The school has more influence on students than their social origin in compensating for the digital inequality. Thus concludes the research carried out by the professors of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Sara gonzalez, of the Department of Quantitative Methods of Economics and Management, and Maria Eugenia Cardenal, from the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work, together with Alexis Lopez, of the Canary Islands Agency for University Quality and Educational Evaluation. A study carried out during confinement by the Covid-19 pandemic, which for the first time focuses on the abilities of students in the use of the technologies in front of the resources available, and dismantles the arguments about the gap and digital natives.
“The study arises in the context of the pandemic because, suddenly, we found ourselves locked up at home, giving online classes, and we raised the problem of digital inequality among students and the need to explore this issue in a more profound way. As we had access to the PISA database of secondary school students from all the countries that are part of the OECD, we began a separate analysis of the influence of the education system and the social origin of families on the digital skills of students ” , said Professor María Eugenia Cardenal.
To do this, they analyzed the most recent PISA data for a total of 161,443 students from 6,261 schools and 21 European countries. And the results obtained offer a very different view from the one perceived so far on the digital divide, in which the attention is focused more on resources than on user capacities. “Normally when we talk about the digital divide we talk about access to technical means to be able to make use of new technologies. But the literature says, and we were seeing it in the context of the pandemic, that it was not only a problem of having technological devices, but of having the ability to make proper use of those devices, which is the key, because it is what that we know that it will make a difference in terms of social and work opportunities for students ”.
One of the main novelties that the study brings, worldwide, is precisely its multidimensional approach to digital inequality, since the researchers separately analyze the access, frequency and quality of use of ICTs. “We observe that in those more complex aspects, the social origin of the student influences less than the school, that is, the school compensates for the inequality of the family. This is something that we give a lot of value to because digital training tends to focus on the idea of having devices, which is what we call access, but when separating this indicator from frequency and quality, we realize that if there is training at school has a positive impact on students in terms of frequency and quality, and reduces the effect of the family and the social context ”.
Thus, the results obtained confirm for most European countries that access to ICTs at home is influenced to a greater extent by the social conditions of families than by the integration of ICTs at school; but with regard to the frequency and quality of the use of technologies at home, the relationship is reversed, since both are more influenced by the integration of ICT in the school.
It was found that the most important compensatory effect of the school is digital literacy and quality in the relationship with new technologies. “It is what has to do with knowing how to interpret the information that appears on the web, knowing how to search properly, knowing how to write a document and translate it into an electronic device, use the correct language … In all these elements the school it can act in a very positive way ”.
The study also refutes the idea of digital natives, which for researchers is not real. “The fact of being all day with an electronic device in hand does not make you more competent, for that you need specific training and very focused on certain skills that are very important because they can make a difference in life and work opportunities of people, it does not matter not having those skills This analysis has been done during confinement, without digital skills we would not have been able to carry it out “.
The authors of the report – published in one of the international journals with the greatest impact in the Computers and Education rankings, published by the Elsevier publishing house – conclude that in a context of forced digitization such as that caused by the Covid-19 crisis, the results confirm the importance of reinforcing digital training in schools, “something especially relevant in the Canary Islands, one of the territories with the greatest social inequality in the European Union”, they underline.