Chapter 8: Learner-led learning circles to share apps and tips

Learning circles and informal workshops focused on cellphone use and useful apps can be incorporated into programs, providing opportunities for learners to take on leadership roles and serving as an outreach activity. They can take place weekly at scheduled times over a period of six to eight weeks. Learn more about the approach in the context of U.S.-based adult basic education programs.

Learners who rely on their smartphones and have figured out some savvy strategies to keep costs low, remain secure and troubleshoot might be interested in leading informal workshops for others. You might simply need to provide some space and the opportunity to encourage the sharing of strategies and information. When speaking with a group of learners as part of a research project, we learned that a group of students had some very clear ideas about what they would like to learn in relation to technology in their lives.

Talking to students about the ways they use their devices at home and their technology concerns could help when developing new workshops and courses. It also makes sense to build on the technology knowledge and skills that learners have developed using their smartphones.

Students discuss security and troubleshooting

A group of students in one program discussed the importance of learning how to protect themselves from fraud and manipulation when online. The conversation started when one student recalled the experiences of another student, an older woman who was learning to use a computer for the first time.

I feel for that woman. She has absolutely no skill level. The first thing they are teaching her is how to log on and off, but what she also needs to learn is about viruses and nefarious sites. People need to learn how not to be a victim of fraudulent and nefarious programs. All of a sudden, everything you’ve ever worked for is going to someone. They have armies of people trying to steal our information.

Another student started to share his knowledge about various add-ons and applications he has learned to use to protect his computer and online activity. People need to protect against hacking, he explained, recommending NoScript, an extension to avoid pop-up ads and malicious viruses. He also suggested that people need to learn how to clear their cache regularly. 

Both then discussed how they have learned to deal with viruses and accumulated malware. One mentioned the use of a FixMeStick. The other discussed how to find a trustworthy technician when nothing else seems to work.

A third student then explained that he never used to worry about someone taking his information until the day he became the victim of debit card theft while purchasing gas. He had $1,500 stolen, which was returned to him by his bank, but he is now much more cautious.

They then discussed the usefulness of learning to do more precise searches using AND, OR and quotation marks. Two agreed this would be very useful to learn. People need to be wary when spending too much time with technology, particularly when gaming, added a younger student. It’s also important to learn about healthy tech use and to recognize when teens and young adults could be running into problems.