Free webinar: Learning the 21st century way: Making sense of how to use social media for learning

August 16, 2012

Over the past decade social media has changed how individuals connect online and share information and how organizations interact with stakeholders and customers. Did you know that social media is now being incorporated into learning programs from Kindergarten right on up through adult education? Does it really add any value to the learning process?

In this one-hour webinar, I’ll share exactly how I incorporated social media (and in particular, Twitter) into one of my classes. I’ll share what worked, what didn’t and what you can do in your own teaching or training practice to effectively integrate social media ‐ and why you might want to.

By the end of the webinar you will:
• Have a basic understanding of how social media can add value to your learning programs
• Gain insight into how to incorporate social media into a lesson plan
• Get ideas on how to assess activities using social media
• Get ideas on how to incorporate social media into your own learning programs

There will be time for questions at the end of the webinar.

This free webinar is sponsored by Essential Skills Ontario. Here are the details:

Date: Tuesday, August 21st, 2012


10:00 a.m. Pacific Time (Vancouver, BC)

11:00 a.m. Mountain Time (Calgary, AB)

1:00 p.m.  Eastern Time (Toronto, ON)

2:00 p.m. – Atlantic Time (Halifax, NS)

6:00 p.m. – British Summer Time (London U.K.)

7:00 p.m. – Eastern European Time (Cairo, Egypt)

It’s free for you to join in, but you must register, since there are only 100 spots available.  Click here to register.


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too


Literacy and Essential Skills: Why Digital Literacy is Crucial

December 6, 2011

The Guardian recently published an article called “No place in class for digital illiterates“. The article talks about how children who lack technology literacy skills are getting left behind. Writer Gavin Dudeney talks about changing definitions of literacy that now include “digital literacy”  or the ability to use the Internet and interact with digital texts.

As I was writing The Need For Increased Integration of Technology and Digital Skills in the Literacy Field in Canada I found research that suggests that Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills may be just the beginning. One of the 9 Essential Skills is “Computer Use”. Some researchers are suggesting that this term is too narrow. Today, it is not enough for a person to know how to turn on a computer, manipulate a mouse or use a track pad or write a resume on a word processing program. Digital skills are an important part of computer use.

People need to know how to search for everyday information such as bus schedules, tax information and other important information that is part of every day living. Job seekers need to know how to search for and apply for jobs posted on the Internet and submit their resume through an online application system. More and more job application sites require users to create an account and register with a company or a service. If adults do not know how to do these things, they will fall behind.

Children who do not know how to use touch screens or the Internet may find themselves disadvantaged later on, as they try to catch up with digitally savvy peers. There are some groups and individuals who are opposed to the increased use of technology in schools. Waldorf Schools, a system of private schools with an excellent reputation, reportedly does not use any technology in its elementary grades.

As an educator, I worry about such approaches. Clearly, it works for them because they are a hugely successful network of schools. But I openly confess that I have never worked with a Waldorf school, myself. I’d love to be invited to one to see how they teach and engage with their learners. As a bit of a “tech junkie”, I have to acknowledge my bias in favour of using more technology, rather than less. I worried whether children who do not learn how to use touch screens or the Internet in their school years may find themselves disadvantaged later on, as they try to catch up with digitally savvy peers?

Having said that, I do think it is important to incorporate technology in a meaningful way that shows why we are using it, what purpose it serves and ultimately, how it benefits the learner. It is critical to make these links so that we show how digital skills can help children develop cognitively and socially so that when they grow up, their lives as adults have meaning as they find work that makes them feel that they are making a meaningful contribution to their world. It is a world that we can only dream about right now. As an educator, I ask, how do we best prepare our learners for success in five, ten or twenty years’ time? And what will “literacy and essential skills” look like a decade from now?


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too.

Social Media Challenges in the Workplace – CIRA panel discussion

November 24, 2011
CIRA Dinner Calgary

(Left to Right) John Moreau, Tom Hesse, Sarah Eaton and Andy Robertson debating social media challenges in the workplace

Tonight I took place on a panel discussion in Calgary on the issue of social media challenges in Calgary. The dinner event was hosted by the Southern Alberta chapter of the Canadian Industrial Relations Association (CIRA), and organized by Dr. Kelly Williams-Whitt, who is a professor of Labour Relations at the University of Lethbridge (Calgary Campus) and serves in a leadership role with CIRA.

My fellow panelists were:

  • Andy Robertson, Partner, Macleod Dixon LLP
  • Tom Hesse, United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW) 401
  • John Moreau, Arbitrator

Dr. Whitt presented us with three Canadian labour cases including:

  1. A female employed in the health care sector who posted photos of patients without their permission on her blog, discussing their conditions and making disparaging remarks about her fellow employees, her workplace and her bosses. (She was later dismissed from her job.)
  2. A male employee with documented mental health issues who blogged about his Neo-Nazi beliefs, his hatred of certain racial groups, the desecration of animal remains that he took part in, the anti-depressants he was on and other assorted topics. He mentioned the name of his employer in his blog. (He was suspended from work and then reinstated.)
  3. A male employee who circulated pornography to his co-workers and was later found to have over 3000 pornographic images and some porn videos in his work e-mail account. (He was suspended from work and then reinstated).

Each panelist gave commentary on the cases, based on their respective experience. My point of view was mainly “pro” social media. My main arguments were:

  • Most companies do not train their employees adequately on how to use social media effectively and responsibly.
  • Organizations need to make their expectations about online behaviour very clear to employees.
  • Everyone who engages in social media leaves a “digital footprint”. Employees and employers need to be aware of what this is and what it can mean over the long term.
  • Digital citizenship is in an important skills to learn in the 21st century.
  • Online reputation management is becoming more important for both employees and employers.

Here’s a clip of my commentary:

It was a lively and invigorating discussion that touched on topics such as personal freedoms, organizational control, common sense and personal responsibility. My fellow panelists were articulate, well-informed and thoughtful in their responses. Being neither a lawyer, nor a union voice, I was honoured to take part in the discussion.


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too.

You thought Canada was a literate country? Think again

May 26, 2011

In 2003, the International Adult Literacy Skills Survey (IALLS) tested more than 23,000 Canadians in four areas:

  • prose literacy
  • document literacy
  • numeracy
  • problem-solving

Proficiency was rated on the basis of levels one to five, that is, lowest to highest. Level 3 corresponds roughly to high school completion.

In case you’re wondering what this test was all about anyway… IALLS is the Canadian component of the “Adult Literacy and Life Skills” study, which was a joint project of the Government of Canada, the US National Center for Education Statistics and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The larger study was an international undertaking, involving thousands of people from numerous countries. In the literacy world, it’s a big deal. The results are a big deal for all of us Canadians. We have more work to do to raise the bar for all Canadians.

Literacy isn’t a black and white issue. It’s not a matter of “You can read” or “You can’t read”. There’s a continuum. Skills can be built at any time over the life span. They can also decline if we don’t use them.

Sad blonde girl with bookThere is an idea out there at literacy is “an immigrant problem.” Well, folks, it’s a myth. While it’s true that about 60% of new immigrants to Canada scored below Level 3 on the IALSS test, there are tens of thousands of people born right here in Canada who lack sufficient literacy skills.

One shocking result of the test?

2% of Canadian born university-educated individuals scored at the lowest level of prose literacy.

We have to ask ourselves: How are we allowing these people to slip through the cracks, grade after grade and year after year? How is it that someone born in Canada can graduate with an undergraduate degree when they score at the lowest level possible on an international literacy test? Although those results are troubling, some might argue that those people are the exception, that they are the outliers on the bell curve of test results.

Before you write off the stats as being an exception, think about this result:

About 37% of the total Canadian-born population scored below Level 3 in prose literacy.

In other words, about 9 million Canadian-born adult citizens lack sufficient literacy skills to function in the workplace.

Let’s put that into perspective for a minute.

9 Million people…

That’s the entire population of Nova Scotia. Multiplied by 9.

The number of people killed during the Russian Revolution over half a decade from 1917-1922.

The number of people in the UK who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

The number of people who follow Justin Bieber on Twitter.

Just under the total number of people in the entire world who suffer from hunger.

However you look at it, 9 million is a lot of people.

What can we do, Canada, to raise the bar for literacy?


Related posts

Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills

Literacy and Essential Skills (video)

“The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read”


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too.

Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills

January 1, 2011

It used to be that being literate meant being able to read and write. Over time, the definition has expanded to include a variety of basic skills that are needed for people to function in the world. In Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has established 9 components to literacy. Together they make up the Literacy and Essential Skills that our government has determined that are important for Canadians:

  1. Reading text
  2. Document use
  3. Numeracy
  4. Writing
  5. Oral communication
  6. Working with others
  7. Continuous learning
  8. Thinking skills
  9. Computer use

Literacy isn’t a black-and-white, clear-cut issue. A person may excel in one essential skill and have poor abilities in another area. Sue is a network tech who is brilliant in the area of computer use, but doesn’t write very well. Her sentences are poorly constructed and his spelling makes it difficult to understand what he means. Sue would rank high in computer use, and low in writing.

Alfred is a senior citizen who reads and writes very well. Opposite to Sue, he dislikes computers intensely and finds them intimidating. He doesn’t own a cell phone or a home computer and doesn’t want one. In an increasingly technology-centered world, he is frustrated by things like bank machines and the machines at the  local light rail transit station where he must buy a ticket if he wants to go somewhere. Alfred would score high on reading and writing, and poorly on computer use.

In today’s world, reading and writing aren’t enough for most adults to function in society. Together the 9 Literacy and Essential Skills cover all the skills we need for life in the 21st Century.


Related posts:

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Printable Resources for Adult Basic Skills

July 23, 2010

Looking for some free, printable resources for adult literacy, ESL and basic education learners?

The site offers links to a plethora of resources, which are all categorized by topic. Go check it out at Printable Resources for Adult Basic Skills (Here is the URL:

This is a veritable gold mine of resources for teachers and tutors.


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Literacy – It isn’t about how much money you have

July 22, 2010

A few months ago I did a short video on Literacy and Essential Skills.  Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) outlines 9 literacy and essential skills:

  • Reading text
  • Document use
  • Numeracy
  • Writing
  • Oral communication
  • Working with others
  • Continuous learning
  • Thinking Skills
  • Computer use

Yesterday I was reminded that a person can have high function in some areas of literacy, but not all of them. I saw an excellent, though sad, example of a young man lacking skills in basic document use.  I was at the post office, in line behind a young man who was maybe 19 or 20. Decked out in Pumas, and other high-end brand name clothing, he sported the latest in cell phones. He spent most of his time in line on the phone.

He arrived at the counter with a sheaf of papers in his hand. They had the look of some standard government forms. The conversation with the clerk went like this:

Customer: “I need to mail these.” Clearly, he was a native speaker of English.

Clerk: “OK. Do you have an envelope?”

Customer: “No. Do you sell them?”

Clerk: “Yes, we have pre-stamped envelopes.” She went to the drawer and pulled out an envelope.

Customer: “Um… What do I do with it?”

Clerk: “You have to put the papers in the envelope. You fold them. See, like this…” She showed him how to fold the papers.

He put them in the envelope and then handed it to her saying, “I don’t know what to do with it.”

She said, “You have to write your name and address up here,” she said, pointing to the upper left hand corner of the envelope. “Then you have to write the name and address of the person you’re sending it to here,” pointing to the middle of the envelope.

“Oh…OK,” he said, with his air of coolness, giving way to awkwardness, tinted by shame.

He did exactly as she told him, writing his own name and address in a single line across the top of the envelope.

He then took the papers out of the envelope and copied the addressee’s name and address in the middle of the envelope, until he ran out of space, and then he looked at her.

“Finish writing the address below where you started. Write the rest on a new line,” she said gently.

He did that and handed her the envelope again. She said, “You have to lick the flap on the back where the glue is and seal it shut.”

He did that, too and then looked at her questioningly as if to say, “Are we done, yet?”

She just smiled and told him how much it would cost. He whipped out his wallet, showing off a sheaf of bills.

Literacy isn’t about how much money you have, what kind of clothes you sport or what kind of gadgets you carry. Literacy is about having basic, yet essential skills, that allow you to do everyday things such as mail a letter.


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