Emancipatory Technology Enhanced Learning’ bridging whatever technology divides

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Emancipatory Technology Enhanced Learning’ bridging whatever technology divides

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   1 Emancipatory Technology Enhanced L earning’ b ridging whatever technology divides Dr. Maria Fragkaki Educator, Researcher, Teacher-Counselor “ Computer Technology Institute and Press Diophantos ” fragaki@cti.gr   Abstract One of the reasons put forth for utilizing Technology Enhanced  Learning (TEL)  is to cope with the so- called ‘digital divide’ : computers and networks at schools are supposed to bridge this new social inequality, just like universal literacy from schooling helps to deal with social inequalities in general. In this paper we argue that the ‘digital divide’  constitutes a much subtler social discrimination than the classic economic and class inequalities; it is much more difficult to deal with than straightforward economic or more complex cultural and class inequities. This is clearly reflected in the type  of TEL utilization in education, rather than its amount  . Unqualified use of computers and networks in schools might sharpen or hide the ‘digital divide’  rather than alleviate it. And this causes a ‘knowledge divide’. Furthermore, when we are talking about the knowledge divide’s impacts upon society we are talking about a ‘social divide’. TEL  has a clear social class effect, whether its proponents realize it or not, whether its implementers are consciously aware of the effects or not. Thus, the new literacies may widen social schisms not only because they increase the distance between the haves and the have-nots, just like any other technology. What the new literacies offer may also widen social schisms in qualitative ways. In this paper we give examples of concrete educational practices which, while involving TEL use in schools, may well broaden the ‘digital divide’ . We show that more TEL is not always  better and that it is easy to pay lip service to high educational curriculum goals when the actual practice of TEL is in fact a disservice. Measuring and assessing the long term social effects of TEL is  particularly difficult. We propose, however, a systematic way to   2 observe short term effects from its utilization in schools and present the example of an elementary school in Greece. Keywords :   Emancipatory Technology Enhanced Learning, digital divide, social divide, knowledge divide Introduction One of the reasons put forth for utilizing TEL is to cope with the so-called ‘digital divide’  : computers and networks at schools are supposed to bridge this new class inequality, just like universal literacy from schooling helps to deal with social inequalities in general. It may be not clear, but it certainly is real. It may not be clear exactly what the ‘digital divide’  is, but we have seen it emanate in social classes and at least teachers have certainly observed its appearance in school classes. From the viewpoint of educational policy directives If you look into the educational policy directives of the past several years you can somehow encapsulate them. The integration of TEL in the educational process is considered to have been proven, at an international level, for important scientific, teaching and learning  purposes. And TEL use in schools is desirable in order to deal with the social divide. The integration of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the educational process does not concern only their use, but it also involves how educators can capitalize on them in the educational process. This means creating the infrastructure in schools, the computers and the networks and preparing the teachers to use them. So, in regards to the ‘‘digital divide’’, this means integrating TEL in schools and this has certainly been a political directive. So, is it  just a political advertisement or is it an educational directive? Furthermore, to what extent is there actual pedagogical truth? From the viewpoint of analysts In a recent piece, DiMaggio and Hargittai (2001), two of the most astute analysts of the sociology of the Internet discuss the issue of the ‘digital divide’ . They assert that since nowadays Internet diffusion rates have increased, scholars should shift their attention from the ‘digital divide’—  inequality between the haves and the have-nots based on dichotomous measures of Internet access  —  to digital inequality, by which they mean differences among people with physical access to the   3 Internet. Digital inequality, from their perspective, encompasses five (5) main variables: technical means (inequality of bandwidth); autonomy (whether users log on from home or at work, monitored or unmonitored, during limited times or at will); skill (knowledge of how to search for, or download information); social Support (access to advice from more experienced users); and purpose (whether they use the Internet for increase of economic productivity, Improvement of social capital, or consumption and entertainment).  From the viewpoint of a research vignette There is a vignette that we think can help us somehow to comprehend the issue that social and educational problems can be addressed by  providing computers and Internet accounts as increasingly problematic. In 2000 the government of New Delhi, in collaboration with an information technology corporation, established a project, known as the ‘Hole -in-the- Wall’ experiment   (Figure 1),  to provide computer access to the city’s street children, setting up an outdoor computer kiosk with monitors through holes in the walls with an Internet connection, in one of the poorest slums of New Delhi, but without teachers and instructors. Although the govern ment offered a model in order to bring India’s and the world’s urban poor into the computer age, children did learn to manipulate the joysticks and buttons, but almost all their time was spent drawing with paint programs or playing computer games, without acquiring “21 century skills” (OECD, 2013) that would help them achieve better lives. Parents and the community came to realize that minimally invasive education was, in practice, minimally effective education (Warschauer, 2003).   4 Figure 1:   ‘Hole -in-the- Wall’ experiment    It is a fact that digital literacy and digital fluency are important concepts in the contemporary world. There are fundamental cognitive differences in individuals who are literate and who are not, resulting in a great literacy divide at both the individual and societal levels. But the manipulation of the computers is not digital fluency. It is like to keeping a pen and just writing lines on a paper without a reason. Literacy and ICT involve not only receiving information but also organizing it, analyzing it, criticizing it and producing it. Rethinking & wondering Rethinking the ‘digital divide’  the program from the vignette described above was motivated by a sincere attempt to improve students’ cognitive skills through TEL and generally people ’ s lives. But, it seems that meaningful access to ICT implies far more than merely providing computer resources and Internet connections. However, there seems to  be a strong need to integrate ICT in the educational process for social reasons, since as is mentioned in the UNESCO “ Short-Term Action Plan ” , this must be able to contribute to the better understanding of global problems and their interplay. TEL should provide students with the required knowledge and ability in order to understand, counter and resolve these problems and to excite the interest and will that will lead to action (Europe 2012, Eurostat 2013, EESC 2013, Eurydice 2012, OECD 2013). The EU national directives and indicators over the years   5 are a very good example for this need, allowing national directives in educational systems but also provide a general direction. In this paper, we will see the shift from access to an infrastructure of ten or fifteen years ago to more qualitative teaching and learning, which however has not reached the schools, and we can say that it has not even reached the mainstream undervalued education of teachers. Content and language, literacy and education, different degrees of access to information technology (Cisler, 2000, Warschauer, 2003), and community and institutional structures must all be taken into account if meaningful access to new technologies is to be provided. So the question we will deal with in this paper is to what extent and in what way will using ICT in school alleviate the ‘digital divide’ , or maybe sharpen it or just hide it. D efinitions: What is the ‘digital divide’ ? A ‘digital divide’  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide) is an economic inequality between groups, broadly construed, in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of Information Communication Technologies (ICT), (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1995, Chinn, Menzie & Robert & Fairlie, 2004 ). The divide within countries (such as the ‘digital divide’ in the United States) can refer to inequalities  between individuals, households, businesses, and geographic areas at different socioeconomic and other demographic levels (UNESCO, 2002, Norris, 2001, Patricia, 2003), while   the divide between countries is referred to as the global ‘digital divide’, which designates nations as the units of analysis and examines the gap between developing and developed countries on an international scale (Chinn, Menzie & Robert W. Fairlie. 2004). Furthermore, there is the social inclusion, not only as an adequate share of resources but also as the participation in the determination of both individual and collective life chances. It overlaps with the concept of socioeconomic equality but is not equivalent to it. Conceptualization of the ‘digital divide’  is often given as follows (Hilbert, 2011, Buente, Wayne & Robbie, 2008): 1.   Subjects of connectivity, or who connects: individuals, organizations, enterprises, schools, hospitals, countries, etc.
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