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EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe


Breaking Barriers – Embracing Literacy through Digital Media

by Keith Aquilina
Language: EN

Background of the Project

Literacy is a key competence that ensures social cohesion and personal fulfillment.  Adults with difficulties in understanding the written word in both print and digital forms face barriers to actively participate in society. Furthermore people struggling with reading and writing difficulties may hide their needs and this makes identifying learning needs more challenging.

Adult educators also face new challenges and opportunities to adapt to the digital environment and to use digital-supported teaching methods (digital pedagogies) for basic skills teaching. The emergence of web tools offers new possibilities to explore innovative teaching methods.

The lack in basic literacy skills is highlighted in the international survey of adults skills conducted by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competences (PIAAC). The Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (UNESCO, 2012) report identifies a key conceptual problem related to the lack of a common global understanding of how to approach literacy. This suggests the significant need for cross-border collaboration and innovation in the development of literacy programmes for adults and teaching tools for educators.

The project tackles the question, of how digital tools can met the need of low-skilled adult learners.   This will be done through the strategic collaboration of 8 European partners specialised in adult learning, education and digital media. The project aims to explore and show how adult educators can engage and motivate adult learners by using digital tools and storytelling.



The four key project objectives are:

  1. Researching and sharing cross-border best practices to understand approaches in tackling basic literacy for adults through digital innovation;
  2. Training of adult educators who specialise in the teaching of basic literacy skills;
  3. Creation of an innovative tool kit for adult educators focusing on the use digital media and interactive story-telling to teach basic skills;
  4. Development of customised, manual complementing the digital tool kit. 




Profile of Participants

Breaking Barriers includes the participation of 8 organisations from 8 different European countries with a track record in adult education and who are share a vision of innovative approaches to adult learning. The project targets adult teachers/ educators/trainers/ as well as researchers and administrators. It includes 6 exchanges in job shadowing and an estimate of 56 exchanges for in-service training.  The below are the organisations involved;

  1. Directorate for Lifelong Learning and Early School Leavers, Malta
  2. Vox, Nasjonalt fagorgan for kompetansepolitikk - Norway
  3. Friesland College Stichting voor Algemeen Voortgezet Onderwijs, Beroepsonderwijs en Volwasseneneducatie - Netherlands
  4. Institute of education, University of London - United Kingdom
  5. AIM - Agenzia Intercultura e Mobilità - Italy
  6. Sydesmos Ekpedefsis enilikon Kyprou - Cyprus
  7. Deinde Sp. z o.o. - Poland
  8. Association Alliance for Development of Adult Education and Lifelong Learning - Macedonia




  1. Launching Workshop


  1. Research on the previously established techniques in basic adult literacy related to digital media.


  1.  Peer Learning Activity (PLA) (2 sessions)


  1. Capacity building of adult educators
  1. Job shadowing for adult educators and coordinators in basic literacy courses in the United Kingdom.
  2. In-service courses for adult educators in the United Kingdom, Cyprus and Italy
  3. Study Visit for adult educators in Norway


  1.  Intellectual Outputs
  1. Designing of a digital toolkit to be utilised in basic literacy courses for adult learners.
  2. Creation of a complementary manual with the digital tool kit

6.  Outreach publications

  1. Stands with leaflets including contacts for basic literacy skills
  2. Newspaper articles
  3. Radio clips
  4. Video clips (audio/vision)
  5. Television spots
  1. Project Website


  1. Concluding conference



  1. Published research on adult literacy and possible innovative methods of teaching to encourage and engage adult learners attending basic skills courses.
  2. Improved capacity building and enhanced professional development of adult educators competent in the teaching of basic literacy skills to adult learners.
  3. Increased level of digital competence and professional development of adult educators in the teaching of basic literacy through digital media and storytelling.
  4. Creation of a toolkit and complementary manual on basic literacy for adults to be used by the eight participating partners.


Impact and Long-term Benefits

Breaking Barriers aims to tackle the need of the cohort of low-skilled literate adults between 25 and 65 years of age to ultimately help leaners build new skills and improve career prospects.  Each participating country faces different difficulties in tackling low- skilled literate adults.  The ubiquity of digital media makes this need more significant and opens up new opportunities for more engaging teaching and learning methods in basic literacy teaching. Through the strategic collaboration of 8 partners, the project aims to introduce cutting-edge techniques to tackle literacy challenges in adult learning across cultures.*

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