Participation and the digital divide
The digital world provides an unprecedented amount of opportunities for those who seek it. Knowledge as it is being taught in educational institutions such as universities may no longer function to exist in the future, for the knowledge that it houses may no longer be scarce. The power that the internet has therefore is one that drastically revolutionise society as we know it today. However, whilst the internet may be a great source for information, it is not necessarily a platform that provides answers. Users need to engage with the content and seek out what it is they wish to be informed upon. In doing so, there are many drawbacks to the digital world. Not all who are emerged into the digital environment of today have the same set of capabilities which allow them to access the internet in the most meaningful way (Van Deursen & Van Dijik, 2014). It is known for instance that socioeconomic factors impede one’s ability to access the internet and often causes time delay due to internet speeds due to due a lower cost option for slower download/upload rates for example (Stansbury, 2013). Amongst many other factors, the importance of acknowledging that there is a digital divide is pertinent to teachers at large. Notwithstanding worldwide differences and cases that foreign students enter the class without the same shared knowledge of more informed students.
The role of teachers in today’s society is one that understands the digital world in such a way that helps students progress their education by providing content that ameliorates their learning (Buckingham, 2013). However, with the costs of certain devices priced highly and with the number of students who may not be in a position to be a consumer of these products, it is fair to say that participation may not follow through equally in the classroom. Not all pupils within the classroom will have the same gained advantage in light of the digital divide. Student participation will therefore be hindered by the opportunities granted to them. Notwithstanding that a student’s experience with a divide and engaging with a platform may also put them at a disadvantage. Not all students have the same grasp within the opportunities that lie in the digital world (Jaeger, 2012), and many students may be thus placed at a disadvantage. Teachers must not only understand that opportunities that coexist with the digital space and digital technology but also appreciate that difference for students. Different schools and geographical locations for instance may be a determinate in how students identify with technologies and their access.
Australia is no exception to the digital divide phenomenon. Despite being a developed country, many individuals lack the access or the technology to reach into the related opportunities (Alam & Imran, 2015). It is known for instance that technology comes at a price, and one that is not affordable to all. Hence, socioeconomic factors play a pivotal role in one’s ability to attain digital technologies. The most important aspect for teachers to consider is not what disadvantages there are for students, but what opportunities can be made.
Alam, K., & Imran, S. (2015). The digital divide and social inclusion among refugee migrants: A case in regional Australia. Information Technology & People, 28(2), 344-365.
Buckingham, D. (2013). Beyond technology: Children’s learning in the age of digital culture. John Wiley & Sons.
Howell, J. (2012). Teaching with ICT. pp.55-59. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Jaeger, P. T. (2012). Disability and the Internet: Confronting a digital divide (p. 225). Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Stansbury, M. (2013, October). Access, skills, economic opportunities, and democratic participation: Connecting four facets of the digital divide through research. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of CAIS/Actes du congrès annuel de l’ACSI.
Van Deursen, A. J., & Van Dijk, J. A. (2014). The digital divide shifts to differences in usage. New media & society, 16(3), 507-526.