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Title:Hidden works in a project of closing digital inequalities: a qualitative inquiry in a remote school
Author(s):Chen, Ken-Zen
Director of Research:Osborne, Margery
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Osborne, Margery
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Burbules, Nicholas C.; Dressman, Mark A.; Reese, George
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Secondary & Continuing Educ
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Digital Divide
One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)
Case Study
Hidden Work
Abstract:This study investigated students’ experiences and teachers' hidden works when initiating an instructional technology project that aimed to reduce digital inequality in a remote aboriginal school in a developed Asian country. The chosen research site was a small school classified as “extremely remote” by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan. I intended to understand teachers’ hidden works through qualitative case study and participant research when attempting to bridge the existing digital divide at the school. The proposed main research questions were: What hidden work did teachers need to accomplish when implementing a technology reform? How did students and teachers experience the changes after learning and living with the XO laptops? How and in what way could a bridging-digital-divide project like OLPC live and survive in remote schools? A qualitative case study design was used in this investigation. Data were collected between June 2011 and Jan. 2012 and included classroom video/audio-taping, photos taken by students and myself, interviews, field notes, artifacts, documents, logs, and journals. The findings indicated that remote school children had experienced barriers to access technology not only because of socioeconomic inequalities but also because of the ineffectiveness of policy tools that argued to close the divides. Deploying XO laptops in the school was an intelligent choice to bridge children’s digital inequalities; however, a complete support system was necessary for this to be truly effective. Otherwise, teachers needed to devote extra effort, the “hidden works,” in every dimension to cover the system’s insufficiency to make the project work. Students’ learning experiences were exciting during my fieldwork. Students showed engagement when learning with XOs and technical devices. The XOs became part of children’s lives in the schools and at home. Students also expressed progress in learning. However, due to conflicts in the school, the effectiveness was constrained and only a few teachers showed interest in teaching with the XOs. By reflecting and analyzing my fieldwork within the literature, I connected technology diffusion and social and cultural capital from a theoretical perspective into my discussion. Treating the “closing-divide” endeavor as a kind of technological diffusion, the change agents are the key actors that make the new technology accessible and acceptable. The required actions that the change agents are expected to accomplished are similar to the hidden works that I demonstrated during the field study. In terms of social capital, my field study was not only an attempt to teach with the XO laptops, but also revealed a process that connected possible social relationships to transmit social capital to remote school children. My study suggests a collaborative action to close the digital divide in the field is necessary. For further studies, teamed researchers and long-term investigations are encouraged to advocate for the mission of bridging the digital divide.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Ken-Zen Chen
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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