What’s the best way to create a national immigrant & refugee-serving sector digital literacy education approach?

So, the short answer is I don’t know. But what I do know is that we can learn from others. So, here are some examples of digital professional development and education in other sectors that we might as well study, learn & borrow from, and build on.

Of course, lest you think I don’t think we have much professional development in our sector, allow me to dissuade you. We have lots. What we don’t have is coordination, sharing, and collaboration. There. I said it.

Here, for example, is a quick list of places you can get your learning on:

So, that’s a lot, right? You might be wondering, what’s your problem, Marco? Hmmm?

My problem is that there is no coordination, standardization, analysis against a matrix of core competencies, or even enough collaboration among all these initiatives. When it comes to tech. There’s not much at all in these core sector professional development environments. Much less anything consistent or baseline.

It’s as confusing a system to navigate as accessing services is for newcomers. Where do I start? Who’s legit? Will I get what I want from my investment of time and money? How do they compare to each other? Doing more there would be a great starting point. And then let’s not stop there.

Here are some examples of other sectors where we can draw some inspiration and possibly replication. A key feature of each of these is that they are resourced in some way, with investments from funders, or fees. Either way, they provide centralized one-stop shopping, support, information, and expertise for non-profits or government folks. I’m not going to analyze them. I’m not going to do anything other than show you they exist and suggest that perhaps there’s something our sector can learn, beg, borrow, and steal from. I’m probably not even going to rewrite their marketing copy. Here they are, for you to assess and discuss:

The mission of The LearnIT2teach Project is to develop courseware and provide language educator accredited training and professional development to support the integration and adaptation of immigrants to Canada and contribute to the modernization of settlement language training. To achieve the project mission, we provide Canadian-centric blended resources and delivery tools, and we train language educators to engage immigrant clients using open-source learning technologies.

Furthermore, we support a Canadian TELL community of practice for settlement language training professionals by:

  • Engagement of the community through creative application of social networking tools suited to the needs and interests of the target training audience;
  • Stimulation of thought, discussion, personal re ection, and research and inquiry through articles, audio podcasts, web videos and conference presentations.

AlphaPlus helps adult education organizations use technology to impact learner outcomes, improve business practices and strengthen program delivery through increased digital literacy. provides tools, training and tailored coaching services to organizations applying technology in adult learning environments. Our approach is designed to meet individual needs, identify new and existing resources, increase organizational and instructor confidence, and enhance the learner experience. We guide and support adult education service providers and educators to take control of their digital technology with:

  • One-on-one technology coaching services.
  • Learning sessions and workshops delivered on-site.
  • Ad hoc support to identify and integrate digital tools and strategies.
  • Access to adult education resources that improve practices and communication.
  • Training, webinars and industry news.

Open Call: Helping governments move at the speed of need
Code for Canada is part of a new initiative that’s helping Canadian governments build digital services for residents and businesses during COVID-19. In collaboration with the Canadian Digital Service and the Canada School of Public Service (they run a Digital Academy. Oh, how I want one of those for the sector…) , we’ve assembled a catalogue of open source tools that governments can use to quickly respond to COVID-19 and deliver what matters to constituents.The curated tools in Open Call are free, reusable, and can be easily shared among different levels of government. Many of them are already being used by governments here in Canada — or around the world — and can be adapted to local needs. And thanks to open licenses and code hosted on Github, teams can start using these tools today!

First Nations Technology Council
We are an Indigenous-led not-for-profit working to ensure that Indigenous peoples have the tools, education and support to thrive in the digital age. We are mandated by Indigenous peoples in British Columbia to advance digital and connected technologies.

  • We provide funded and accredited education programs to advance Indigenous peoples careers in innovation and technology.
  • We participate in and lead community research projects that result in tangible benefits for Indigenous peoples.
  • We create strategies to advance equitable, affordable and sustainable access to technology in Indigenous communities.
  • We advocate for better policy solutions for internet affordability and reliability in Indigenous communities.

UN Digital Academy
The UN Digital Academy is a new ICC service – a learning platform developed jointly by Microsoft and ICC that serves as a central repository of training resources and content to enable UN staff and stakeholders in their digital transformation journeys. The UN Digital Academy hosts bite-sized courses curated by Microsoft that are meant for end-users to develop their digital and technology skills. As ICC develops the platform, it is expected that it may evolve more broadly with additional quality content from other sources, including content produced by the UN, always tailored for the UN.

TechSoup Courses
Courses for Nonprofits and Libraries. Our learning content is designed specifically for staff at organizations like yours. Learn from experts that have deep experience in the sector and understand your unique needs. Our courses are developed in-house by our instructional design team in partnership with subject-matter experts. We partner with experts that have significant experience to ensure that our content is relevant to your needs.

NetHope’s Center for the Digital Nonprofit
Through collaboration, we bring together the expertise of the technology sector with the on-the-ground experience of nonprofits to create a foundation for forward-looking organizations to deliver aid, relieve suffering, and build hope. By providing the expertise, resources, tools, guidance, and grantmaking needed for digital transformation, The Center helps nonprofits achieve the efficiency of tomorrow today.

Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology
This book was written to help social work educators make pedagogically sound, rational, practical, and ethical decisions about integrating technology into their social work programs and across the curriculum. It covers a range of essential topics, from understanding digital literacy skills to ethical implications for technology in social work practice, from using technology in the traditional classroom to fully online teaching environments. Case studies, practical examples, and technology tips are integrated into each chapter, and checklists show how technology is integrated with the Council on Social Work Education’s EPAS competencies, the NASW’s Code of Ethics, and other social work practice standards and guidelines. Appendices provide a wealth of practical materials.

There are probably more useful examples. Someone should compile, analyze, and share what might work from them in the immigrant and refugee-serving sector.

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