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Fwd: Technology for Social Inclusion: An Interview with Mark Warschauer (fwd)

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  • Donald Z. Osborn
    This is tangentially related to multilingual literacy, but perhaps of interest. The role of ICT in literacy and education is ever more important. Dr.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 25, 2005
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      This is tangentially related to multilingual literacy, but perhaps of interest.
      The role of ICT in literacy and education is ever more important. Dr.
      Warschauer would have done well to mention also the role of localization of ICT
      and the role of first languages in learning and creating with ICT as a factor
      in addition to the importance of international LWCs. (Fwd from ILAT)... DZO

      Technology for Social Inclusion: An Interview with Mark Warschauer

      Author: Francis Raven, EDC Center for Media & Community | May 4th, 2005
      Communities: Literacy & Learning , Economic Development,

      Mark Warschauer is Assistant Professor of Education and of Information and
      Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Warschauer's
      research focuses on the integration of information and communication
      technologies (ICT) in schools; the impact of ICT on language and literacy
      practices; and the relationship of ICT to institutional reform, democracy, and
      social development. His most recent book, Technology and Social Inclusion:
      Rethinking the Digital Divide, was published by MIT Press in January of 2003.
      His previous books have focused on the development of new electronic literacies
      among culturally and linguistically diverse students and on the role of ICT in
      second language learning and teaching.

      DDN: What are some circumstances when the concept of the digital divide is

      MW: The notion of a digital divide suggests a digital solution--i.e., trying to
      solve a social problem by throwing computers and Internet connections into the
      mix. But without the right social supports, inputs of hardware and connections
      might be wasted or even have a negative effect. Putting computers into a
      situation where there is inadequate electricity, lack of trained personnel to
      upkeep them, and lack of a plan for using them well can divert attention from
      more effective approaches to social problems.

      Why don't you believe that "social problems can be addressed through provision
      of computers and Internet accounts"?

      People need the language, literacy, and computer skills to use the equipment;
      there need to be plans for maintaining equipment; and there needs to be an
      understanding of how use of the equipment may help address a social problem. An
      excellent approach is that of "community informatics," in which a community
      makes careful plans for its own community and social development and works
      together to define and plan the role that technology and media can play to
      contribute to that.

      You write (citing Steve Cisler) that there is not a binary division between
      information haves and have-nots but rather a "gradation based on different
      degrees of access to information." Would you explain how these information
      differentials function?

      Is a person who has access to the Internet only through occasional use at an
      Internet cafe an information have or an information have-not? There are lots of
      gradations on the have/have-not scale, based on regularity and convenience of
      access, type of equipment and connections, individual skill level, amount of
      personal freedom in computer use (from control by states, employers, or
      others). All these things contribute on a graded scale to determining access.

      What is needed in addition to computers and Internet accounts?

      Literacy is essential, and "digital literacy" is valuable too (computer
      literacy, information literacy, multimedia literacy, etc.) Knowledge of one or
      more major international languages is often essential. Social support from
      others who know how to use technology and provide assistance can be critical as

      How do a person's lack of access to computers and a person's life chances

      There is a high degree of correlation between individuals, communities, and
      nations that have high degrees of computer/Internet access and social factors
      such as income, wealth, and education. Of course, the causality can be
      mutual--wealth helps people afford computers and computer access helps people
      to have better employment opportunities or otherwise achieve social inclusion.

      What concept would you replace the digital divide with and why? Could you
      explain your alternate framework: technology for social inclusion?

      Technology for social inclusion deemphasizes the notion of bridging divides and
      instead looks at the broader goal--achieving social inclusion for all--and then
      considers the role that technology can play within that. Social inclusion
      refers to the extent that individuals, families, and communities are able to
      fully participate in society and control their own destinies, taking into
      account a variety of factors related to economic resources, employment, health,
      education, housing, recreation, culture, and civic engagement.

      Social inclusion is a matter not only of an adequate share of resources, but
      also of participation and control over one's life chances. Even the well-to-do
      may face problems of social exclusion, due to reasons of political persecution
      or discrimination based on age, gender, sexual preference, or disability.
      Technology can be used to promote social inclusion, not only by allowing people
      and communities more economic opportunity but also by providing other
      opportunities for people and communities to control their destinies.

      What role can technology play in social inclusion?

      Many ways, depending on the context. These include better access to health
      information, greater opportunities for political participation,and information
      to economic data of benefit to rural farmers (such as crop prices at different
      markets). Some of the rural Internet kiosk projects in India provide an
      outstanding example of effective technology use for social inclusion. In a
      rural village, even one computer with an Internet connection--if well used by
      the community--can make a big difference in people's lives.

      How can a more sophisticated understanding of ICT access lead to more
      comprehensive social inclusion?

      By helping people understand the broader social context that facilitates good
      technology use. Just to give one example, using a metaphor of ChrisDede at
      Harvard, people throughout the world seem to have a "fire model" of educational
      technology. In other words, they seem to think that acomputer generates
      learning the way a fire generates warmth. This leads to lots of wasted money,
      with computers put into schools but either unused or used poorly. For computers
      to actually contribute to learning, much more thought needs to be put into
      issues of pedagogy, curriculum, professional development, software,
      maintenance, scheduling, etc. In other words, as Dede would say, computers are
      less like fire and more like clothes--they make you warm when they fit well.

      A few of Dr. Warschauer's relevant papers are available online:

      Warschauer, M. (2002). Reconceptualizing the digital divide. First Monday 7(7).

      Warschauer, M. (2003, August). Demystifying the digital divide. Scientific
      American 289(2), 42-47.

      Warschauer, M. (2003). Dissecting the "digital divide": A case study in Egypt.
      The Information Society, 19(4), 297-304.

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