Technology doesn't exclude learners, teachers do

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Keynote presentation for Plymouth E-Learning Conference, 2011


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Technology doesnt exclude learners, teachers do!A critique of the nature and scope of digital practices within our education system that include or exclude marginalised learners

Professor Jane SealePlymouth E-Learning Conference Keynote, April 6th 20111My Digital Inclusion Journey

Underpinning Personal Position 1980s All the talk was of the potential of microcomputers: innovationThirty years later, the question we all ask is still: How can we exploit the potential of technologies ?This is the wrong questionIn asking the wrong question, we are denying the potential of learners, and of ourselvesCentral Argument We invest all the power and potential in the technology and forget that we have a vital role to playOverviewDraw on examples from my own research, consultancy and experience; ranging from adult and community settings to Higher Education. Argue that it is important for us as a professional community to examine our digital practices; distil out what it is that we do that either includes or excludes question the influences on these practices.

What is Digital Inclusion?Typical definition often applied by government agencies and policy makers:All members of society are able to access the affordances offered by technology useAddressing inequalities, where those unable to access the affordances of technology use are disadvantaged, marginalisedDigitally excludedDigital exclusion=Social exclusion=Technological determinismUfi 2007 report, drawing on ONS and Ofcom statsTwo thirds of digitally excluded people are economically inactive62% of those with no educational qualifications are digitally excluded69% of those who live alone are digitally excludedTechnology is central to everything we do, and therefore central to our inclusion in society

Scoping a DI conceptual frameworkAccessTo technology and related servicesUseBeing able to use (e.g. digital literacies)Nature of use: gradations of useQuality of use, best use ,smart use, meaningful useEmpowermentIndependent and self-sufficient (on whose terms?)Exerting control and choice over useParticipationCivic engagement through to participation in educationPassive participation through to active participation (having an influence in the way technologies are used)

SimpleTangibleComplexLess TangibleAccess and technology are just the tip of the iceberg

What do we do to exclude?We exert power by rationing access

Lack of staff trainingLack of embeddingTechnology looks good in the photos, but no real commitmentWe twist policy & law to justify non-action e.g. Out of fear that hearing impaired students will use DDA to complain if they cannot access auditory material provided in online learning resources, an institution:Removes all speakers and headphones from all publicly networked PCsAssume that all students are now equally disadvantaged, and that this is OKIt is not- It marginalises further

We oppress through cynicism, born of privilegeThe digital Inclusion debate is the enemy of progress and the digital divide is not as big as many claim.Former school governor, CEO of a technology company, angry that progress towards using the Internet within the classroom was hindered through concerns over exclusion; that not all the children would have access to the Internet at home. It was only a small number of children who did not have access to the Internet at home, so why couldnt alternative arrangements be made for these few children, like giving them homework that did not require use of the Internet?

We perpetuate rather than challenge exclusionTo ask such a question is to misunderstand the digital divide. It is not necessarily about how many people are digitally excluded or offline, but how few opportunities are afforded to such people compared to those who are digitally included.Furthermore, such a question begs the response: why did it not occur to the school to find a way to provide out of school Internet access for those few children who did not have it?Technology comes with strings attachedPadfield and Jordan- research in Scotland on initiatives to use laptops/ICT in outreach schools with traveller childrenReluctance by some teachers, policy makers, communities to provide technologies to travellers seen as less or not deserving of themSome teachers had low expectations of success and lack of motivation to work with traveller children

We question their right to technologySarah B I used to hear people talk about the dyslexic ones getting a free laptop, and I always felt that that was a thing that non-disabled people disliked [..]SarahD Its so unfair they say just because you are dyslexic.Elad Ive had that as well, just because I get extra time in exams and they dont understandSarahD Im not pretending to be dyslexic just so that I can get a laptop [..] You dont want to be dyslexic trust me AndyL Theres no visible clue, Oh your dyslexic. Oh, you look the same, youre not limping, youre not in a chair. They cant tell. Whats so special about this dyslexia thing that youve got? People have no ability to grasp what it is.Sarah D I have heard some people say that dyslexia is just a completely made up thing! [] I was like OK, for someone who doesnt have any idea what it is like to have dyslexia you cannot just say that!

We just dont think about the impact of our pedagogyNikki: On being required to post comments on discussion list in order to pass unit: The website gets jammed up and crashes. On MSN you can see whos logged on. On there you cant. If you put a message on, you can sit there for 2 hours waiting for a reply. I had to continue to go back to the library. Those who have internet at home can check it all day. But, I went to the library in my pyjamas because it got so late!This is unfair.If you dont communicate on there, you dont pass. The student residence are the ones who dont have the internet? Ours are 40 years old and condemned. The new ones are supposed to have the internet. Eventually I managed to do my project.

This is not just just a story about technilogical inaccessiblity of halls of residence- its a story about unnecessary pedagogical barriers17We confuse safeguarding learners with safeguarding ourselvesE.g. Justify peering over the shoulder of looked after children in care homes who are only permitted to use computers in public spaces:Ignore potential for promoting capable identities and celebrating abilities of looked after children who thrive in online environments as well as potential for communication & social belongingWe allow our risk perceptions to dominateGenerally speaking, the young adults do not assess the risk of getting into trouble as seriously as they assess the risk of not having anything at all ever happen to them. However, to get permission from their caregivers to go on using the Internet, it is important that they reassure those caregivers by declaring themselves to be aware of the different risk strategies they need to use on the Internet (Lofgren-Marteson: 2008:p133)

Why do we exclude?Why? I!I dont want to do anything that is more work for meI dont want to take a risk, because I might get into troubleIm not convinced it is worth itI dont see the injusticeI dont want you to become more like meDo we have a lot personally invested in maintaining the divide?

Why?Technology does not necessarily redefine our notions of disadvantage In over-identifying with the technologies we lose sight of the real structural barriers to inclusion:Our attitudes and beliefs regarding what it is to be different or normal, the value and place people different to us have in society expectations about their rights and responsibilities

Hope?Paulo Freire (1998) Pedagogy of HopeWithout rage and love there is no hopeLen Barton (2003) Hope involves an informed recognition of the offensive nature of current conditions and relations and a belief that the possibilities of change are not foreclosedCause for hopeEducational research in many ways is about the bringing together of many disciplines to address important issues that are the heart of our society, and how we views its success and survival.

I hope through this presentation to give you an example of how educational research is at the heart of deciding what is important in relation to Higher Education, but also how the Faculty of Education is at the heart of the University of Plymouth

24George Roberts PhD (2011): Community IT CentreHaidar, single dad:Ive been using it for the last two years. I come here almost everyday during the weekdays with my daughter after school. Its something that she looks forward to and what else have we got? Im currently studying computer maintenance on Saturdays, here at the centre, which is local to meIve worked in PCs and stuff before, but its really updating my knowledge. And, the IT Centre has also helped me acquire information on the Internet as I do not have the Internet at home. Currently Im applying for jobs, Im using the IT Centre. My daughter comes here and uses the IT hub on Saturday to do homework. She wants to be part of the community team, while Dads doing his PC Maintenance Course, shes very keen to come and do her homework. So its a very good bonding station where people are free to talk and exchange information and experiences.How? At an organisational levelFor the people, by the peopleLocal Learning ChampionsStructure and Freedom: courses and self-chosen developmentNo user ids and passwordsNo imposed time-limits on use of PCs

Sugata Mitra: The Hole in the Wall At the teacher level1st level interpretation:Power of TechnologyPut computers in slum areas and childrens language skills and test scores improve2nd level interpretation:Power of children: teaching themselves3rd level interpretation:Power of teachers and adults: encourage; to ask