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Closing the Gap in Education?

Beyond the ‘Digital Divide’

Engaging with New Technologies in Marginalised Educational Settings in Australia

Ilana Snyder

Monash University

The term ‘digital divide’ refers to the gap between those with and those without access to computers and the Internet and, as a result, their participation in the information age. The term became popular under the Clinton administration after the publication by the US National Communications and Information Administration (NTIA 2000) of the report ‘Falling through the net: Defining the digital divide’ (Warschauer 2003; Haythornthwaite 2007). When first used, the term served an important rhetorical purpose. It drew attention to a significant social and cultural phenomenon: dramatic differences of access to computers and the Internet among population groups. However, the notion of a digital divide and what it implies – that educational problems can be dealt with by providing computers and access to the Internet – have become increasingly problematic. Four stories, each with two versions, help illustrate this point.

The hole in the wall

The first story is located in India and is about the ‘hole in the wall’ experiment. Version one tells of an Indian academic and researcher, Sugata Mitra, who knocked a hole through the wall of his NIIT (National Institute of Information Technology) laboratory in New Delhi so that children in the adjoining slum could play on one of his computers. He wanted to see whether unschooled children would teach themselves how to use the Internet if left to their own devices. Mitra discovered that the children quickly taught themselves how to surf the net, read the news and download games and music.

From this grew the Hole-in-the-Wall Education Ltd (HiWEL) project, a joint venture between NIIT and the International Finance Corporation (a part of The World Bank Group). It set up 23 outdoor computer kiosks in some of the poorest slums in India, where children had never had access to a computer. The computers were in a booth and the monitors protruded through holes in the walls. Instead of a mouse and keyboard, there were specially designed joysticks and buttons. The computers were connected to the Internet through dial-up access. A volunteer inside the booth kept the connection going and no teachers were provided. Each time the results were similar: within hours and without instruction, the children began browsing the Internet. It was hailed as a ground-breaking project offering a model of how to bring India into the computer age.

At the end of five years, the schools reported that their English, maths and science scores were all going up. Moreover, the experiment had an unexpected impact in Hollywood, as the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ project provided the inspiration for Slumdog Millionaire, the British film that won the Best Picture award at the Oscars in 2008. The movie is based on the novel Q and A, by Vikas Swarup, India’s Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa. In an interview following the Oscar success, Swarup said:

My book is about hope, optimism and triumph of the human spirit. I was inspired by the Hole-in-the-Wall project, where a computer with an internet connection was put in a slum in Delhi. When the slum was revisited after a month, the children of that slum had learnt how to use the worldwide web without any supervision. That got me fascinated and I realised that there’s an innate ability in everyone to do something extraordinary, provided they are given an opportunity. (Swarup 2009)

The second version of the story provides a more sober account of the ‘hole in the wall’ experiment. Eminent researcher in the field of literacy and technology studies Mark Warschauer (2003) – University of California, Irvine – reports that overall the project was not very effective. The Internet seldom functioned, no special educational programs were made available and no special content was provided in Hindi, the only language the children knew. Further, parents had ambivalent attitudes to the kiosks. Some welcomed the initiative but were concerned that the lack of organised instruction took away its value. Others complained that it distracted the children from homework. According to Warschauer (2003), children taught themselves basic operations, including how to click and drag objects; select different menus; cut, copy and paste; launch and use programs such as Word and Paint; get on the Internet; and change the wallpaper. The children learned to manipulate joy sticks and buttons, but almost all their time was spent drawing with paint programs or playing computer games.

Warschauer’s evaluation resonates with early research findings about the use of computers in schools. There has been much evidence demonstrating that when computers are used, the students in privileged socioeconomic school environments are given intellectually demanding assignments that require creative and complex application of the technologies. By contrast, in poorer schools the emphasis is on pre-packaged drill-and-skill exercises with little evidence that the skills transfer to other learning settings and situations (Snyder 2008). Although not located in formal school contexts, the ‘hole in the wall’ experiment has similar characteristics. The children in India had access to computers and the Internet, but the activities with which they engaged were low level and educationally unchallenging. The research findings suggest that questions always need to be asked about not simply physical access to technology, which is largely a matter of income and/or interventionist policies, but also about the quality and nature of the access. How the technologies are used is also influenced by the cultural resources children and their families can bring to bear on their relationship with technology (Snyder et al. 2004).

The $100 laptop

The second story is about the $100 laptop program in Brazil. The first version tells of Boston ‘Brahmin’ Nicholas Negroponte’s bold initiative, which aimed to provide hundreds of millions of the world’s poor children aged six to 12 with portable, Internet-enabled computers. Negroponte and his team at MIT designed $100 laptops, aiming to sell them to the governments of technologically underdeveloped countries. The plan was to distribute the computers en masse to the participating countries’ children.

By November 2005, the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) not-for-profit organisation was in operation and a prototype was unveiled. Negroponte’s vision of the $100 laptop – special design, free and open-source software, special display, no movable parts and low energy use – became a reality: ‘the children’s machine’ was launched by Nicholas Negroponte and Koffi Anan in 2005 at the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva (ITU 2009). From the beginning the project acknowledged that there is more to do than just distribute the hardware. It is not based on a one-size-fits-all model and, in the strong educational tradition of the Media Lab at MIT, promotes a constructionist approach to learning. Negroponte pointed out that considerable work would be devoted to teachers – not so much to learn what and how to teach, but more in terms of their own self-confidence and comfort with the machines.

In Brazil it became the President’s project and was called um computador por aluno (one laptop per student) rather than ‘one laptop per child’. The change in name signifies that in Brazil the project is located firmly in education and involves both the government at the highest level (the presidency) and the Ministry of Education. It has three objectives: to change the educational paradigm by initiating pedagogical innovation in education; to promote digital inclusion, with the students taking the laptops home so that members of the family can use them; and to contribute to the IT industry in Brazil, with the laptops being built locally (Valente 2008). The program also involves a committee of professors who work with the technologies (GTUCA) to advise the government – both the presidency and the ministry. The committee’s role is to advise about the pedagogical implementation of the project in schools, develop teacher training strategies and produce evaluation criteria. Research has been initiated in five schools across Brazil and the preliminary findings published by the advisory committee of academics are very positive (Valente 2008).

The alternative version of the $100 laptop story is that the project in Brazil has met with difficulty after difficulty. Brazil has been a particular frustration to Negroponte, even though President Lula da Silva initially expressed support. Negroponte’s not-for-profit foundation, which promised to produce the laptops, decided not to compete when the Brazilian Government opened up the tendering process to other bidders and imposed specifications. In the end, Brazil awarded a contract for 150,000 laptops to an Indian-based company. When interviewed about the Brazilian laptop project, Larry Cuban, professor emeritus at Stanford and a leading scholar on the history of the use of technology in education, said: ‘If there’s a lack of electricity, basic health care, [acceptable] facilities, and especially teachers, it’s not such a good idea to begin with laptops’. Dismissing the contention that laptops can replace teachers, he added: ‘Effective teaching is based on a relationship between an adult and children, and machines don’t create those kinds of relationships’ (Hatch 2009). One-hundred-dollar laptops have also reached Australia, where they have been donated to students in some remote Indigenous schools by the not-for-profit One Laptop Australia. Shepherdson College on Elcho Island is one recipient community. Two others are the Rawa Community School in Western Australia and Newcastle Waters School in the Northern Territory (Guest 2009). Research investigating the effects of their implementation has yet to emerge.

eGranary

The third story is about a proposal for a research project to use eGranary (WiderNet Project 2009), an off-line digital archive developed by the University of Iowa Foundation, in Uganda. The first version tells of a group of academics from North America who are working with colleagues in Uganda on a project to bring the children of that developing nation into the age of the Internet (Mutonyi and Norton 2007). The research team has chosen eGranary as the technological resource that will underpin the project. The eGranary digital library provides millions of digital educational resources to institutions lacking adequate Internet access. Through a process of garnering permissions, copying websites, and delivering them to intranet web servers within the partner institutions in developing countries, eGranary delivers millions of multimedia documents that can be instantly accessed by patrons over their local area networks at no cost. The researchers would prefer to provide Ugandan children with direct access to the Internet but, as this goal is unachievable, the team has chosen eGranary archival software as a viable alternative.

The second version of this story is not yet available, as the project is still under consideration for major funding, but the very idea raises a number of important questions that confront all such initiatives. To raise just a few: Is providing inferior digital resources to a developing country better than no resources? What criteria were used in the selection of the educational resource to include in the archive? What was excluded? Are the resources in the archive so culturally specific that they won’t be as useful as imagined?

An education revolution

The fourth story is located in Australia. The first version tells of prime ministerial aspirant Kevin Rudd promising a revolution in education if Labor were elected. As soon as his government came into office in November 2007, Rudd moved to initiate the revolution. Integral to the policy is the ‘digital education revolution’ (DER). Its aim ‘is to contribute sustainable and meaningful change to teaching and learning in Australian schools that will prepare students for further education, training and to live and work in a digital world’ (DEEWR 2009).

Through the DER, the government has allocated $2.2 billion over six years to provide computers for all secondary schools with students in Years 9 to12; support high-speed broadband connections to Australian schools; collaborate with states and territories and deans of education to ensure that new and continuing teachers have access to training in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) ‘that enables them to enrich student learning’ (DEEWR 2008); provide online curriculum tools and resources that support the national curriculum and specialist subjects such as languages; enable parents to participate in their children’s education through online learning; access support mechanisms to provide vital assistance for schools in the deployment of ICT. The execution of the DER will be guided by the Digital Education Revolution Implementation Roadmap (AICTEC 2009). A revolution indeed, if successfully implemented.

Although not explicitly part of the DER, in July 2009 the Council of Australian Governments announced that the federal government would spend $7 million on providing public Internet access facilities in remote Indigenous communities over the next four years, as part of its Closing the Gap initiatives, and will also deliver training in basic computer and Internet use in up to 60 remote communities a year (Dearne 2009). Clearly, schools are likely to benefit from this investment in IT infrastructure.

By contrast, the second version of the story begins from a position of some scepticism in response to the very notion of engineering a ‘revolution’ in education. The digital education ‘revolution’ has been dismissed in the media, by critics from both the left and the right, as pure hyperbole – a lot of high-minded promises, not well thought through, and without sufficient funds to resource them (eg Donnelly 2008; McShane 2009). The roll-out of computers to secondary-school students has also been the subject of persistent criticism. Concern has been expressed about the emphasis on providing the hardware with not sufficient allowance for technical support systems and provision for teachers’ professional learning. There have even been instances of principals refusing to accept the computers because they do not have the funds to resource these essentials (Milne 2008).

Further, the rationale offered by the state government leaders as to why there is a need to ensure access to technology is questionable. According to the Joint Ministerial Statement on ICT in Australian education and training, 2009–2011: ‘Australia will have technology enriched learning environments that enable students to achieve high quality learning outcomes and productively contribute to our society and economy’ (DEEWR 2008). But does access to technology ‘enable’ students to achieve ‘high quality learning outcomes’, which is code for improved scores on the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy)?

There has been much research investigating this question since computers first entered schools in large numbers in the late 1970s. In my own field of literacy studies, the initial question was: Does the use of computers improve the quality of students’ writing? A more recent version of this question asks: What is the impact of computers on students’ literacy outcomes? The findings have been consistently equivocal: about half the studies claim an impact, about half claim no impact, while some even claim that the use of new technologies actually makes things worse (Andrews 2004; Snyder 2008). Such a mix of findings does not provide a strong evidence base to inform policy decisions.

In 2009 The Le@rning Federation, a joint initiative of the state, territory and federal governments of Australia and New Zealand, published a report on a series of research projects investigating the effectiveness of using digital curriculum resources with Indigenous students in remote, regional and urban settings (Le@rning Federation 2009). The study found that the resources supported motivation and engagement – not to be scoffed at – but not higher scores as measured in the NAPLAN. There is simply no persuasive evidence that demonstrates the existence of a causal relationship between the use of computers and improved outcomes as measured in test scores.

A far more compelling argument for providing students with ICT access is that new technologies are playing such a critical role in society, culture and economics that unequal access can have devastating consequences for individuals and communities. Manuel Castells’ (1996) vision of the network society, elaborated in the mid-1990s, still holds: when access is inequitable, the more privileged become the ‘interacting’, with the skills, knowledge and resources to select or create their multimedia circuits of communication, while the less privileged become the ‘interacted’, limited to passive access to pre-packaged choices. In other words, the interacting are those with the skills and capital to shape the multimedia context of the future and the interacted are those who are recipients of multimedia content created by others (Warschauer 2009).

To return to the Australian Government’s DER policy documents, there is no reference to supporting Indigenous students, particularly those located in remote communities. The rhetoric of the revolution is to provide resources for all Australian students. Clearly, there is much value in focusing on the diverse digital needs of all Australian children and young people, but it sounds a little like the one-size-fits-all approach to education that innovative educational reformers such as Negroponte have tried hard to avoid, and which researchers know don’t work if sustained change is the goal.

In a speech to launch a book at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne in September 2009, conservative historian Geoffrey Blainey made a plea for the ‘quiet burial’ of the phrase education revolution, branding it more a slogan than a model for educational change (Wilson 2009). Blainey pointed out that the last time there was a revolution in education in Australia was in the late nineteenth century, when the state of Victoria led the charge for compulsory education. This was a step that placed Australia, a vast land where many could not read and write, ahead of most other nations in terms of educational opportunities. But, Blainey added, even this ‘real’ education revolution failed to reach most Aboriginal settlements. ‘Since then, primary education has retreated in many Aboriginal regions. In that sense, the real education revolution of the 1870s is still uncompleted.’ Blainey urged the government, at whatever cost, to revitalise primary schools for Aboriginal children and encourage them to attend regularly.

Drawing the threads together

The four projects in India, Brazil, Uganda and Australia were motivated by a genuine attempt to improve children’s educational opportunities through access to new technologies. In India, Brazil and Uganda, the focus has been on marginalised children; in Australia, on ‘all’ children. However, in each case there have been unexpected difficulties that have limited the sought-after educational outcomes. With the emphasis too often on providing hardware and software, not enough attention has been given to the social systems that must also change for technology to make a difference. Access to new technologies with the potential to produce significant consequences for users involves more than the provision of computers and connection to the Internet. What is required is a more complex explanation of access that involves not only physical and digital resources but also human resources and social relationships, as the new technologies are embedded in existing social relations, which influence their social distribution and impact.

As Warschauer (2003) emphasises, content and language, literacy and education, and community and institutional structures must all be taken into account if meaningful access to new technologies is to be provided. But even when efforts are made to complicate the notion of the digital divide in such ways, its original sense is so strongly associated with the availability of computers and connectivity rather than with issues of content, language, education, literacy or social resources, that it is difficult to replace it with an alternative sense in people’s minds.

Another problem with the notion of the digital divide is the implication that society is split into two: the haves and the have-nots. In reality, these two monolithic groups do not exist, yet they continue to be invoked. What does exist is perhaps better captured by the notion of a ‘spectrum of access’ (Haythornthwaite 2007). Compare, for example, a professor at Monash Australia with a high-speed connection in her office, a student in Cape Town who occasionally uses an Internet café, and a teacher in a remote part of Brazil, who has no computer or phone line but whose colleagues in the Ministry of Education print out digital materials for her to use in her school setting. These are just three examples of the spectrum of possible access.

The notion of a binary divide between the haves and the have-nots is too simplistic to capture the complexity of social barriers to Internet use (Willis and Tranter 2006). It is also probably patronising because it fails to acknowledge the resources that people manage to exploit in unexpected and creative ways. In Australia, Indigenous Australians are often portrayed as being on the wrong side of the digital divide, when in fact access varies by, at the very least, income group and location. Just as it is inaccurate to present a monolithic vision of Aboriginal people in Australia that fails to acknowledge the multiplicity inherent in Indigenous cultures – manifest in the many language groups, diverse histories and different experiences of Indigenous people – so too is it inaccurate to present Indigenous Australians, particularly those in remote communities, as the technology have-nots who lack access to computers and the Internet (cf McConaghy and Snyder 2000).

Descriptions of Indigenous Australians as located on the wrong side of the digital divide contain traces of ‘Aboriginalism’ (Hodge 1990; Attwood 1989; 1992), the discursive regime that has been particularly effective in producing a dominant representation of Indigenous Australians. Drawing on Said’s (1978) notion of orientalism, ‘Aboriginalism’ refers to the production of texts about Indigenous Australians that emerge as integral to the imposition of authority and power over them. The Aboriginalist project is described by Bain Attwood (1992) as taking three interdependent forms: researching and speaking about Indigenous people; constructing ‘them’ as oppositional to ‘us’; and maintaining institutions for the disciplining, administering and ruling over Indigenous Australians.

A related way of thinking about the discourses of Aboriginalism is through the lens of ‘culturalism’ (McConaghy 2000). Integral to this framework is the assumption of two immutable and oppositional cultures: ‘Indigenous’ and ‘western’. McConaghy argues that culturalism has for many decades sustained a politics of racialisation in a wide range of Australian social institutions and academic disciplines, including education. The framework demands that before issues of policy, curriculum and pedagogy can be debated, issues of culture must be considered. Reflections of the two contrasting cultural formations are everywhere – in the research literature, in policy documents, in the media and in popular discourses.

Take, for example, the continuing debate in Australia over teaching bilingualism in remote communities, which heated up recently, again. In July 2009 the Northern Territory Government dismantled bilingual and bicultural education because it claimed that it was responsible for lower literacy levels. The new policy requires teachers to provide Indigenous children with intensive English classes for four hours each day, which does not leave much time for the children to learn in their own languages. The plan has generated impassioned debate among educators, academics and Indigenous community members, with critics arguing that the proposal will severely limit the opportunities for Indigenous involvement in education – that it devalues Indigenous languages and language learning. This action by the Northern Territory Government has had a full range of responses in the media – praise, condemnation and resistance – and all were evident in the September ABC Four Corners program that focused on the change in policy (Whitmont 2009). Evident in the journalist’s questions and narration, and in the views of those interviewed, were traces of culturalism.

Culturalism favours ‘culture’ as an explanatory tool for understanding matters of social difference and uses the notion indiscriminately to explain diverse issues in contrasting contexts. It views ‘cultures’ as essentially knowable, bounded and separate. The word ‘culture’ is used to include every action and every belief in a total system, as a way of life, and members of different cultures are thought to share world views (McConaghy 2000). Like Aboriginalism, culturalism is reductive and unhelpful, as too often it is used as an excuse to stymie the tough policy decisions needed to move things forward in Indigenous education (Pearson 2009).

Describing Indigenous Australians in remote communities as located on the wrong side of the digital divide feeds off popular narratives about Indigenous education that are informed by Aboriginalist and Culturalist representations. Integral to these narratives is the notion of ‘the essential Aborigine’, a construction that has long been associated with ‘Indigenous incapacity’ (Hodge and Mishra 1991). As a direct consequence, pedagogical efforts are directed towards dealing with a ‘lack’ of some sort among Indigenous Australians. In the context of this chapter, Indigenous children ‘lack’ digital literacy, that is, the literacy skills associated with the use of computers and the Internet. The children are in ‘deficit’ as they lack ‘functional’ digital literacy, a label that expresses a narrow understanding of literacy. Brian Street (1984) calls this an ‘autonomous model’ of literacy – that literacy, defined independently of cultural context and meaning, will have effects, creating inequality for those who ‘lack’ it and advantages for those who gain it (Street 2009). Thus providing access to computers and the Internet becomes a project aimed at redressing the ‘lack’ of digital literacy skills among Indigenous children.

Despite vigorous debates within Indigenous education in Australia, the polarisation of black and white Australians works to sustain beliefs in Indigenous incapacity, poverty of expression and general primitiveness. Martin Nakata’s (1991) analysis of the positioning of ‘the Torres Strait Islander’ in this literate/illiterate binary is useful here. He explains how constructions of literacy and illiteracy were used as a technology for colonial subjugation – for the degeneration and dehumanisation of Torres Strait Islanders. In a similar way, Bain Attwood’s (1996) work has promoted more awareness of how Aboriginalism sustains repressive dichotomies or dualisms between black and white. Constructions of digital literacy skills and the lack of them perpetuate the regime of bifurcating white and black Australia.

The limitations of representing complex social and educational issues as simple dichotomies are manifold. But there is an alternative – a more productive way forward. Today the ability to access, adapt and create knowledge using new technologies is critical to full social participation. A focus on social participation shifts the discussion of the digital divide from something to be bridged by providing material resources to social challenges to be met by integrating technology into communities, institutions and societies. Most important is not so much the physical availability of computers and the Internet – although that of course is important – but the ability of children and young people in peripheral communities to use the technologies to engage in meaningful social practices in the social, cultural and economic dimensions of their lives.

Social participation rather than a digital divide

Despite the significant differences in access to computers and the Internet between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and between remote and non-remote communities, the notion of the digital divide is unhelpful (see Hunter 2005 for statistical evidence of the differences). It tends to suggest digital solutions – computers and telecommunications – to the exclusion of other equally if not more important factors. Computers and connectivity do not exist as material resources to be inserted from the outside to produce desired educational outcomes. Technologies are always deeply enmeshed in social systems, processes and practices (Lankshear and Snyder 2000).

The goal of using computers and the Internet with marginalised groups is not to overcome a digital divide but to advance processes of genuine social participation. To accomplish this goal, both the material resources and the social changes required need to be considered. The digital divide was a useful concept historically – it helped to draw attention to inequity – but today finding language that supports social participation and more accurately portrays the complex issues involved is likely to be more productive.

Social participation refers to the extent to which individuals, families and communities are able to take part 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’ (Warschauer 2003, 8). Social participation is not only about sharing resources, but also about contributing to the determination of individual and collective life chances. It overlaps with socioeconomic equality but is not equivalent. There are many ways that Indigenous Australians in remote communities can enjoy fuller participation, even though they lack an equal share of resources. The concept of social participation does not ignore the role of race and location but recognises that a broad array of other variables helps shape how different forces interact.

A focus on ‘digital equality’ draws attention to the variables involved: the hardware and software, the users’ skills and capabilities, and the level of support and purpose for which the technologies are used. Of particular importance here is the notion of ‘capabilities’ (see Tikly this volume). It draws on the work of Sen (2002) and Nussbaum (2000) and embodies what children and young people in remote Indigenous communities are actually able to do and be in the context of the use of new technologies. Capabilities comprise at least two aspects: ‘primary goods’ – the knowledge and skills to act – and ‘agency’ – the freedom to make choices. Digital literacy capabilities thus imply more than simply digital literacy skills in a narrow sense. They also imply the opportunity for children and young people in remote communities to convert their resources into achievements and outcomes of different kinds. The notion of capabilities offers an alternative to the predominant global focus on economic wealth as a measure of development; it has the potential to bridge and extend human capital, and human rights and entitlements, approaches to education (see Snyder 2008).

When these factors are taken into account, the focus shifts to the relationship between access and the use of technology for social and economic equality. Success at school is vitally important, but not if the sole emphasis is on raising children’s test scores, which is a highly politicised and contested terrain in Australia (Snyder 2008), as it is in New Zealand and South Africa. Rather, the concern for education in remote communities becomes how to provide classroom opportunities for technology-mediated practices that are related to achieving social, economic and educational power. These essential practices include finding, critiquing and deploying sophisticated multimedia texts.

Beyond ‘closing gaps’ and ‘bridging divides’

‘Divides to bridge’ and ‘gaps to close’ are powerful metaphors in terms of their rhetorical impact. They demand people’s attention, appear to pinpoint the key issues and provoke conversation and action. As the title of an important conference, ‘Closing the gap’ did the trick. It was sufficiently appealing to attract the participation of leaders in education from around the world. It highlighted the fact that there are pressing issues of inequality that urgently require solutions. It was the catalyst for important conversations across national borders and suggestions for moving forward. However, these metaphors are also profoundly problematic. They are reductive, crude and polarising. They reflect a tradition in Australia of dividing people into two monolithic groups.

Said’s notion of ‘making the voyage in’ offers a more constructive metaphor, as it embodies hope for Indigenous education in remote communities by suggesting that progress is possible. In Culture and Imperialism, Said (1993) argues that the imperial politics of identity has worked to endorse separatism on racialised grounds. He advocates an alternative project of ‘worldliness’ to reintegrate those people once reduced to marginal or peripheral status with the rest of the human race, to assist them to make ‘the voyage in’, to have a voice that counts. A key challenge facing Australian education is to enable Indigenous children and young people in remote communities to acquire the critical digital literacy capabilities necessary for active and meaningful social participation. This is their right and entitlement but, like all universal rights, it needs to be socially and culturally situated to be both meaningful and potentially democratic. Indigenous education needs to be accessible to universal rights and entitlements while providing for culturally specific and localised self-determination. The achievement of this vital educational goal involves getting the best possible mix of both imperatives. It also involves close scrutiny of the policies that make recommendations for providing access to new technologies for Indigenous children in remote communities: what they say and what they don’t say, but also how they say it. These are some of the ongoing issues in regard to marginalised educational settings with which we must continue to engage.

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Closing the Gap in Education?

   by Ilana Snyder and John Nieuwenhuysen