Schools must move towards digital inclusion

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | ICT in Africa

A huge gap exists between those sections of the population that have access to digital resources, such as computers, the internet, and other technologies, and those that do not. This gap is called the digital divide.

The digital divide includes the imbalance in physical access to ICTs, as well as the imbalance in connectivity, and the skills needed to participate effectively as a digital citizen.

The digital divide is often linked to other divides, such as the gender gap, racial inequalities, urban-rural divide, the gulf between rich and the poor, and developed versus developing world.

In Africa the digital divide is quite severe, and it often goes hand in hand with the other divides along gender, racial, location and poverty lines.

The opposite of the digital divide is digital inclusion.  A person who is digitally included has crossed the divide and is now benefiting from digital resources.

Teachers can play a critical role in moving towards digital inclusion.  Once teachers have crossed the digital divide, they will be able to lead learners over the bridge.  But teachers must hurry up – learners are overtaking them.  Many learners have cell phones in their pockets.  They mainly use these devices to share information – text messages and images – with their friends.

A cell phone used to send and retrieve digital information is a digital device.  Learners using such devices are digitally connected – they have achieved inclusion and are no longer on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Sadly, some teachers have not yet made the jump – they are still left behind, while the learners are included in the digital world.  This means that learners are let loose on their own in a bewildering world of information.  At times the information sources are incorrect and misleading; some websites contain objectionable material.  Learners need guidance, but how can they be guided if their guides have been left behind?

So there is your first reason for concerning yourself with ICTs and e-learning: you have to cross the digital divide in order for you to provide guidance to your learners.

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6 Comments to Schools must move towards digital inclusion

Tuesday, 11 May, 2010

I see the digital divide is on two levels – physical (hardware and software) and cerebral. I would like to see the day soon when we look through, in fact almost ignore, technology and focus on values, principles, morals, etc. After all, this is how I believe the kids see the world. When they are online, it’s not “Wow hasn’t this website got great looking buttons and integrates well with my browser”. Rather it’s “it’s great to chat to you John. I haven’t spoken to you for ages. Howzit going?”.

Mark C
Tuesday, 11 May, 2010

I think educators are digitally connected, the problem is that they don’t use as many features as youngsters would.

Our learners are not as computer literate as we think. They know very well how mobiles work, but the thing to which the keyboard is connected is still a mystery to them. I’ve seen it in many schools. Just recently a LO educator had to teach grade 12s how to type so that they could do something simple such as write a letter or do a CV.

At university students have a hard time using ICT because they have not been using it regularly to do what they need to do when they were at school. We keep on pushing vendor-based software. It is not about just using vendor-based software but the use of all tools such Word processors, Spreadsheets, Presentation and Database software to do a job they have to do in any case. It is about knowing how to communicate via e-mail, facebook, twitter, blogs and skype (Chas)…. social networking. Our learners are not always exposed to this. Our educators, quite a number of them quietly are.

My niece recently did a research project on how social networks such as Facebook changed the nature of Marketing. She used presentation software….I am interested to know her findings, not so much about the Powerpoint (Aaargh!) she used.

Mark C
Wednesday, 12 May, 2010

I found this quite funny! MPs were told to become computer literate as their skills were shocking! They must use Facebook, Twitter and the lot. And we talk about teachers? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

What goes for goose must go for the donkey. Sorry, I like making up my own stupid idioms. It will make sense somehow. We did this a lot while we were at high school-both attending them as well as teaching in them. Dangerous!

Wednesday, 12 May, 2010
Dwayne Bailey
Wednesday, 19 May, 2010

If you talk about a divide or inclusion without mentioning language then your dealing with technology for the elite. That less then 10% of the population speaks English as a mother tongue points to language as a critical part of this divide.

As long as we see the divide as access to technology and access to Internet data pipes we’re missing one of the biggest barriers.

Wednesday, 19 May, 2010

I can always count on you to bring some reality to issues, Dwayne. Thanks for this important reminder – language is indeed a barrier to crossing any divide (it all started with the Tower of Babel incident!). The divide is indeed multi-faceted and we have to work to cross it from different directions.

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