Technology for Literacy and Essential Skills


Technology is everywhere! More and more schools – students, teachers, and staff use computers on an everyday basis. Learning for the 21st Century, a report from a new public-private coalition known as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, articulates a vision of how schools can best prepare students to succeed in the first decades of the 21st century. Although the authors of this report, are careful to point out that there are plenty of learning skills that have nothing to do with technology, they describe 21st century tools — including computers, telecommunications, and audio- or video-based media — as critical enablers of learning in a number of realms. And the fact that the information age that has resulted from the widespread adoption of such tools places us “in a world of almost unlimited streams of trivial and profound information, of enormous opportunity and difficult choices,” necessitates an emphasis on information and communication technology literacy skills that will allow students to make sense of it all.

But why should we integrate information and communication technology (ICT) in education?

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the arguments in favour of the ICT introduction in school come from three (3) supporting reasons: economic, social and educational.


The economic reason relates to the important place of ICT on the job market. There is the need for ICT competent staff in many different fields of work. The knowledge of the new numerical tools and the ability to handle them is an important factor of employability in today’s 21st century. The Canadian Council of the Ministry of Education, aware of those facts, considers that students with a limited or absent knowledge of ICT may have difficulties to effectively access the job market. Consequently, the school system has the obligation to integrate ICT in order to answer the new needs of the job market.


The social reason ensues from the increasing place of ICT in today’s society. It is based on three points.

  1. The importance of ICT in society. This article revealed the results of a study that indicated more users of the Internet from 2006 when compared to the previous year, and that two thirds (67 %) of the study participants live in a home connected to Internet and that the majority of them (86 %) are subscribed to a high speed connection.
  2. Recognized more so today, students feel disappointed that their daily school environment does not reflect the current technological landscape that is prevalent in their everyday lives. Students quickly learn, grow and adapt to ICT in today’s society while the school marks a remarkable delay with regards to this evolution.
  3. The ability to incorporate ICT became a priority in the professional realm, certainly, but also within the social realm: “Today, knowledge of the new technologies of information is almost as fundamental as knowing how to read, write and count.”


Using computers to teach students, inclusive of those with disabilities, will support individualized learning while decreasing the work load of the teachers. Several studies underline the potential of the technologies to insure inclusion of students with disabilities in the regular classrooms while facilitating their access to educational programs.

ICT enhances and develops literacy skills

A booklet developed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) titled ‘Using ICT to develop literacy’provides examples on how ICT can be used to develop literacy skills. Some of the studies cited in this booklet indicate that:

  • Combination of audio and visual stimuli is more effective than visual stimuli alone in enhancing vocabulary and sentence construction skills and can aid information processing and memory.
  • Computer assisted instruction may be valuable in improving the phonological awareness of children.
  • Talking books has assisted children to improve their reading comprehension and their decoding skills
  • Since computers are able to provide users with immediate feedback, learners of literacy can proceed more quickly and effectively than otherwise. Computers and multimedia computer programs provide an advantage over radio and television in that they enable interactive learning, trial and error, and manipulation of text.
  • Using computer programs, learners can work independently, flexibly, and at their own pace, developing both oral and aural skills at the same time as learning to read.
  • Computers can encourage learners to participate in literacy education and can motivate them to continue to learn, thereby increasing rates of retention of literacy students

Office of Literacy and Essential Skills

The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills is focused on improving the literacy and essential skills of adult Canadians. They have defined 9 skills that are

  • needed for work, learning and life;
  • the foundation for learning all other skills;
  • help individuals evolve with work and adapt to workplace change

In this section, you will learn about the 9 literacy and essential skills and how ICT can support students with each of these skills. Both high technology and low technology solutions will be explored for each skill. High technology solutions will look at sophisticated electronic or computer based solutions, while low technology solutions are less expensive tools that are readily available.

Literacy and Essential Skills are:


Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2003). Learning for the 21st century.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2006). Using ICT to Develop Literacy.

How Technology for Literacy and Essential Skills Relates to the AODA legislation

graphic with the words: Helping you meet Ontario's AODA

The Technology and Learning information relates to the following sections of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Integrated Accessibility Regulation:

Accessible Formats and Communication Supports

Training on Accessible Course Delivery and Instruction

AODA Significance:

  1. The Technology and Learning sections describes how educators might utilize inclusive technologies to teach, communicate and share information.
  2.  People interact, learn and communicate in diverse ways. Learning opportunities are increased when flexible ways of engaging with learning materials are provided. Considering how people communicate is important for knowledge to be exchanged. Alternative formats take into account diverse ways of exchanging information.
  3. The AODA legislates that educators, teachers and staff learn about accessible course delivery, instruction and evaluation and be knowledgeable at interacting and communicating with people with disabilities who may use alternative formats.

Additional Resources:

To learn of ways to innovate, develop & design for accessibility, visit OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre website.                                                                       

To learn how this section relates to the core principles of the AODA Customer Service regulation, visit the AODA page on SNOW.