Press "Enter" to skip to content

About Breaking Digital Barriers

We are a group of students and faculty committed to helping older adults and other underrepresented groups in the digital world, through research, outreach, and advocacy.

Older adults and other newcomers face a variety of obstacles when entering the digital realm. Our research explores learning strategies to bring them into the digital community and give them the skills they need to stay current in this ever-changing space. Our outreach work helps newcomers in a range of venues, and also gives university students valuable first-hand tutoring experience with capable people struggling with unfamiliar technology.

The Breaking Digital Barriers team is refining and testing a learning model that seeks to mitigate anxiety and strengthen development of higher order skills. Rote step-by-step “solutions” do not give learners long-term competencies; instead, we offer strategies that allow users to ​explore (understand the full space of affordances that are available to them, by a combination of visual scanning and navigation) and tinker (understand how user actions affect the system state, by direct action) in a safe, methodical way.The BDB team is currently developing the following:

  • Online BASIC training unit for use by technology trainers in informal educational settings (e.g. librarians, senior living staff, volunteers).
  • Digital Competencies Assessment Toolkit (DCAT)​​, including a gamified assessment of online exploration and tinkering, a test of learners’ mental models of digital interactions, and a technological self-efficacy questionnaire. DCAT will be a fast and easy way to determine current levels of digital competencies and to assess progress in training.
  • HTML5 toolkit allowing website developers to use accessibility functions that encourage exploration, reveal hidden functions, and allow users to create dynamic annotations to serve as memory aids.