Assumptions are the root of digital exclusion. Functions like right click, drag, drop, swipe, long press or pinch mean nothing to some. Zipping and unzipping, minimise, maximise and working within folder structures have passed them by. Opening a new browser tab can be a step too far while trying Chrome or Firefox when IE fails to interpret a command is just not going to happen.
If we are serious about technology enhanced and blended learning, we need to face up to reality. The digital baseline for many staff who teach and support learning is lower than many ICT staff, learning technologists and digital education developers might expect. At a time of growing interest in DIY models like Lynda.com and the growth in online VLE support, the onus is being placed on individuals to discover answers to problems. This assumes levels of digital comfort which simply do not exist.
Did I say assumptions are the root of digital exclusion?
So what to do?
Digital way of working have had many names. Skills, Literacies, Capabilities; each new iteration more complex than the one before. To work comfortably online not only demands a huge learning curve, it has also become a cultural shift. The internet is no longer somewhere you go for a specific task or piece of information; it’s become a vast informed network. Call it Connectivism or Rhizomatics or simply social media, it has fueled a revolution in our capacity to be continually in touch with those we see every day, only here and there or have never met. Functioning in these spaces requires attention to digital profiles, safety, data protection and skills in the vagaries of online communication where there are no fall backs like eye contact or body language to help interpret identity or meaning.
To be digitally capable has become so much more than buttons.
Raising awareness of the true picture of digital capabilities is essential but self-diagnostic tools and surveys rarely reach those who are less digitally active so accurate data can be difficult to source. In the meantime, every day in every way assumptions are made about the digital abilities of strangers. The only way to find out what support is needed, and where best to target it, is to spend time in their company. There’s no getting away from it. We need to talk.