Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

defining the digital divide by connectivity rather than age

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

I’ve thinking about difference and the challenges we have in encouraging the adoption of digital and learning technologies for learning and teaching.

The original idea of Marc Prensky’s digital natives and immigrants and more recently Dave White’s suggestion that it’s more about digital residents and visitors has kept me thinking about the best ways for me (as an early adopter) to engage those who aren’t keen on things digital.

I was chatting with my 15 year old nephew a while ago and he suggested he was a digital native and that I was an immigrant. I challenged him as to what he meant, and we had a good chat about using technology, being digital, and growing up with the Internet. Intitially he was probably basing his judgement on age rather than knowledge, expertise, and understanding. Carl Berger presented some research at the Apple University Consortium Conference in 2007 and mentioned a student (‘digital native’) who spoke about his knowledge of technology ‘being a mile wide but only an inch deep’. What the student meant, was that he had a broad experience, but a shallow understanding, of digital technology.

I’d suggest (as discussed in earlier posts in this forum) that we don’t really know to what extent students (let alone staff) know and engage with technology, it makes it difficult for us to develop policy and implement technology use to support learning and teaching. I came across Kate Carruther’s blog post, The Real Generation Gap, where she suggests that the difference between those who know technology and engage with “is about the individual’s relationship to technology and their willingness or desire to become and to remain connected.” Kate refers to Mark McCrindle’s report, ‘Seriously Cool: Marketing, Communicating and Engaging With Diverse Generations’ (.pdf). Is it really more about (as Kate suggests) being connected (having the willingness, desire and inclination) rather than age, that divides us?

This all resonates with me. I’m as engaged with social networking as my kids but I use it professionally as well as socially. I’m interested in the use of what I’ll call Web2.0 applications in education, but now asking questions about how willing others might be in taking up these ideas on communication, collaboration, and connection.

Does this mean that the adoption of social media and encouraging social networks in education (let alone anywhere else), may only work for those who are interested in using it. What does that mean for all those who aren’t? What does it mean for the curriculum? Do we understand that we may be disenfranchising both students and staff as we adopt more and different technologies?

I believe we need to think carefully about how we proceed and ensure that care be taken to ensure that any implementation be scaffolded in such a way that no one is disadvantaged or dismissed as a laggard for being negative or hesitant. We have a responsibility to understand and cater for the interests and limitations of our cohorts (of students and staff). What kind of support and activities could we provide to help narrow the gap – is professional development (in whatever form that might take) a solution?