The Digital Divide

Topics: Mobile phone, Digital, Demographics Pages: 33 (8532 words) Published: April 26, 2013

Paul BristowHead of Learning Services


Over the last decade many educational establishments especially further educational colleges have witnessed an unprecedented transformation from traditional library structures toward what are now enthusiastically referred to as Learning Resources Centres which accommodate a wide range of users who expect; indeed demand varied and innovative teaching and learning stimuli. However, this transformation from traditional methods to an active socio-innovation is not without its difficulties, teaching staff have often been heard making comments which appear to suggest little surprise with the so-called ‘digital divide’ between age defined user groups.

Why is this so? What is the disparity? The common belief is that the digital divide is an age related issue defined by when you were born and the mere passage of time would naturally close the split. We suggest that the digital divide is not primarily defined just by ages or when you were born as put forward by Prensky, (2001) we suggest that the influence on the digital divide is significantly more context based, socio-economic, demographic and rather more behavioural and habitual in terms of technology usage, profiles and characteristics, we believe that this separation is further compounded by pedagogically flawed delivery mechanisms.

For the purpose of this study we have classified users as digital natives (always on) and digital immigrants (on demand); terms first identified by Marc Prensky (2001a, 2001b) natives are young people born after 1982 that have grown up with technology to such an extent that it has become integrated into their lives, immigrants on the other hand were not born into the technological age but have embraced it even under duress. Prensky suggests that this divide and disparity between natives and immigrants is the ‘biggest single problem facing education today’’.

This paper aims to provide a perspective from a further educational aspect and suggests that the characteristics of natives and immigrants does in fact add a further layer to the digital divide therefore, we have adapted Rogers (1960) Technology Curve to pinpoint characteristics of digital natives and immigrants in the use of technology and social software. This is a work in progress where we aim to propose a robust theoretical framework that has potential for further investigation and research.

Keywords:Further Education, Immigrants, Natives, Diffusion, Innovation, Chasm, Technology, Profiles, Characteristics.

Review of the Literature:

Tapscott (2008) believes that “Net Geners” are the “smartest generation ever” and insists that video games, Face book and the constant text messaging hasn’t robbed today’s young of the ability to think. The experience of parents who grew up watching television is misleading when it comes to judging the 20,000 hours on the internet and 10,000 hours playing video games already spent by a typical 20-year-old American today. “The Net Generation is in many ways the antithesis of the TV generation,” he argues. One-way broadcasting via television created passive couch potatoes, whereas the net is interactive, and, he says, stimulates and improves the brain. There is growing neuroscientific support for this claim. People who play video games, for example, have been found to process complex visual information more quickly. They may also be better at multi-tasking than earlier generations, which equips them better for the modern world. Although neuroscience has shown there are fundamental critical periods of development, but like the rest, including acquisition of skills in technology have no such critical periods. Prensky likes to include technology literacy as one of those fundamental critical developments, even though there is no research evidence to support it. More recent discoveries in neuroscience have...
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