Breaking Digital Barriers: A Social-Cognitive Approach to Improving Digital Literacy in Older Adults

  • Kelly S. Steelman
  • Kay L. Tislar
  • Leo C. UreelII
  • Charles Wallace
Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 617)


The ability to navigate the ever-changing world of digital technology is a new form of literacy, one that presents a considerable challenge to older adults. Digital literacy has quickly evolved from an option to a necessity, and the rapid pace of technological change makes it insufficient to simply teach older adults to use a single technology. Rather, they must develop flexible skills and technological self-efficacy in order to maintain their hard-earned digital literacy. For four years, our research group has led a digital literacy program to address older adults’ questions about digital tools and applications. Through our work, we have identified numerous socio-technical barriers that older adults encounter as they adopt new technology and explore the digital world. Here, we review these barriers, discuss the Social Cognitive Theory that informs our tutoring approach, and describe our ongoing work to formalize the training program and develop technology to support older adults online.


Older adults Senior citizens Aging Digital literacy Computer training Cyberlearning Social cognitive theory Critical decision making 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelly S. Steelman
    • 1
  • Kay L. Tislar
    • 1
  • Leo C. UreelII
    • 1
  • Charles Wallace
    • 1
  1. 1.Michigan Technological UniversityHoughtonUSA

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