The Digital Divide in HE

It has been claimed that we are only just starting to see how digital technology might change education . I think that’s a valid statement – we certainly don’t see HE moving very fast to engage with digital technologies. At least this was one of the arguments put forward by a number of people on the Guardians live discussion on 3rd June. There was a feeling that, “it’s all so new” which makes it very difficult to know what is wanted or even needed – that it’s difficult to identify the barriers but apparently all the barriers are all sorts of fears rather than lack of interest – and what do we analyse to identify trends, a group, a discipline, a management style – who knows? We just have to accept that it (that’s the whole IT and social media in education thing) is big and messy and will take a while to work out.

That doesn’t mean to say that we should just accept the status quo. We must keep pushing for change, it is going to be very easy for a University to get left behind in this terrifically exciting cultural change. Yes, we know everyone is frightened – they’re frightened of trying to do something which is clever and ending up looking silly – they’re frightened that someone will steal their research out from under their noses – they’re frightened that someone will mock their teaching or research efforts – they’re frightened their boss will shout at them for bringing the University into disrepute. Everyone in Digital Literacy knows all this – how do we get round it?

Of course one of the things that will help get round it is culture change itself. When publishing on the web, writing a blog or web page, teaching with Twitter or in a virtual world are valued in the same way as other forms of publishing, conferencing or teaching are valued then lecturers, researchers, administrators and managers will not be so worried. The new technologies do change education and it’s up to the leaders of the Universities to re-write their policies to legitimate that change.

I think that’s more or less the tone of the first part of the discussion. If you want to carry it on by commenting here please do 🙂

If anyone wants to know what Digital Literacy type apps came out of the discussion please go and look at my other blog.

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