14 SES 06 B, Family Education, Parenting and Digital Inclusion
ICT has fostered a new geography of global, centrality and marginality (Sassen 1997; Warschauer and Matuchniak 2010), thus determining a new frontier of inclusion/exclusion (Sachs 2000) known as the digital divide, ‘a multidimensional phenomenon encompassing different levels’ (Sassi 2005; Notley and Foth 2008). In the late Nineties, the first investigations on the digital divide focused on issues related to infrastructural access to the web, a problem still relevant in some of the European countries (OECD 2015). But as the diffusion of digital infrastructures grew, attention moved to ‘information literacy’ – the need for specific competences to be able to access the web and its services and to participate to the life of a community (DiMaggio et al. 2004). The critical issue at the moment is Media Information Literacy (MIL): the ability to freely express oneself in a virtual environment, thus developing a higher level of digital competency and critical thinking (Testoni 2014; Lu X et al., 2013). In this evolving scenario, it is still possible to see how different kinds of digital divide are linked to factors of social exclusion such as socio-economic status (Park 2012); age, income and employment status (Lengsfled 2011); gender and location (Asthana et al., 2009); educational effectiveness and coherent educational policies (Ball, 2015; Minello, 2014). For people in a situation of social or economic disadvantage ICT an opportunity to participate in the community (Alam and Imram 2015), in civicness, to ‘author’ (Matthew, Wawrzynski and Pizzolato 2006) their existence
School system and educational policies (Lingard & Sellar, 2013), can play a key role in providing individuals with the instruments necessary to avoid marginalization and to be able to critically evaluate the complexity of the world they inhabit.
Our research design aims to evaluate how the access to information, the development of digital skills and the participation to the life of the community, mediated by ICTs, could mitigate aspects of social exclusion and trigger germinal phases of action of social inclusion and active citizenship (Dozza 2012) within a community (Caidi and Allard 2005).
The research recounts the creation of a school digital district in a depressed town of the outskirt of Milan, Italy. The project, ideated by the University of Milano Bicocca and carried out with the support of the city council, adopted the introduction of digital tools in the school district as an instrument to contrasts the impact of adverse economic, social and cultural factors on the social inclusion of students and families.
The project adopted a community of practice model of governance (Wenger 2011). The ambitious goal of strengthening the sense of community and the inclusion, through a shared governance models of the project (Healey 2010), requires a capacity building process as a prerequisite; a process of strengthening of abilities to perform core functions, solve problems, define and achieve objectives, and understand and deal with development needs (Milèn, 2001). This would allow the different actors (more or less at risk of exclusion) to increase their technical and participative skills and become able to cooperate and create connections.
For four years the research followed the activities promoted on three main level of action: the processes of governance, the school system and the involved stakeholders. The collection of data started in 2013, following each step of the project, from the first meetings with local administration, to the planning and implementation of the activities, up until their final evaluation, and took place in different settings: the local schools, the local administration offices and the spaces offered by the University to the project, as well as online. The recruitment of participants for the research phase of the project was facilitated by the school principals and the teachers, and was always on voluntary basis. Multiple methods of data gathering were applied, (Creswell 2009) for three main reasons: 1) capturing the systemic character of the Digital District; 2) using data over the years to help new participants overcome initial resistance; 3) deepening understanding of the various elements of inclusion. The strategies adopted allowed data to be gathered on both the project implementation and its impact on the stakeholders. Specifically, the data collection included: Participant observation of 20 official meeting Focus groups (14 with school teachers, 3 with school principals and teachers, 6 with parents, 3 with local administrators) In depth interviews of 6 teachers and 6 parents. All textual data were analysed using Nvivo software, which allowed the data to be organized with conceptual coding.
The social benefit of the ‘Digital District’ project has been made explicit by participants at all levels confirming existing research on the topic: feeling part of a group is an aspect of well-being increasing knowledge, reducing anxiety and overall an existential engagement (Sthephan and Sthephan 1984; Jayawickreme, Forgeard and Seligman 2012). Furthermore, the intentional creation of such a community has increased awareness of the use of digital tools among students, thus allowing for the possibility of a more active form of citizenship on their part. (Birbes 2014); nevertheless, it remains difficult to measure the impact of ICTs on any target of population, if not in longitudinal terms. (Reynolds et al., 2003). The research also reveals the ubiquitous need to guide schools to pursue, among other priorities, the acquisition and diffusion of digital competencies and literacy, together with the awareness of risks and dangers of social media and life on the web. In this regard, the result of this project is very encouraging: intentionally using digital tools can help counteract social exclusion and act as a democratic action by promoting active citizenship, equitable quality education (Ainscow, 2012) and promote lifelong learning opportunities (OECD,2017) Resistance to the introduction of technologies and to the exercise of active citizenship still exists in Italy, as evident in this research as well. Re-thinking civicness is of primary relevance in order to fill the gap of the perceived hiatus between ‘local’ and ‘global’ (Hannerz 1992). The engagement of local administrators and leaders has been not only crucial to the success of the endeavor, but an expression of civic democracy as well.
Ainscow M, 2012, “Moving knowledge around: Strategies for fostering equity within educational systems, Journal Education of change, 13 (3): 289-310. Ball J, 2015, “What is policy? 21 years later: reflections on the possibilities of policy research”, Discourse: Studies in the cultural Politics of Education, Routledge, Institute of Education, London, 36(3): 306-313 Alam, K. and Imran, S. 2015. “The Digital Divide and Social Inclusion among Refugee Migrants: a Case an Regional Australia.” Information Technology & People, 28(2): 334-365. Creswell, J.W. 2009. Research Design. Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Approaches. London: Sage, DiMaggio, P., Hargittai, E., Celeste, C., and Shafer, S. 2004. From unequal access to differentiated use: A literature review and agenda for research on digital inequality https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4b80/e96eb81f92eeacc978a48436c0ed9b820b6f.pdf. Healey, P. 2010. Making Better Places: The Planning Project in the Twenty-First Century. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Jayawickreme, E., Forgeard, M.J.C., and Seligman, M.E.P. 2012. “The Engine of Well-Being.” Review of General Psychology, 16(4): 327-342. Lingard B., Sellar S., 2013, “Globalization, edu-business and network governance: the policy sociology of Stephen J. Ball and rethinking education policy analysis”, London Review of Education, Institute of Education, University of London. Lu, X., Meng, X., Guo, J., and Huang, W. 2013. “Empirical Study on Impact of New Information Communication Technology on Digital Divide: Beijing and Shanghai” Proceedings of the International Conference on Information, Business and Education Technology (ICIBIT 2013). Atlantis Press. Minello R., (2012), “Educational Effectiveness Research e politiche educative. L’evoluzione del quadro teorico”, Formazione e insegnamento, Pensa Multimedia, X(2), 215-238 available: http://ojs.pensamultimedia.it/index.php/siref/article/view/805 Notley, T. 2009. “Young People, Online Networks, and Social Inclusion.” Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication 14(4): 1208-1227. EOCD, 2017, Education at a glance 2017, OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris , available : http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2017-en Park S. 2012. “Dimension of Digital Media Literacy and the Relationship to Social Exclusion.” Media International Australia 142(1): 87-100. Sassen S. 1997. Citta Globali, Milano: Utet. Sassi S. 2005. “Cultural Differentiation or Social Segregation? Four Approaches to the Digital Divide.” New Media & Society 7(5): 684-700. Sthephan W.G., and Sthephan C.W. 1984. “The Role of Ignorance in Intergroup Relations.” in Miller N., and Brewer M.B. (eds). Group in Contact, the Psychology of Desegregation, Orlando: Academic Press. Testoni L. 2014. “Quali Literacy al Tempo dei Social Network?” Biblioteche Oggi 32(4), 28-36. Warschauer M. and Matuchniak T. 2010. “New Technology and Digital Words: Analyzing Evidence of Equity in Access, Use and Outcomes.” Review of Research in Education 34(1): 179-225.
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