Digital competence is becoming more and more indispensable for full participation in society and for personal development. In Poland, 10 out of 13 million adults aged 50+ did not use Internet in 2010. At present, it is more and more difficult for persons that do not have basic digital competence to function in society.
The response for his problem are so called The Lighthouse Keepers of Digital Poland. They are trained volunteers that conduct in their local communities activities aimed at digital education of adults aged 50+. Their role is to encourage people to use digital technologies and train them how to do it. Therefore, a Lighthouse Keeper is a person that that shows persons aged 50+ how to use a mobile phone, a computer or a tablet, helps make first steps in the Internet as well as use tools such as electronic mail or a browser. Educational activities of Lighthouse Keepers distinguish themselves by their informal character and focus on individual needs of learners. Moreover, the Lighthouse Keepers operate using local Internet access points such as libraries, stations of Voluntary Fire Services, telecentres. For people aged 50+ learning in such conditions is easier than at a formalized course conducted by IT experts. Particularly, because in many cases it is a one-on-one interaction rather than educator-group.
Where does the name the Lighthouse Keepers come from? A lighthouse keeper is a person taking care of a lighthouse. The following explanation can be found on the web site dedicated to the initiative (https://latarnicy.pl): a lighthouse shows a way to those who can read its signals. The same as every sailor should use those signals, every Polish citizen should know how to use the Internet, computer hardware, mobile phones and different digital devices.
At the moment there are nearly 3 000 certified Lighthouse Keepers in Poland, who are local leaders conducting activities aiming at digital education. They are social activists. When asked about their motivation they usually answer: I like sharing my knowledge, I like helping others. There is no doubt that this help cannot be overestimated. Thanks to the Lighthouse Keepers life of those who were trained becomes easier – they can find and publish information in the Internet, use electronic mail, social media or skype, make electronic bank transfers and many other things. Learning brings benefits in a broader sense, e.g. helps to impress grandchildren and children or reestablish contact with persons we haven’t spoken to for a long time. In a broader perspective, Lighthouse Keepers contribute to a huge change in the Polish society by combating digital exclusion of older generations of Polish citizens.
I invite you to comment the text and share your experiences relating to digital education of adults.
Anna Pokrzywnicka has been working in the Foundation for the Development of the Education System in Poland since 2011, where in 2014 she became member of the EPALE Support Service team, responsible for supporting the development of the platform and its promotion in Poland. She has a few year experience in the field of international cooperation, EU funds management and training.