October 20, 2011

Introducing the Digital Learning Quadrants

This is the follow-up post and answer to “The Fallacy of Digital Natives“.

Let us agree, therefore, that regardless of age or situation, the learning process is one in which any learner can utilize formal, informal and social means to actually learn. It has nothing to do with generational divides.

If we were to re-categorize the foolish Prensky and Tapscott terms of Net Generation, Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants into a classification that encompasses all ages and takes into account the realities of access and participation levels, we might use the following:

The definitions presuppose we have consensus that learning can (and perhaps does) occur with the aid of technology mediums but regardless of age.

Those that are Millennial have equal the opportunity to learn in a digital way if the environment exists in terms of levels of access and participation as with those in GenX, Baby Boomer or Silent Generation types.

The four classifications outlined above are connoted by a combination of one’s access level through digital means as well as their own personal level of participation. The higher degree of access to digital learning methods, coupled by the participatory level of the individual, equates to their position in the ‘Digital Learning Quadrants’.

These definitions are not age discriminatory. They are based solely on the learner’s willingness to participate and to what degree they choose to (or can) access digital technologies that might aid in the learning process. It also takes into account the fact many individuals in the world have no access to learn through technology whatsoever.

And yes, learning CAN occur without technology; I’m merely having a ‘go’ at the myths surrounding the terms Digital Natives, Net Generation and Digital Immigrants.

  • Disconnected Nomad
    • This type of learner has no or very low access to technology coupled by a low or non-existent level of participation. Millions of individuals in the world fit into this category. Think of the poor, the homeless, those starving in parts of the world; they may never have seen a laptop, tablet or mobile device (let alone use it to learn) thus they have a non-existent level of access. This category also includes those individuals who, on limited occasion, utilize technology at a public library, school, community center, or friend/family’s home to access and participate in limited ways. They may want to participate more, but access prevents them from doing so. Regardless of age or generation, this is a category that needs the biggest level of assistance from a global perspective and from the learning and Enterprise 2.0 community as a whole.
  • Connected Lurker
    • This type of learner has a number of technologies and levels of access at their disposal, but they consciously decide to be a part-time or infrequent participant. Although lurking is learning, they much prefer to consume, absorb and interpret available collateral than actively participate with others or contribute back. It’s their natural style to be on the periphery soaking everything in. Their access levels range from internet at home/work up to and including full media-rich, mobile and tablet ‘always on’ access. They may have a work computer but as they move up the device chain, they begin to acquire other apparatus including home computers, tablets, online video consoles, cell phones and/or smart phones. The key differentiator is that even as the number of devices or level of access increases, this learner tends to occassionally participate rather than on a continuous basis.
  • Willing Participant
    • This type of learner is handicapped only by time and tools. As a ‘willing participant’ they possess the enthusiasm to actively be a part of the learning process as often and as best they can. Access to technology and thus the tools to connect, share and exchange thoughts in a timely basis can cause learning friction. They seek out ways in which to connect, but can bump into technology access roadblocks. For example, recent data released by Statistics Canada suggests 71% of Canadian households have a desktop computer with internet access. Urban areas with 100,000+ residents possess 81% home internet access penetration rates whereas areas with less than 10,000 contain 71% home internet access penetration rates. 15% of Canadians lack a device at home to actually get online and 12% lack confidence to connect to the internet itself. Willing participants in the learning process yes, but technology access becomes a burden.
  • Collaborative Learner
    • This type of learner has access to at least one device and the internet most of if not all the time. As they progress up the quadrant, multiple devices and a continuous stream of internet access, it affords them the opportunity to be connected wherever and whenever. To complement their access riches, this learner also prefers to be at least partially if not fully participative in the learning process. They are not one to sit quietly in the background, rather, they seek out content, knowledge and intellect as often as they are willing to contribute back to their strong and weak-tie networks. The ‘collaborative learner’ considers the technology and access to it to be an essential component of the learning process itself. They often and naturally utilize the ‘collaboration cycle’ as a means in which to achieve success in their learning quest.

In summary … learning and technology has nothing to do with generational divides.
Do you agree?

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