Digital divide

“Technology is only as powerful as it is accessible.
Broader access brings education, information, and
a sense of community that can help combat AIDS,
malnutrition, ignorance and neglect. The power of
a connected and enlightened world community
is just beginning.”

(Hector Ruiz, ex-Chairman of the Board
and ex-President of AMD)

‘Digital divide’, also known as ‘digital split’, is an extremely debated social phenomenon affecting the 21st century.

The Organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD, 2001, p.4) defines it as “the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities”. A key concept related to this phenomenon is the participation in the ‘information age’ (Snyder, 2010). “Social participation refers to the extent to which individuals, families and communities are able to take part in the society” (Warschauer, 2003, p.8). Reflecting on the deep change that digital technologies have determined in the way people work, study and communicate, having or not having access to the Internet, participate or not in the digital life, is essential in determining individual and collective destinies.

There are many are factors contributing to the increase of the digital gap, such as democracy, economy, interests and education. However, according to the Organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD, 2001), education is considered one of the major contributors. Following a research carried out by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics of 2013, 774 million adults (15 years and older) have resulted unable to write and read and most of them were women (two-thirds, which corresponds to nearly 493 women). In addition, the same research has revealed that 123 million children under the age of 15 were illiterate, with 76 million being female (http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/pages/data-release-map-2013.aspx ). Broadly speaking, the higher the level of education is, the more access and use of ICTs working, studying and at home. In addition, according to a survey conducted by the Organisation for economic co-operation and development (2001), only in the year 2000, “more than 94 percent of links to pages on secure servers were in English”. As a natural consequence, those who are illiterate or who cannot speak English will be directly excluded from the participation on the Net.

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Reflecting on what has been previously mentioned, a reasonable way to decrease the digital divide, promoting a wider access to digital technologies regardless of the families’ income or social conditions, might be investing on the development of digital pedagogies within the education system. Sarah Phinney (cited in Steele-Carlin, 2000) points out that by simply providing a computer in people’s homes at someone else’s expenses, does not guarantee that those people might be able to use it efficiently and enjoy from the benefit that the digital technology can bring. The same author continues by saying that “the most highly educated have the greatest access to technology, and those with the greatest access to technology have the greatest access”. It is keeping this “declaration” in mind that teachers, educators and the education system in general should acknowledge the importance of digital pedagogies and make sure that digital technology is included in the school curriculum so that students might be digitally literate and efficiently equipped to be active participants of this new digital era.

Reference list:

Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority. (2016). Digital Technologies. Accessed from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/technologies/digital-technologies/curriculum/f-10?layout=1#level9-10.

OECD. (2001). Understanding the Digital Divide. Organisation for EconomicOrganisation and Development. Accessed from: https://www.oecd.org/sti/1888451.pdf.

Snyder, I. & Nieuwenhuysen, J. (2010). Closing the Gap in Education? Improving Outcomes in Southern World Societies. Monash University Publishing.

Steele-Carlin, S. (2000). Education World. Copyright Education World.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2014). Retrieved from http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/pages/data-release-map-2013.aspx

Digital Identity & Security

Generally speaking, the word “Identity” has been defined as “the way single individuals or groups see and define themselves in relation to others, and how the others define them” (Browne, 2008). Reflecting on this, the exponential increase in the use of digital technologies has contributed to influence this idea.

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According to a definition provided by Technopedia (2016), a ‘Digital identity’ is “an online or networked identity adopted or claimed in cyberspace by an individual, organization or electronic device”. In other words, a ‘digital identity’ is the Internet or Network equivalent identity that the same person has in his/her ‘real life’, when using a digital device or accessing the Web. When browsing the Net, it is required to confirm a series of authentication of our personal data to validate our identity and continue the navigation, the research or the purchase if buying anything online. As BCG (2012) points out, we are constantly living ‘double lives’, a physical and a digital one. by using digital technologies people can decide to act like someone different from who they really are and this expose users, teenagers especially, to an extremely high risk exposing themselves to phenomena such as cyber-bullying and identity theft.

Given to the exponential role that digital technologies are playing in people’s everyday life, and purchasing items online inserting credit card details, phone numbers, address and date of birth is part of a daily routine. As a result, a constantly increasing data of our identity is spread in the Net on a daily basis and with them, the concerns of people who are scared to get stolen or deprived or their identity (Liberty Global, 2012). Reflecting on this, a question arises naturally: how can we protect ourselves ensuring that the use of this information is trustworthy and not dangerous for our identity itself? This is the big challenge of this new Digital Era.

It is essential at this stage to introduce the idea of ‘digital security’, which seems to represent a valid and efficient answer to this enigma. When speaking about digital security, the main idea is to inform people how to protect themselves online. The development of this idea is also supported by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority curriculum in Y9 and Y10, which promote the implementation of “interactive solutions for sharing ideas and information online, taking into account safety, social context and legal responsibilities” (ACARA, 2016, ACTDIP043) and the selection and use of qualitative data and sources online, taking into consideration privacy and security requirements (ACTDIP036). This could be realised by creating blogs and secure websites where students can exchange opinions and learn more about safety and necessary requirements to ensure a safe use of digital technologies and use digital devices.

The following video will try to help us giving a clearer idea of how important protecting ourselves on the Net is and how we can manage to use digital technologies in a safer way.

To conclude, it is essential priority of the Education system to implement the right policies to raise the awareness among young students that protecting their digital identities when can only lead to an extremely effective and productive use of means guarantying a safe and effective use of digital technologies.

Reference list:

Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority. (2016). Digital Technologies. Accessed from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/technologies/digital-technologies/curriculum/f-10?layout=1#level9-10.

Browne, L. (2008). Chapter 2: Culture and Identity. Retrieved from https://www.polity.co.uk/browne/downloads/sample-chapter_2.pdf

Information Security. What you need to know. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUxUUarTRW4

Technopedia (2016). Retrieved from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/23915/digital-identity

Digital Fluency

 

The use of technology has highly change the way people interact and communicate with each other. The development of the Internet in particular has been considered one the most effective change of our time. Reflecting on this, it is essential to underline that the steady increase in the number of “connected people” does not necessarily translate into a creative, effective and productive use of technology, which is instead the main idea of what has been defined as “Digital Fluency” in the 21st century.

Howell (2012) defines digital fluency as “the ability of effectively use this technology. This includes word processing tools, spread sheets and web searching”. Similarly, the National Research Council (1999, p. viii) defines it as “the ability to reformulate knowledge to express oneself creatively and appropriately, and to produce and generate information rather than simply to comprehend it”. In other words, being able to use technologies is not considered enough if this results to have a poor and unproductive impact on the learning process. In the same way, a digital fluent person might not be enough fluent in engaging with technology. The main focus of digital technology is linked to the use of the technology in general and not to the use of a specific technology, such as Facebook or Skype.

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According to the findings of a survey conducted by Bartlett and Miller (2011, p.7, cited in Niessen, 2013), 95% of the teachers interviewed report that students constantly bring information from the Internet to the classroom. However, the same teachers point out that 47 percent of them is not able to select reliable sources and end up bringing “misinformation or propaganda to school”. In other words, despite belonging to the category of “digital natives”, students are not always able to select the correct information online when researching. Therefore, it is important for teachers to be able to guide them in their online search and give them the right tools to choose reliable sources of information. Reflecting on this, 95 percent of the same teachers surveyed consider digital fluency as an essential topic to integrate in the national curriculum”.

Two aspects need to be covered when enhancing digital fluency among students. The first one is related to a more practical skill which involves the ability of creating efficient sentences using the correct keywords to start the search in the web, while the second factor is linked to the ability of evaluating the information collected. As Howell (2013) points out an advanced web-searching skill combines these two aspects. Similarly, Niessen (2013) states that being digitally fluent means knowing “when, where, how and why to use a specific digital medium”.  Therefore, I believe to be teachers’ responsibility to implement a series of hands on activities in class to promote and increase digital fluency and awareness among students. As Briggs & Makice (2011) point out, learning results to be highly effective when preceded by practical experience of what is being learnt.

An example of digital technology which expands learners’ digital ability and fluency is the creation of blog. A ‘blog’ is “a type of website or part of a website that is supposed to be updated with new content from time to time” (Howell, 2013, p. 156). Blogs can give suggestions about specific topics or show pictures and videos of beautiful landscapes and environments. Anything which is posted in a blog becomes public and, once people find the blog they are interested in, they can start reading, following and commenting on it. In other words, blogs represent an interactive opportunity for people, not only for students, to be digital content creators, share ideas and opinions while practicing and building literacy skills.

To conclude, being “digital native” is not enough when it comes to using digital technology and develop the right skills to select and use technology efficiently is an essential requirement to create a safe and productive digital learning environment.

Reference list:

Briggs, C., & Makice, K. (2011). Digital fluency: Building success in the digital age. Social Lens.

Howell, J. (2014). Living and Learning in the Digital World. Week 6. [ilecture]. Retrieved from https://echo.ilecture.curtin.edu.au:8443/ess/echo/presentation/69320b47-1f26-4f87-ae1c-7ba4e48e0050

Niessen, S. (2013, April 19). What is digital fluency. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.shuananiessen.ca/what-is-digital-fluency/

White, G. K. (2013). Digital fluency : skills necessary for learning in the digital age. Retrieved from:  http://research.acer.edu.au/digital_learning/6

Digital blurring

“Play is by its very nature educational. And it should be pleasurable. When the fun goes out of play, most often so does the learning.”

 – Joanne E. Oppenheim (Kids and Play, Ch. 1, 1984)

Digital blurring is another important concept to analyse when talking about digital technologies within the learning process. As previously mentioned in this blog, today’s world is registering an exponential increase in the use of digital technologies in people’s every day activities, personal and professional. Reflecting on this, it is essential to underline that the personal use of technology is not to be considered necessarily a separate domain from the learning process. Oppositely, there are several educational experts that consider gaming as an effective way to develop knowledge and learning.

Vygotsky (1975, cited in Woolfolk & Margetts, 2013), for example, considers “fantasy play” as a central learning opportunity for the kid. The author points out that when playing, the child experiences and experiments a situation which is far beyond his daily routine and the play itself has the role of scaffolding his abilities to control the specific “fantasy situation” in which the child is involved. Similarly, Howell (2012) believes that knowledge is acquired through fun, and especially when the child is extremely young, the learning experiences should be characterized by plays and enjoyable activities. The idea of ‘playing’ which he refers to is connected to the idea that “digital gaming” and social media, in particular, can enhance the development of the child’s knowledge. In other words, the author’s perspective sees gaming as an effective tool to develop knowledge and learning stimuli within an educational context.

The game designer McGonigal (2010) believes that video games can help solving and tackling urgent problems such as climate change, hunger in the world and obesity. The same author believes that games “bring the best of ourselves” as they create a dimension in which failure does not represent an obstacle anymore and in which people try hard to find “the right” solution of the “epic mission”. When playing, people are inspired to collaborate and cooperate and stick with a problem, despite failing and trying hundred times. Similarly, Moursund (2007) states that computer-based games offer a “contextualized learning through virtual stimulation” as they engage a variety of people playing together at the same time, creating an interdisciplinary learning space where players can share their knowledge, in order to find an effective solution to a common problem.

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Another positive influence of digital games on the learning process is the fact that gaming requires kids to make their own strategic choices and this choice will show them specific results and consequences. This process enhances autonomy and self-confidence as well as increasing analysis and critical thinking skills (Squire, 2013). The same author also points out that gaming is extremely productive learning tool as the players develop the ability of problem-solving by sharing opinions and looking for new solutions in order to arrive at the end of the match. By Playing  games such as Civilisation or Against All Odds,  students are immersed into “real global issues” such as the global refugee crisis. This is an extremely interesting and efficient way to have fun while learning and experiencing life in different historical eras. According to The Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority for Y7 and Y8 – Digital Technologies, the students are asked to “define and decompose real-world problems taking into account functional requirements and economic, environmental, social, technical and usability constraints” (Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority, 2016, ACTDIP027).

Reflecting on this, teachers might be encouraged to explore the option of gaming as a creative technique to enhance the learning process and the students’ engagement within the classroom environment. As Prensky (2001), a well-known educational video game designer, point out, digital games make children think on a variety of tasks at once, they create a much funnier learning environment as they enhance competition among players, which seems to be an efficient motivator for students. The same author also argues that video games provide a rapid and specific feedback, which enables students to realise which their mistakes were and to figure out a different way to succeed. However, it is essential to choose games related to the curriculum, showing a clear educational purpose. Math quizzes or spelling games are valuable educational resources to start off with.

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http://quizz-tree.com

Reference list:

Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority. (2016). Digital Technologies. Accessed from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/technologies/digital-technologies/curriculum/f-10?layout=1#level9-10.

Howell, J. (2014). Living and Learning in the Digital World Mod 02 04. Video File. Accessed from: https://echo.ilecture.curtin.edu.au:8443/ess/echo/presentation/9d8a1cd3-f679-4184-8791-6765f6454274.

Howell, J. (2012). Teaching with ICT: digital pedagogies for collaboration & creativity. Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press.

McGonigal, J. (2010). Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world. Video file.Accessed from: http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better.

Moursound, D. (2007). Introduction to Using Games in Education: A Guide for Teachers and Parents. Teacher Education, College of Education

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). MCB, University Press. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Squire, K. (2003). Video games in education. Int. J. Intell. Games & Simulation, 2(1), 49-62.

 

What is a digital world?

A digital world can be defined as a world immersed in the best possible use of technology, where time and place do not represent a limit anymore. A digital world is a boundless space of unlimited opportunities.

It is within this new digital Era that young people of today’s generation have been classified as “Digital Natives”. As Prensky (2001) and Tapscott (1998) define, “Digital Natives are the generation of young people born into the digital age, and assumed to be inherently technology-savvy. This definition is to be distinguished from the definition of “Digital Immigrants” which includes “those people who were not born in the digital world, but at some point in their lives became fascinated by and started to use technology” (Prensky, 2001).

digital-native

Today’s widespread use of technology is reflected in several aspects of people’s everyday life and education has been highly influenced. BECTA (2008, p.12) points out that “Today’s students use technology (IM, Facebook, Flickr, Skype) to be constantly connected – to friends, family, information and entertainment. Technology allows them to connect with more people, more ways and more often… The current generation seamlessly transition between their ‘real’ and ‘digital lives”. Reflecting on this quote, it is interesting to note how the adjective ‘real’ is used in contrast with the word “digital”. Why are they considered so opposite? Is not real anything that exists and that can be perceived by the 5 senses? (Wikipedia). As Gallo (2013) points out, “living a life immersed in technology has become part of the culture for digital natives”. It is by keeping this revelation in mind that we can consider the new digital era as a real change, a visible and existing reality in people’s everyday life. In other words, the digital world is perceived as a “new community”, a new social environment where people share opinions, learn, socialize, work, shopping and pay their bills without necessarily be “physically present”. “Isn’t this real enough?”

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It is within this new and evolving reality that teachers and educators should consider to change or adapt their teaching methods to accommodate the currently growing development of this “new communities”, using more “interactive, collaborative and constructivist pedagogies” in order to engage the ‘digital natives’ (Tapscoot, 2009). Howell (2013, p.5) defines digital pedagogy as ‘the study of how to teach using digital technologies”. Reflecting on this, the Australian Curriculum promotes an early engagement in digital technologies and in the ACARA Syllabus for Year 2 it states the importance of “recognize and explore digital systems (hardware and software components) for a purpose” (Australian Curriculumn and Reporting Authority, 2016  ACTDIK001). In other words, this new Digital Era requires teacher to be technologically experienced in order to communicate with the new generations and help them to develop a digital knowledge not only outside the school environment but within the teaching and learning process itself. However, this process seems to be still a challenge for most of Digital Immigrants, who, as pointed out by Prensky (2001, p.2), “are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language”.

 

Reference list:

Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority. (2016). Digital Technologies. Accessed from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/technologies/digital-technologies/curriculum/f-10?layout=1#level9-10.

BECTA, (2010). Safeguarding in a Digital World. Retrieved from http://stockport.moodle.webanywhere.co.uk/pluginfile.php/1442/mod_resource/content/2/safeguarding_in_a_digital_world_advice_for_learners.pdf

Gallo, L. (2013). Living in a Digital World. Retrieved from https://now.uiowa.edu/2013/06/living-digital-world

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). MCB, University Press. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Tapscoot, D. (2008). Grown up digital: how the Net Generation is Changing Your World. Retrieved from http://www.grownupdigital.com/downloads/chapter.pdf