Understanding the digital divide: A closer examination of the application of web 2.0 technologies by undergraduate students

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Journal Article
International Journal of Learning, 2011, 17 (10), pp. 343 - 350
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The authors of the 2009 Horizon Report have listed six technologies they claim will be increasingly adopted in higher education teaching and learning over the next 5 years. These include mobile internet devices; private clouds; open content; virtual, augmented, and alternate realities; location-based learning; smart objects and devices. High expectations are being placed on technologies such as these for the enhancement of teaching and learning in universities. However, experience has shown that the rapid introduction of such technologies is not matched by corresponding broad uptake in schools and universities. Their effective integration into existing or new models of teaching and learning lags way behind their initial adoption by cutting edge users. High expectations of web 2.0 tools are also often accompanied by untested assumptions about the knowledge and sills of generation Y students often referred to as 'digital natives' (Prensky 2001) or 'born digital'. Increasingly, the usefulness of such assumptions in educational contexts is being questioned. This paper seeks to achieve a deeper understanding of these issues through a closer examination of the digital divide that exists between lecturers and their undergraduate students. Data provided by interviews and surveys of students and staff highlight an apparently widening gap between the use of technologies for personal, social networking purposes and the understanding of the ways in which these technologies can be integrated into teaching and learning in higher education. The results indicate the need for a better understanding of the skills and dispositions that teachers and students bring with them to their classes as well as the need for more effective modelling of integrated use of web 2.0 for educational purposes. © Common Ground, Liam Morgan.
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