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Posts Tagged ‘divide

We might have the SkillsFuture programme that is supposed to provide post-schooling and lifelong resources for learning. But after reading the article and watching the video linked to the tweet below, I wonder if we need something akin to AttitudeFuture or MindFuture.

Here are a few things I took note of and have thoughts on, particularly from the article linked from the tweet.

I have no doubt that the “class divide” is a critical issue that might potentially disrupt what Singapore stands for. So I was not surprised that this threat was identified by almost half of the 1,036 survey respondents.

That said, “class” is insidious and hard to define. It has multiple contributing factors and layers like education, socioeconomic status, family background, etc. I wonder if respondents had the same things in mind when they thought of class.

Other factors like race and religion were identified as threats to social cohesion by about a fifth of the respondents. However, these perceived factors might have a disproportionate effect in reality.

I am reminded of a tweet from satirical Twitter account, Werner Twertzog:

A third of the population can act on another third while the last third remains indifferent. A minority or a seemingly small threat can have a disproportionate impact.

This does not mean that the class divide less impactful. The class divide is also worsened by indifference, which is why the article and video are important to consume and process now.

I am still ruminating on the article and video. Both provided much to reflect on even though they undoubtedly present only snippets and snapshots of a complicated and nuanced social phenomenon. I think I will focus on what school children and teachers think and do in the next part.

The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed. --William Gibson

People far wiser and more articulate than me have opined and written about various divides: Income, economic, digital, social, etc.

They have a common point — we need to do better to bridge those divides so that we do not end up with the haves on one side and the have-nots on the other.

However, there is one divide that might be bridged by being on the wrong side of a divide. Just because you might be a have-not does not mean you cannot get creative. Case in point:

If we have neither the resilience nor the creativity, we are on the wrong side of the divide even though we might have all the tools, support, and money in the world.

When something is insidious, it is not obvious when examined casually.

The “digital divide” is often viewed from the obvious technology access lens. For example, if teachers or students do not have devices and Internet access, how are they to curate or create content? While that perspective is important, it should not be the only argument against integrating technology into education.

In the context of post-industrialized countries, that point is moot. There are ways of putting technologies in the hands of learners. Every learner. The technologies get better and cheaper. Financially there are sponsors, donors, assistance schemes, etc. Schools need to think outside the box they create for themselves.


Video source

There is another more insidious box that divides the haves and have-nots. I have reflected on this before. There is the nature and quality of technology use once you have access to educational technology. The video above articulates this nicely.

The video describes a techno-pedagogical divide. I can think of many examples but will illustrate with just three.

A teacher might have access to an Interactive White Board in her classroom. But all she does is focus on didactic teaching and perhaps entertaining her students with slick animations, eye-candy transitions, and funny YouTube videos. She might do something similar by telling a riveting story with an oversized book, so her strategy for using the book and IWB are essentially the same. She is on the wrong side of the divide even if she has the IWB.

Another teacher can have access to a cart of iPads and reliable Internet access. But he allows access to the cart only when he asks his students to search for definitions, images, or videos to shed light on a concept. He does not leverage on what his students already carry in their pockets or bags, nor the spontaneity of search. He is unlikely to model information search skills and ethical use of what he finds. That teacher is also on the wrong side of the divide.

Now consider a group of teachers attempting to innovate by using a Edmodo or Facebook in their lessons. They transfer only what they experienced in the learning management system during their university days to the social media platform. They post content-only questions and expect students to answer them. They upload PowerPoint presentations and PDF readings. They wrap socialization around content instead of the other way around.

All those teachers are using new technologies with old methods. That is like moving to another country and refusing to learn the language and culture of the place. Both you and the residents may initially be wowed by the novelty. But soon both will tire of it and eventually resent it.

The insidious divide is a pedagogical one and it is far more harmful than the technological one. In a technological divide, the have-nots do not know what they are missing out on, but over time eventually might gain access to the tools.

In a pedagogical divide, the technology is present but its use is mismanaged and this sends the wrong message. This leads both the learner and instructor to question its validity and subsequent reliability.

I stumbled upon this piece on the digital divide.

Like most folks, I understood the digital divide to be about the technology haves and have-nots. The technologies could include computers, smartphones, and broadband. These issues on access to use technology.

Then there is the divide based on the nature of use. While some might use the technology for time-wasting (only consuming entertainment), others may use the technology to educate (for learning or creating).

Furthermore, not knowing how to effectively integrate technology into education, work and/or life is another divide. This overlaps with the nature of use but seems to be more about the quality of use.

So someone with access to mobile broadband might be able to watch Nyan Cat-like videos and not know how (or refuse) to do more than that and still be on the wrong side of the digital divide.

I stubbed my toe last evening. When it started to swell and change colour, I opted to have it x-rayed at a hospital to make sure that it was not broken.

During our conversation, the doctor asked me for my occupation and I told him what I did. He looked surprised and said that I should have mentioned this earlier so that he would have addressed me differently.

It was my turn to be surprised. Did it really matter that I was a doctor albeit a different kind? Was there some special treatment from one kind of doctor to another? Given the number of foreign workers that frequented that hospital, how might he treat non-doctors?

I realized that I was getting ahead of myself. I opted to keep those thoughts in my head and just pointed out that I was like any ordinary guy. Ordinary enough to stub my toe.

But I was privileged.

I used the Internet to figure out where the nearest hospital was. I used my iPhone to help me get there. I brought my iPad along to monitor what my student teachers were doing for practicum, wade in my Twitter stream, respond to email, connect with someone new on Google+, and draft this blog entry.

I worked hard to be where I am and to be on the right side of the digital divide. But there were others who worked harder and were still on the wrong side of the divide. They were all around me in the waiting room. If their children did not get a good education, they were just as likely to be digital have-nots.

Even our own privileged Singapore kids can be have-nots because most schools still do not encourage or allow them to use their own computing devices in school. At least, not as pervasively as I imagine that they should.

I cannot decide which is worse. Having so little in terms of ICT and wanting to do so much. Or having so much and doing so little with it.

I realize that these are issues that drive me. I think I can help address both issues by influencing the teacher educators and teachers I come into contact with. All of us need to get our learners to meaningfully use however much ICT they have in their hands.

It all starts with some pain or knowing that something needs fixing. We have conversations and x-ray the issues so that they are as clear as possible. Then we take action and reflect on what we do.


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