Special Issue CFP: Digital Inclusion and Learning
This is the November 2011 call for papers for a Special Issue of Research in Learning Technology, the Journal of the Association for Learning Technology (Volume 20, Number 4).
*Disclaimer: I am on the Journal’s Editorial Board
Jane Seale, Professor of Education, Plymouth University, UK
William Dutton, Professor of Internet Studies, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, UK
Abstracts can be submitted to Jane Seale for informal feedback until 1 March 2012.
Papers should be submitted via the online submission system by 1 May 2012. The new online submission system will open in January 2012 and further information is available here.
The Special Issue will be published in autumn 2012.
Digital inequities relating to socioeconomic status, income, level of education, ethnicity, gender, age, connectivity and geography are still affecting levels of access to technology for all kinds of people. Digital inclusion research therefore has a role to play in providing explanations and solutions to these inequities. This call for papers on digital inclusion and learning aims to sharpen our focus on what is known and unknown about digital inclusion in the context of learning, learners and education. Our conceptualisation of digital inclusion encompasses a wide range of technologies, learners and learning contexts.
We are seeking articles that can inform digital inclusion practice, policy or research. A variety of papers will be considered, including empirical, review and discussion papers. Of particular interest are papers that offer conceptual, methodological and analytical rigour. We welcome papers that are multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary in nature. No particular method or theory will be privileged in this special issue, but we do expect all accepted papers to critically engage with the complexity of the concept of digital inclusion. In particular, we welcome papers that seek to challenge common assumptions or widely accepted positions in the field of digital inclusion.
Research in the field of digital inclusion, particularly that which has focused on documenting the “digital divide”, has probably done a good job at increasing understanding of differences and inequities. Both large scale and small scale surveys have shown continuing demographic gaps with socioeconomic status, income, level of education, ethnicity, gender, age, connectivity and geography all consistently found to affect levels of access to technology. There is little basis, therefore, for being complacent about digital inequalities. Whilst we know that inequities exist, there are a number of things we still do not know much about and to which future digital inclusion research could usefully contribute. A number of research challenges exist including:
- developing a conceptual framework that broadens our understanding of the complexity of digital exclusion and captures a wide range of inclusion-related opportunities, processes and outcomes;
- developing methods that enable us to directly capture and get to the heart of the experience of the digitally excluded/included;
- learning from existing individual and collective digital inclusion practice(s) in order to understand why sometimes technology related opportunities are not taken up, or inclusion outcomes don’t change.
These challenges will require digital inclusion research to elicit new data; to find new ways of getting this data or to aggregate data that already exists; and to do something useful with the data once it has been obtained. To meet these challenges, digital inclusion research will need to jump two hurdles. The first hurdle is that of being bold enough to step outside of current traditions in digital divide/inclusion research, if required, in order to collect and analyse data in different ways and consequently transform understanding. The second hurdle is that of being sufficiently robust and systematic in order to provide the necessary evidence of success (or failure) that persuades relevant key stakeholders to take transformative action.
These challenges are particularly pertinent for digital inclusion researchers working in learning and education contexts. The role for formal or informal learning in promoting digital inclusion could be described as essentially one of increasing the social capital of the digitally excluded; where social capital is understood as access, ability to use and desire to use technology. This role is not unproblematic and consideration of the role education might play raises important questions about whether education is reaching or can reach all those digitally excluded learners that “need” to be reached; how education can help learners make informed choices about technology access and use, including the choice to be digitally disengaged and the extent to which educating the digitally excluded leads to both genuine digital and social inclusion.
This call for papers on digital inclusion and learning aims to sharpen our focus on what is known and unknown about digital inclusion in the context of learning, learners and education. For the purpose of this special issue we are scoping digital inclusion in the following ways:
We are interested in articles that focus on any kind of technology that assists learning in some way, for example: the Internet and the plethora of free content-services to which it provides access; VLEs; games; mobile and personal technologies; assistive technologies and social networking technologies. Potential questions include, but are not limited to:
- To what extent do we need to design and develop new technologies capable of enhancing the digital inclusion of learners, or do we simply need to use current technologies in more creative and adaptive ways?
- How do technologies mediate a learners’ relationship with their learning environments and wider society?
- What prevents learners from accessing and using technologies in ways that might contribute to inclusive learning experiences?
We are interested in articles that address the learning experiences and opportunities of adults, children or young people with a specific focus on any individuals, groups or communities that are considered to be disadvantaged or marginalized in some way; where technologies might play a role in promoting inclusion. In education, digital inclusion is often talked about in the context of disability; but we are keen to expand discussions to other equally important, but perhaps less visible or acknowledged learners, for example looked after children, prisoners, travellers or those living in areas where power and connectivity present significant barriers. Potential questions include, but are not limited to:
- Who should the recipients of digital inclusion focused education programmes be?
- Do we know which learners are more or less likely to be digitally excluded in educational contexts? There is a lot of data about digitally excluded people in the wider society, is there equivalent data in educational contexts? What does this information tell us and what is missing?
- Can education reach all those digitally excluded learners that “need” to be reached?
Learning and education
We are interested in articles that focus on either formal or informal learning; accredited or unaccredited learning in a variety of settings and contexts for example: schools, colleges, universities, libraries, community centres, hospitals, Internet cafes and homes. Potential questions include, but are not limited to:
- To what extent can educating the digitally excluded lead to both genuine digital and social inclusion?
- Can education truly enable learners to take matters into their own hands and exert control and choice over their technology use?
- How can education systems and educators influence desire to use technology in those identified as non-users?
- How do we avoid a new digital divide between people who have the power to manipulate their learning and those who, because they do not understand the potential of technology supported learning, cannot?
- Are there limits or boundaries with regards to our commitment to transform the learning places and spaces where digital exclusion exists?
We are interested in articles that seek to advance digital inclusion research in two very specific ways: Firstly in terms of describing and evaluating new methodologies for researching the value and impact of technologies on the learning lives and experiences of disadvantaged learners. Secondly in terms of contributing to a richer and more developed theorisation of digital inclusion in the context of learning and education; which offers fuller insights into why and how learners are digitally excluded and why some digital inclusion projects and practices are more successful than others. Potential questions include, but are not limited to:
- Are the current methods and theories employed by digital inclusion researchers sufficiently rigorous and creative to enable new insights and knowledge to be gained about how to reduce the digital exclusion of learners?
- In order to embrace the complexity of the experience and impact of digital exclusion on learners, will digital inclusion researchers be required to develop a different more reflexive and dialogic relationship with learners and teachers?
We are interested in articles that examine how digital inclusion related policies, laws, standards and guidelines influence and inform practice in learning contexts or evaluate the extent to which digital inclusion research informs the policy making decisions of funders and other key stakeholders. Potential questions include, but are not limited to:
- Is digital inclusion related policy sufficiently long-sighted, flexible or creative to enable or support genuine and meaningful transformation for learners?
- To what extent are the aims and goals of digital inclusion policy at conflict with the aims and goals of those learners identified as “at risk” of digital exclusion?
We are interested in articles that seek to engage with the question of whether it is possible or desirable to identify “best practice” with regards to digital inclusion and the extent to which that practice can be meaningfully evaluated to provide evidence for “successful” outcomes. Potential questions include, but are not limited to:
Is it helpful for practitioners (e.g. teachers, youth workers; social care staff) to be given digital inclusion guidelines and recommendations?
How can practitioners prove that their use of technologies with learners has had a beneficial outcome in ways that are meaningful to learners and sensitive to the contexts in which technologies are being employed?
- In what ways can we usefully learn about/from the existing practices of users/learners?
- What is the best way to develop and support the digital inclusion practice of teachers particularly in relation to taking risks and tolerating occasional failures?
- Do the different digital inclusion practices that exist have to be aligned or reconciled, if so, how might this be achieved?
- Does the search for “best” digital inclusion practice merely create new divides or divisions?
Types of papers
A variety of papers will be considered, including empirical, review and discussion papers. Of particular interest are papers that offer conceptual, methodological and analytical rigour; and make a contribution to knowledge in one of the following ways:
- Provide unique insights into the impact of technologies on the learning lives and experiences of disadvantaged or marginalised individuals, groups or communities;
- Describe and evaluate digital inclusion experiences or practices, informed by a particular methodological or theoretical approach;
- Contribute to debates about the best or most meaningful outcomes to use to demonstrate to a range of stakeholders that inclusive technologies have had a positive impact;
- Describe and evaluate the design, development and implementation of new inclusive technologies;
- Critique the role of theory in digital inclusion research, policy or practice;
- Critically review current digital inclusion research, policy or practice literature and identify gaps in knowledge or areas that are weak and need further development in terms of evidence, methods or theory.
The digital inclusion and learning field is both multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary and we welcome therefore papers that represent the range of cognate disciplines, for example education; psychology, sociology, computer science; media studies; social policy, library and information sciences; law and economics. No particular method or theory will be privileged in this special issue, but we do expect all accepted papers to critically engage with the complexity of the concept of digital inclusion. In particular, we welcome papers that seek to challenge common assumptions or widely accepted positions in the field of digital inclusion.
About the Guest Editors
Jane Seale is Professor of Education at Plymouth University. She has undertaken a number of key national co-ordination and leadership roles in the field of e-learning and research including President of the Association for Learning Technology and Co-Director of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. Jane’s research operates at the intersection of education, technology and disability and she has over 20 years of experience examining the role of technology in promoting inclusion, particularly for those with learning disabilities. Her 2006 book “E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice” is in over 450 libraries world-wide. Currently Jane is convenor of the TLRP Technology Enhanced Learning Digital Inclusion Forum and has produced a commentary which reviews current digital inclusion research and practice literature.
William Dutton is Professor of Internet Studies at the Oxford Internet Institute, Universityof Oxford, Fellow of Balliol College, and an Emeritus Professor at the University of Southern California. In the UK, he was a Fulbright Scholar 1986-87, was National Director of the UK’s Programme on Information and Communication Technologies (PICT) from 1993 to 1996, and founding director of the OII during its first decade, for which he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Professor Dutton is Principal Investigator of the Oxford e-Social Science Project (OeSS), supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, and Principal Investigator of the Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS), a key resource on the use and impact of the Internet in Britain, that is one component of the World Internet Project, an international collaboration comprising over 20 nations. His concept of the ‘Fifth Estate’ has created a new research project and a book in progress. His service includes chairing the Advisory Committee for Englandof the UK’s Office of Communications (Ofcom), and participating on the Innovation Committee of NHS Direct.
Submission and review process
The submission of abstracts for informal feedback is encouraged. They can be sent directly to Jane Seale until 1 March 2012.
Full papers must be submitted according to the journal’s Instructions for Authors.
Papers should be submitted via the online submission system by 1 May 2012.
Papers received will undergo double blind peer review and authors will receive feedback and where appropriate, an opportunity to revise their paper. An additional round of reviewing is sometimes used to encourage authors to improve their paper, either for this special issue, or a subsequent issue of Research in Learning Technology.
For other queries and guidance relating to the call please contact the Special Issue Editors:
Jane Seale: firstname.lastname@example.org
William Dutton: email@example.com
Further information about the Journal can be found in the Publications and Resources section of the website.