Digital literacy is an essential prerequisite for success in European higher education and for subsequent employment, economic and material progress. For refugees from outside Europe, it is also a prerequisite for successful integration or adaptation to the European social and institutional environment while preserving cultural identity, continuity and cohesion. A digital literacy curriculum is the means to bridge the gap between existing digital experiences and abilities and future digital opportunities and necessities; it is thus culturally specific and context specific, and needs to be reconceptualised in order to empower these new learners. We explore these observations in relation to the MOONLITE Erasmus+ project focussed on refugee access to European higher education.
We argue that the idea of digital literacy has not been developed, discussed or defined in the education systems of the Middle East from which many refugees originate. Based on a review of the education ministry policies in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, West Bank, Egypt and Gaza undertaken for UNRWA by one of the authors, we argue that these ideas are, however, quite culturally and linguistically specific and Eurocentric. Moreover, refugees live and move in specific, complex and fluid circumstances, e.g, crossing borders and encountering different potentially threatening national regulations and enforcement agencies, maintaining access to food, shelter and transport; navigating optimal routes to their intended destination whilst avoiding detention. These suggest that specific digital skills, attitudes and choices are needed, which include the ability to learn from mobiles on the road or in camps, the need to maintain contact with dispersed family members, to access online markets and crowd sourced funding, the ability to learn whilst being resettled, the ability to preserve culture and language whilst accessing international online resources and communities, the need to build an online cultural identity as physical cultures are threatened, the need for digital criticality in the face of internet radicalisation.
Finally, we propose the development of mobile free / open community MOOC formats as a pragmatic response to the current uncertainty and fluidity of the refugee digital environment, empowering learners via familiar formats, systems, interactions and interfaces. We also advocate the use of aspects of culture as additional OER metadata.
Gilster, P., & Glister, P. (1997). Digital literacy. New York: Wiley Computer Pub.
Martín-Monje, E., & Bárcena, E. (Eds.). (2015). Language MOOCs: providing learning, transcending boundaries. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.