UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning Fifth International Seminar (VII). Round Table: the Fight against the Digital Divide in Spain

Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning Fifth International Seminar. Fighting the Digital Divide through Education.

Begoña Gros, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

65% have computers at home, but half of them have access to the Internet. 70% of companies have access to the Internet, but the use of the Internet drops to 50%. Access of citizens to e-Administration is about 45%. 90% of schools and 100% of universities are connected to the Internet, however teachers are not using it for teaching.

Digital natives? = Digital Fluents?
Tíscar Lara, Universidad Carlos III

Being fluent and being stimulated has nothing to do. From the technological paradigm to the communicative and social paradigm.

Digital skills

  • information access
  • information use
  • fluen in different languages and media
  • critical thingkin
  • knowledge share and publication
  • collaborative work
  • social values and citizen awareness

Product, write, construct, encode vs. analyze, decode. For the first time both sides of the equation are available to everyone.

More than using technology, it’s better to learn how to take be in a participative culture.

When designing curricula, we should forget about hardware and software, but being centered in problems:

  • building and managing a digital identity
  • privacy
  • intellectual property
  • what does it mean being a consumer in the Information Society
  • how to understand marketing and advertising

Above all, values have to permeate the whole process of acquiring and using digital skills:

  • Fake culture can be very creative and thrilling and liberating, but, on the other hand, we have to tell truth from lies.
  • We are constantly exposing our privacy — and our familiars’ and friends’ — and we have to be aware of the pros and cons of such exposure
  • Have to learn to distinguish information and advertisements
  • Amateur vs. professional

Digital literacy, what for? A digital literacy tied to values and citizenship:

  • Have voice for awareness
  • Engage in civic participation
  • Reduce any divide
  • Build a better world

Interactional Space
Javier Nó, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca

The space determines the educational behaviour. Physical space and technological environment determine interactions. People are part of the environment.

An specific interactional space is the definition of the environment where communication takes place. A learning space is an interactional space that has to be designed. Which are the features of the environment taht produce effective interactions?

Dimensions that have changed that enable universal access
  • Physical access
  • Digital skills
  • Affordance: usability
  • Affordance: language
  • Affordance: visual literacy
  • Affordance: accessibility

Affordance takes access to another level, beyond “just” access.

Digital skills are not enough: the Internet is a specific culture with rules, meanings, organization and a visual language created and negotiated by a very small group of users… the users that have the power to negotiate.

To be able to be part of the Net, one has to understand this culture beyond just practical skills. And to negotiate the culture of the Net, one has to be engaged and implied. So, the question is how to design a space to promote implication, so that, through implication, comprehensive and shared meanings are created.

There is a trade-off between the certainty that is needed for structured knowledge, vs. the uncertainty that an innovative environment brings with it. How to deal with this? How to match innovation with structured knowledge and education?

The crossroads, the interactional space: affordance, negotiation, certainty.

Pedro Aguilera, Fundación Esplai

Mission of Fundación Esplai: to educate during leisure time.

Projects to overcome the digital divide: Red Conecta and Conecta Joven.

The digital divide is but a reflection of social exclusion. We have to avoid the “ostrich strategy”: “technology is not my business”. But also, the technological hype: “we have to wire everything”. In between both models, strategy, step by step processes.

Four main drivers: to reduce the digital divide, to improve employability, to take advange of the potential proximity of the organizations, to eliminate mental and physical barriers.

The usual question is not “how can I use technology”, but “why do I need technology”.

Three main lines of action:

  • Training: functional digital skills
  • Community strengthening: learn a common “language”
  • Access to labour market

Main targets: women over 45, immigrants, unemployed, elderly people, youth at risk of social exclusion, poverty pockets, people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Telecenters are part of the local NGO, to embed it inside an existing local community. Besides saving money by saving resources, the participation inside the community makes the e-inclusion projects way more powerful and socially sustainable.

On the other hand, telecenters work within a network to share resources, methodologies, etc.

The central key of the e-inclusion methodology is the person, the telecenter motivators: people can’t trust a machine, people trust persons. These motivators have at their own reach many resources to support their work: handbook of the “perfect motivator”, a network of motivators and online cooperation tools, tool-kits, etc.

The key issue is understanding e-Inclusion as a social project. As such, partnerships have to be build with local NGOs, Enterprises and the Public Administration being part of them.

Q & A

Mariana Petru: we have to be able to speak both of digital skills and digital competences. Besides, the cultural fact and self-awareness is also a very interesting one. We have to include in training the learning to learn part, and the learning from one’s own life part. Tíscar Lara: Learning to learn is so transversal that it has to be embedded in all disciplines and across the whole educational process. Javier Nó: if we are able to innovate the learning process itself, then all this things will come together.

Francisco Lupiáñez: is there a need to speak about the digital divide if everybody agrees that technology is not the key? Pedro Aguilera: the digital divide is, of course, but a part of a whole. But is a good indicator and a good way where to start. The e-inclusion is a crack in the exclusion wall that you can leverage to achieve broader goals. Tíscar Lara: it is true that we are seduced by ICTs, but ICTs are so comprehensive that approaching them you’re actually approaching a really broad range of “divides”. Javier Nó: ICTs have a versatility you do not find in the “analogue” world.

Linda Roberts: Should people have to learn how to use ICTs at all? What happens with multiculturality? Javier Nó: Of course, best of options would be that people learnt but that what they learnt was a technology designed for and by them, in a dialogue, in an agreement. Pedro Aguilera: ICTs enable multicultural preservation and even enhancement, way higher traditional means of communication.

UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning Fifth International Seminar. Fighting the Digital Divide through Education (2008)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning Fifth International Seminar (VII). Round Table: the Fight against the Digital Divide in Spain” In ICTlogy, #62, November 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=1318

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