Conquering the digital divide: with a digital native who never was

Russo, Kerry (2019) Conquering the digital divide: with a digital native who never was. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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As higher education moves to blended learning environments, a digital divide is emerging in the Australian higher education sector. This divide is predicated on differing digital skills and usage patterns, not access to digital devices. Access is not perceived to be the issue as numerous Australian secondary schools offer a school-issued laptop scheme. Yet many students transitioning to university are grappling with the necessary digital skills required to participate in a digital setting. Referred to as "digital natives", these young people were expected to be digitally proficient. This thesis challenges the existence of Mark Prensky's (2001) Digital Native and provides an analysis of how differing digital fluency stages influence perceived preparedness for university study. Conceptualising the growing inequalities arising from a widening digital divide, the thesis investigates impacts on the student experience, digital fluency and secondary schooling digital opportunities. The thesis reports on three studies drawn from three research questions. Using a mixed-mode approach centred on Critical Theory and Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), the thesis provides an analysis of the digital divide in Australian higher education. Study 1 reports on RQ1: "What is the relationship between socioeconomic, sociocultural/ geographic indicators and the digital divide?" Four hundred and nine first-year business students were surveyed at regional and urban Australian universities. This study provides empirical data on the digital divide and determines a link between digital fluency, socioeconomic status, sociocultural capital, digital identity and student self-reported preparedness and digital skills. Study 2 reports on RQ2: "Is digital fluency a precursor to preparedness for university study?" Fifteen of the surveyed respondents completed a digital test with usability testing software prior to an in-depth interview. Study 2 provides a link between access and application of digital environments in schooling and the development of digital fluency. This study presents data showing disadvantage indicators can be alleviated through access to digital learning environments during schooling. Study 3 reports on RQ3: "What enhances and develops digital fluencies?" and examines the digital divide from a student's perceptive. Case studies were developed from in-depth interviews and presented as techno-biographies to determine respondents' digital fluency stage. These techno-biographies outline differing experiences and opportunities for digital skills development between secondary schools. Study 3 explores prior digital experience to identify digital influences, skills, knowledge, attitude and mindset. The study suggests that influences and prior digital experiences contribute to digital fluency and perceived preparedness for university study. The three studies are intertwined in their investigation of an association between disadvantage indicators, prior digital experience and stages of digital fluency. Particular attention is placed on examining the distribution and allocation of digitally resourcing in secondary schools. The three studies culminate in a concept model to illustrate the link between the distribution of resources, digital fluency and preparedness for university study. The thesis demonstrates a link between access to a learning management system (LMS) or digital curriculum during secondary school and disadvantage indicators. Access to a school LMS consistently produced higher self-reported digital skills than those without, even when disadvantage indicators were present. The issue of perceived preparedness for university study and/or a digital learning environment was also linked to participants who had access to a school LMS. Rural, regional, low socioeconomic, low sociocultural capital and state-school participants were less likely to have had access to a digital curriculum during secondary schooling and therefore less likely to report preparedness for university study. Conversely, these disadvantage indicators were overcome if participants had access to an LMS or digital curriculum. The thesis identifies a digital divide in higher education emanating from the distribution, use and allocation of secondary schooling digital resources and prior experience. The resourcing of secondary schools with school-issued laptops did not increase digital fluency or perceived preparedness for university study. However, the implementation of a digital curriculum or LMS produced significant outcomes in the development of digital fluency. These findings illustrate the influence of digital immersion in the formation of fluency. Resourcing schools without a clear digital curriculum does not increase digital fluency. If the digital divide is to be conquered, the appropriate application of digital resources in secondary schools must be implemented to enable the development of digital fluency.

Item ID: 63313
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: digital fluency, digital divide, digital native, higher education, student learning, disadvantage
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2019 Kerry Russo.
Date Deposited: 27 May 2020 04:25
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130306 Educational Technology and Computing @ 50%
13 EDUCATION > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education @ 50%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930203 Teaching and Instruction Technologies @ 50%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9301 Learner and Learning > 930101 Learner and Learning Achievement @ 50%
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