Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Using Digital Resources: Perceptions of First Nations University Students

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Using Digital Resources: Perceptions of First Nations University Students

Article excerpt

Canada's indigenous peoples face many educational challenges, including the need to learn how to use digital resources. The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of First Nations students regarding their use of digital resources. The participants in the study were students studying at the First Nations University of Canada, an institution developed to serve indigenous students. This collaborative research project was intended to provide recommendations for policy and practice to teachers, teacher-librarians and administrators working with First Nations students in Kindergarten to grade 12 schools as well as to administrators and librarians in universities serving First Nations students. The community-based planning approach to the research emphasized listening to the voices of the First Nations students and developing recommendations based on their perceptions of their access to, use of and capacity to use digital resources.

Background to the Research

Access to technology has long been viewed as an aid to improving literacy and academic achievement (American Association of School Librarians & Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1998), but access to, use of, and capacity to use digital technology is still a problem for minority people around the world (Bothma, 2007). This is also true for Canada's First Nations people, one of the indigenous peoples of Canada.

Readers should note that ?First Nations. is the term that many Canadian indigenous peoples use to identify themselves. The term implies that indigenous peoples were the first nations in Canada and deserve treaty considerations. The plurality of the term denotes the diversity of the peoples it represents. Some Canadian indigenous peoples still prefer to use the term ?Indian. because the term ?First Nations. is not a legal term (see Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2008).

The focus of this study was on university-level students who would be more likely to have had opportunities to develop their knowledge of digital resources than would students who were not university bound. The study took place at First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan, one of the western provinces of the country. The intent of the researchers was to use the findings of the study to improve library services to First Nations university students as well as to develop recommendations for educators working with First Nations students in Kindergarten to grade 12 schools.

Literature Review

The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of First Nations students regarding their use of digital resources. Research shows that digital inequities continue to exist in schools in North America and around the world. While all students need to have access to digital resources and need to develop 'new literacies' in order to be able to participate as citizens and to compete in today's job market, the capacity to use digital resources is critical for students coming from historically disadvantaged groups such as First Nations students. This literature review provides a context for the study related to digital inequity, the new literacies, and the historically oppressed state of the First Nations peoples of Canada.

Digital Inequity

Canada is among the four countries in the world (along with the United States, Australia and Singapore) with the highest Internet connectivity, but many First Nations people, especially living outside urban areas, have very limited access to the Internet and the digital resources it brings. A recent Statistics Canada report found that, "a majority of urban-based First Nations and Metis people in Saskatchewan do not have the literacy skills to cope in today's society" and "scored below the benchmark considered to be the minimum for an individual to cope in a complex knowledge-based society" (Cowan, 2008, p. A1).

Similar inequities exist in the United States. While some reports show that the Digital Divide is decreasing in the United States, other reports confirm that "significant technology gaps remain along racial lines" (International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE], 2008, p. …

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