Digital Media and Learning Evolution: A Research on Sustainable Local Empowerment

Article excerpt

Keywords

digital literacy, education, digital divide, ICT for development, discovery learning, didactics, One Laptop Per Child.

Abstract

It is generally agreed upon that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are of vital importance for the social and economical development of a country. Following this idea, various initiatives have been made to address technical, cultural, rural and community development issues through projects of digital inclusion, with the direct or indirect supervision of international institutions or local agencies. Many initiatives, though, suffer from the inability to acknowledge essential cultural outlines, leading to a one-size-fits-all view of development interventions.

This paper aims to expose some issues associated with the impact of ICT projects for education, going beyond a linear (and simplistic) relationship between technology and knowledge. It highlights some important perspectives on research into cognitive access and digital literacy, while understanding the process of learning as a social output. The framework proposed is a digital inclusion model based on cultural needs analysis and subsequent promotion of didactics innovation, alongside the enhancement of social and intellectual capital. The results of the empirical research conducted on deployments of the One Laptop Per Child project in Italy and in Ethiopia are used to illustrate parts of the model and possible theoretical outcomes for future research.

Introduction

It is generally agreed upon that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are of vital importance for the social and economical development of a country. Following this idea, various initiatives have been made to address technical, cultural, rural and community development issues through projects of digital inclusion, with the direct or indirect supervision of international institutions or local agencies. Many initiatives, though, suffer from the inability to acknowledge essential cultural outlines, leading to a one-size-fits-all view of development interventions.

This paper aims to expose some issues associated with the impact of ICT projects for education, going beyond a linear (and simplistic) relationship between technology and knowledge. It highlights some important perspectives on research into cognitive access and digital literacy, while understanding the process of learning as a social output. The framework proposed is a digital inclusion model based on cultural needs analysis and subsequent promotion of didactics innovation, alongside the enhancement of social and intellectual capital. The results of the empirical research conducted on deployments of the One Laptop Per Child project in Italy and in Ethiopia are used to illustrate parts of the model and possible theoretical outcomes for future research.

The article is organized as follows: firstly, it defines the cultural change in learning strategies coming from the wide diffusion of the digital media; secondly, it clarifies the meaning of digital literacy, and states its potential role for social development; following which, it reports two case studies of the worldwide project One Laptop Per Child, which aims at providing digital literacy in developing countries; and concludes with some ideas to implement sustainable projects for local empowerment and digital inclusion.

ICT impact on learning strategies

The 21st century technologies provide users with an excellent opportunity to reshape the learning spaces, means and modalities. The advent of Web 2.0 tools, such as TV webcasting, blogging, social networks or wikis have facilitated content sharing and collaboration, as well as communication across geographies, time zones and cultures. Every user can publish personal thoughts, suggestions or initiatives online, thus making them available to others and contributing to create what De Kerckhove (1997) calls the connective intelligence. …

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