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Softening the digital divide

Knotted LAN cable

Thanks to Megan (The new digital divide – meganpoore.com) for the links to these reports relating to the digital divide.

Green, H. & Hannon, C. 2007, ‘Their Space: Education for a Digital Generation‘ , Pamphlet

The authors, give a commentary on the state of the digital divide, deconstruct misconceptions and make recommendations for future action and policy. They describe educator’s responsibilities in an era of  a new digital divide:

Schools have an essential role to play in redressing the imbalances caused by this new digital divide which is based on access to knowledge not hardware.  p.59

yet advise caution against complacency  in combating the traditional digital divide:

While fears around the impact of the digital divide in terms of access to hardware have lessened in recent years, research indicates that there is a small minority that is missing out. This group of learners is often the most vulnerable to being left behind academically, making the existence of yet another inequality even more damaging.   p.64

This comment is very important. Yes, the mainstream has moved on but for those still grappling with access issues, the chasm of the knowledge divide widens. This is particularly important in regards to my interest in open source textbooks. This seeks to address the new knowledge divide yet, we may be compounding issues at the tail end of the access spectrum.

Despite being published by a UK based think-tank, the implications of this report are very relevant here in Australia. As the Rudd government’s laptop rollout attempts to address the traditional digital divide, what are the implications for the knowledge divide. What else must we do through policy or through action in schools to ensure this ‘digital revolution’ does not breed more problems?

A more Australian-centric view is found in:

Blanchard, M., Metcalf, A., Burns, J.M. (2007) Bridging the digital divide: creating opportunities for marginalised young people to get connected’ Report for the Inspire Foundation and OrygenYouth Health Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Melbourne.

As the authors state;

This study challenges the concept of the ‘digital divide’ being purely about whether an individual has access.

This study of ICT use in marginalised Australian youth reported higher than expected rates of access to the internet (97%) in the sample group. Yet access in the home was only 42%, only two-thirds the rate of the standard home (citing 2006 cencus data for Victorian households). Further, less than one-fifth (18%) of the sample accesssed internet at school yet only half the sample were attending school. Normalising this figure such that is has some meaning, still only 35% (17 reports of school internet access / 49 school attendees in sample) of school attendents were using the internet at school, a somewhat worrying statistic (no ‘baseline’ statistics are quoted).

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  1. March 11, 2010 at 11:15 pm
  2. March 28, 2010 at 4:03 am
  3. March 28, 2010 at 11:53 am

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