and 40s.
  • Digitally Ready (17 percent): This group has technology and confidence in their ability to find trustworthy information. They know the most about online learning resources and are "ardent learners for personal enrichment." Adults in this group tend to be better-educated, higher-income, and in their 30s and 40s.

All told, that makes more than half of U.S. adults "relatively hesitant" when it comes to using technology for personal learning, Pew found.

"It is important to note that the findings represent a snapshot of where adults are today in a fairly nascent stage of e-learning in society," the report notes. "The groupings here may well change in the coming years as people's understanding of e-tools grows and as the creators of technology related to e-learning evolve it and attempt to make it more user friendly."


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