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The Digital Edge: DML Connected Learning Webinar with S. Craig Watkins

Written by Erin Wilkey Oh
June 01, 2012

A recent study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that African-American and Hispanic teens use their phones to go online in higher percentages than their white peers. Mobiles are increasing access to technology and the Internet for disadvantaged youth. This has led some to question whether the “digital divide” is closing. Will mobile technology be the great equalizer?

For the May 22, 2012 webinar at, S. Craig Watkins, a scholar and educator in the field of connected learning and youth digital media led a discussion about issues of technology, equity, and diversity. Webinar participants included Annie Conway, Barry Joseph, Devorah Keitner, and Mimi Ito. Watkins countered the suggestion of a disappearing “digital divide” with what he called the “paradox of mobiles,” which is that non-whites are more likely to use mobiles, yet less likely to be in a household with broadband access. Mobiles may be changing access on one level, but inequity still exists.

The discussion turned to how we might consider the nodes of connected learning as we assess media equalities. Connected learning principles apply across the various spheres where kids are learning today–academic settings, interest-driven environments, and peer culture. When discussing equity in terms of these spheres, Watkins noted that the interest-driven environments or structured enrichment opportunities like summer camps and private lessons are not as available for kids from disadvantaged homes. Low income kids may be using the technology, but they don’t always have the same kind of adult support as kids from more advantaged communities. Barry Joseph, co-founder of Games for Change, added that school environments also continue to be unequal, with many public schools banning mobile technology while private schools embrace mobiles as learning tools. Additionally, the webinar participants acknowledged the problem of technology-rich but curriculum-poor schools.

The webinar discussion concluded with conversation about how to bring these connected learning principles into the various spheres of learning for disadvantaged communities. Annie Conway, Digital Media Producer for Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry talked about her work with the Fab Lab, a maker space housed at the museum. She shared that the Fab Lab would soon have an online space providing access to tutorials and support for kids interested in making and designing, but unable to travel in person to the space. The group also discussed ways to support teachers and schools, stressing the importance of sharing ideas across the nodes.

You can see the specific time markers for conversation topics at the webinar’s archive page and find more information about the webinar participants.

Watch live streaming video from connectedlearningtv at

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