I’ve just finished reading Futurelab’s Beyond the Digital Divide paper from June last year. I must have missed it at the time of publication but came across it in a round-about way thru’ their blog: flux.
There were a couple of things that stood out for me. Firstly, the need to move away from a conventional simplistic understanding of the digital divide which is essentially one based on access to technology.
That’s not to say that this divide between those with and without access should be ignored or downplayed just that it would appear to be more complex than simply the haves and have-nots. For example the Futurelab paper refers to people who have access but don’t make the most appropriate use of it & those who just don’t engage with ICTs or get little from their engagement. In an earlier post I referred to digital dissidents, those who avoid using technology whenever possible, which in one UK survey accounted for 20% of teenagers (See Synovate survey in CIBER report in Net-savvy post!!).
The Futurelab report refers back to a 2000 paper More than Access (PDF) which identifies a number of literacies to consider around the digital divide. I particularly liked the idea of an adaptive literacy – an ability and willingness to apply previous learning to new situations. This is crucial in the world of constantly changing ICTs. The report also took me to I’ve never tried it because I don’t like it: enabling technology choices (PDF) by Mike Cushman & Ela Klecun here at the LSE. They advocate a more discursive approach to ICT teaching to enable understanding rather than just skills acquisition and suggest a need to focus on the possibilities not a prescribed set of uses in order to encourage engagement. I think this is something we are quite good at with regard to our learning technology programme but as ever ‘could do better’!
While reading this paper I kept thinking digital divide, beyond, rethinking, divide, digital… where have I come across this recently? Then of course it hit me: ALT-C 2008 ‘Rethinking the Digital Divide’. See you there?