Blog Post

Digital Literacy in the Immigrant Refugee Serving Sector - Increasing Collaboration (event recap)

By: Marco Campana
December 3, 2021

On November 18th, 2021 70 people working on Settlement and Language in the Canadian Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector came together informally to discuss digital literacy in our sector. This is a recap of the event, with panel video recordings, and breakout session summaries.


Lisa Rochman, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Skills and Foundational Learning at NorQuest College and I met in late July to talk about some of the interesting work NorQuest college is doing, and sharing, around digital literacy for Newcomers. As we talked, we realized we both wanted to share and learn more with others in the sector. So we hatched an idea for a half-day session to bring interested people together to talk about, learn, and share what they're doing when it comes to digital literacy in the sector. We decided to just do it on our own, no funding, no strings. I can't thank Lisa enough for her work and the work of her colleagues at NorQuest College, especially Linda Buhler. The event would not have happened without her.

A word from Lisa:

It was great to come together on November 18th for an informal sharing opportunity for the language and settlement sector. Throughout the last couple years, there has been so much work done by organizations across the sector on digital literacy, fluency and citizenship. The impact of the digital divide and need for digital literacy has been highlighted because of the move to online delivery for many services. Organizations built tools, capacity and knowledge to support their staff and clients and its this body of work and the work still going on we hope to finds ways to share. Reducing the duplication of work in the sector, reducing the piloting of models that have already been tried and instead building on existing knowledge and expanding on existing materials will create more resources and knowledge to move the sector forward. The challenge is to find ways to share what has been done and what is being done. That’s where this type of informal event fits in. Additionally, creating space for sharing and discussing projects and research that are still in development allows for a richer final product. I look forward to continuing the discussions!


A half-day working and sharing session bringing together language and settlement professionals to share what they’re working on, creating, are curious about, gaps, and needs around digital literacy, fluency, and citizenship for newcomers and service providers.


Digital literacy (equity, and inclusion) is a topic of focus, effort, and also a knowledge gap in our work. Many organizations are doing work in this area. Some of that work is formal and funded. Much of it is ad hoc and organizationally specific. We know some of the things. We don’t know what we don’t know. One way to find out is to create opportunities for collaboration.

And that is what this day was for.

Increasingly, organizations are interested in “working out loud” to share their information, what they’ve learned, even their specific project products with other organizations. 

Most organizations surveyed want to learn from and share with each other. They also indicate that the information ecosystem in our sector is fragmented, time is a challenge, and that they are both overloaded with information at the same time that they don’t know where to find some information they need.

Event recap

Our main goal for the day was to start a sector conversation. Bring people together doing work on digital literacy as well as those interested in working in this area. Whether they had complete projects, or were getting started on projects, initiatives, and ideas, whether funded or not, Lisa and I saw the value in sharing what is happening. Perhaps a connection might be made between people and projects. Maybe someone is working on something that complements or leverages the work of someone else. We need to get better at sharing and working out loud in our sector. And if this event showed us anything, many others want that too.

What the day looked like

Two panels

Panel 1

Three sector folks presented digital literacy resources they're using with newcomers - 10 minutes each with Q&A

  • Linda Manimtim - eSkills
  • Naomi Frey - Red River College
  • Lisa Herrera - ISSofBC

Panel 2

Three sector folks provided information about training on digital literacy for staff they offer or have accessed and the results - 10 minutes each with Q&A

  • John Gilliam - OCASI
  • Cansu Ekmekcioglu - University of Toronto
  • Agnes Thomas – Catholic Crosscultural Services

Four breakout rooms

  • Breakout 1: Emergency Remote Teaching Survey from COVID19
  • Breakout 2: A digital literacy discussion
  • Breakout 3: Providing PD for teachers teaching online
  • Breakout 4: Helping low-level digital literacy clients online

We had a report back from the Breakout rooms and then gave folks some time to network and continue to connect on the event platform.

Event videos

Panel 1 - Three sector folks presented digital literacy resources they're using with newcomers

Linda Manimtim

Download Linda's slides.

Naomi Frey

Download Naomi's slides.

Lisa Herrera

Download Lisa's slides.

Panel 1 discussion/Q&A

Panel 2 - Three sector folks provided information about training on digital literacy for staff they offer or have accessed and the results

John Gilliam

Download John's slides.

Cansu Ekmekcioglu

Download Cansu's slides.

Agnes Thomas (along with a group discussion among the panelists, building on Agnes' presentation)

Download Agnes' slides.

Breakout Sessions

Session summaries coming soon!

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