Dr Ann Devitt, Digital Family Literacy: an exploration of family literacy practices using digital technologies to support literacy

Finger pointing to an open book

In the OECD 2012 Adult Skills Survey, 1 in 6 Irish adults were found to be at or below level 1 on a five-point literacy scale. Low literacy levels have a high cost to individuals but also to society and the economy with increased unemployment, health problems and lower civic engagement. The Digital Family Literacy: an exploration of family literacy practices using digital technologies to support literacy project (2019-2022) led by Dr Ann Devitt (Trinity College Dublin), was designed in collaboration with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) as part of the Irish Research Council’s COALESCE challenge-focused programme. It aimed to explore the use of technology in developing literacy skills of parents with unmet literacy learning needs. The team developed a blueprint for online family literacy programmes, working with parents and educators to test and refine the materials.

The research outcomes, which include a video series on numeracy, literacy and creatively and curriculum materials to support families, schools, and adult literacy organisers, were integrated as resources on TUSLA HSCL induction packs, familylearning.ie and helpmykidlearn.ie. These resources also featured in articles published by the Irish Examiner, Drive Time and Like Family on RTE.



Screengrab of TCD Learning at Home website

Screengrab of the project’s ‘Learning at Home’ resources.

In 2022, the team completed three webinars to circulate project findings to the research community (Federation of European Literacy Associations webinar), to the adult literacy practitioner community (Family Literacy Practitioner network) and to the adult literacy policy community (NALA family literacy webinar).

Learners were very positive about the programmes, experiencing improved digital literacy skills, self-confidence, and greater feelings of social connection to peers.

By developing good practice in family learning in an online/distance context, this project has delivered lasting impact for parents, families, teachers and curriculum developers. The project strongly demonstrates the intersection of the research system with the national skills agenda, and the tangible contribution of research to addressing societal challenges such as adult literacy.

Screengrab of Literacy on the Loose YouTube channel

Screengrab of the project’s YouTube video series ‘Literacy on the Loose’


The COALESCE Scheme was launched in 2018 as the IRC’s challenge focused scheme. COALESCE (Collaborative Alliances for Societal Challenges) was conceived with the ambition to fund excellent research addressing national, European, and global challenges by bringing together researchers and Government and policy makers, enterprise, and civil society. The scheme aims to integrate the knowledge and evidence borne through robust research into the sphere of public policy, creating tangible and enduring links between the publicly funded research system and policy makers.

This project ran throughout COVID and a key output of the project was the video and resource series we produced to support children, families and schools during the emergency school closures. These have had over 20,000 views on YouTube and are embedded in key resources websites for families and educators at NALA, GOV.ie, and DCYA.

Dr Anne Devitt

Dr Anne Devitt

Dr Ann Devitt

Dr Ann Devitt is an Associate Professor of Language Education at the School of Education in Trinity College Dublin. Her research interests lie in the area of language teaching and learning and technology enhanced learning. She is currently academic director for Learnovate, the research and innovation centre focused on educational technology funded by Enterprise Ireland and hosted in TCD.

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