Lifelong learning

Essential Skills

In December I attended Essential Skills training through Literacy Alberta.

These are the 9 essential skills according to Employment and Social Development Canada:

Document Use
Computer Use
Oral Communications
Working with Others
Continuous Learning

A nice breakdown can be found here and here. Essential Skills are important because they are necessary for you to adapt to your environment and learn. Most of these skills are ones that people pick up along the way during their education. Sometimes these skills are not learned, which can be for a variety of reasons. Particularly for people who are newcomers to Canada or people with low reading literacy, these issues can prevent employment, stifle education, and make it difficult for people to succeed in Canadian society. I personally, didn’t feel like I really knew the meaning of skim vs scan until this workshop and I’m a grad student- so I think there is more to be learned by all of us.

I thought I would post a bit about what I learned from the workshop and hope to apply in dealing with people with low literacy:

  • Complexity levels: different types of questions are harder than others- When/How much/Where/Who questions are easiest because it is a fact. Which and How require some contrasting and comparing so they are harder. Why questions are analytical thinking questions so they are the most difficult to respond to.
  • Scaffolding – the idea that essential skills build upon each other. If you don’t have the ability to answer a when/where question you are not going to be able to answer a why question.
  • Therefore, when communicating with someone with low essential skills, try to ask questions that are not beyond their means of communicating.
  • Snapping questions- break a question down into what information is given and what are they looking for. For example “Tell me which subjects Timmy does badly in at school” assumes that Timmy goes to school, he takes multiple subjects, and he does badly in at least one. This can be helpful to show someone who can’t understand a question.
  • Skim vs Scan: Skim a page to get a general idea, scan a page to locate a specific word or piece of information.
  • There are four stages of learning: unconscious incompetence (“That looks easy”), conscious incompetence (“I can’t do it, it’s hard”), conscious competence (“I’m doing it”), unconscious competence (“it’s easy, I don’t think even think about it”).
  • Theory of Information Matching: You need to be able to locate information, multiple times, process it enough to use the information, and think critically about the information. If you have all of these things, you can then create new information. Locate-Cycle-Integrate-Generate-Create.

To learn more about Essential Skills, click here.


In which John Green is Awesome

“Adult librarians are like lazy bakers: their patrons want a jelly doughnut, so they give them a jelly doughnut. Children’s librarians are ambitious bakers: ‘You like the jelly doughnut? I’ll get you a jelly doughnut. But you should try my cruller, too. My cruller is gonna blow your mind, kid.” –John Green

I was talking with some friends about social media guru’s (specifically Wil Wheaton, as I just finished watching The Guild– long story) and one of the people who I think should be mentioned is John Green. Caveat- I haven’t actually read any of his very popular and well respected books, however I have been a huge follower of his many video blogs and mental floss work.

His social media work is relevant to libraries, as he promotes literature (he is an author after all) and lifelong learning through the type of video blogging that he does, which is educational in nature. He’s also spend some time thinking about copyright (see video below) and defending libraries vis-à-vis copyright. So I encourage you to check out his social media work in addition to his novels and I think it’s worth considering whether libraries can get in on social media to encourage lifelong learning in a similar way.