Bridging the Digital Divide through reading

by | Mar 3, 2022 | News & Updates

The Digital Divide is what we are all about!  One of the pillars of the DPA is – Capability (Skills, Education and Understanding), as part of an overall aim to eradicate digital poverty. 

As someone with a background in Education, I have turned my focus to World Book Day, an annual global event that is now in its 25th year, whose mission it is to promote reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own.  A browse of the books on offer in the supermarkets and bookshops to celebrate this day does not show tech being “highlighted” or “shown in any way”. Why is this I wonder, when almost all educational institutions have a library and literacy features through all levels of education especially in primary and secondary school.  How do we expect our young people to start embracing tech and developing an understanding in their own time apart from in the classroom?

Through fostering literacy, we are encouraging our young people to be imaginative, creative, to develop critical thinking skills and much more.  By having access to information and gaining a deeper understanding we all have a better understanding of the world around us, and this goes a long way toward reducing inequalities.  Books I feel for school aged children are one of the ways forward, especially when they have a tech focus as it is tech that is rapidly changing our world.

The following paragraph “Lacking vital literacy skills holds a person back at every stage of their life. As a child they won’t be able to succeed at school, as a young adult they will be locked out of the job market, and as a parent they won’t be able to support their own child’s learning. This intergenerational cycle makes social mobility and a fairer society more difficult” on the “National Literacy Trust” website caught my eye recently.  I would say the same applies for tech literacy, understanding of artificial intelligence, cyber, data, smart and lots of other everyday terms in use for our digitised world. How do we ensure, apart from in a taught lesson in school, that these terms, understanding and conversation on tech is embedded in society.

As I work in Computing education I recently took positive action and did an Instagram live session with other educators addressing this very matter, highlighting books for primary school use with a tech focus and also referencing a Computing at School (CAS) community generated list for secondary school pupils which features both fiction and non-fiction entries.

The World Book Day website says that “Spending just 10 minutes a day reading and sharing stories with children can make a crucial difference to their future success and it’s fun for all involved” 

My thought is let just one of those ten-minute slots be taken up with a reading for pleasure around technology and we will go further in addressing the Digital Divide.

Of course, world book day will come and go this year, but to ensure that this is kept on the “agenda”, below I suggest a few digital literacy dates for your calendar, where we can highlight the work of the DPA and also tech related dates at the same time.

January

  • Morse Code Day

February

  • International Day of Education
  • Safer Internet Day

March

  • World Book Day

May

  • National Password Day
  • Autonomous Vehicle Day

June

  • Social Media Day

August

  • World Wide Web Day

September

  • National Coding Week
  • National Online Learning Day
  • IT Professional Day
  • International Podcast Day

November

  • Fibonacci Day
  • Computer Security Day

December

  • Computer Literacy Day
  • World App Day
  • Device Appreciation Day

The list is not exhaustive, but I find it a good way to approach the “tech year”, my call to action is to think about literacy and raise this issue with libraries, schools, youth groups and any other organisation where there are books/magazines that do not feature a book(s) on tech – we have a long way to go to see this reality. Guess what – there is also a National Unplugging Day – so even more of a reason to recommend a good selection of books for our young people, where they can read about the changes that have been heralded by the fourth industrial revolution.

Beverly Clarke works for BCS-The Chartered Institute for IT as the National Manager for Computing at School (CAS) – the teacher facing arm of BCS. She is also a published author for both adults and children. Her first children’s book – The Digital Adventures of Ava and Chip – Smart City was published last year. She is a former teacher, DPA Ambassador, CAS Board Member, BETT Advisory Board Member and BETT Awards Judge @msbclarke