Seale, Draffan, & Wald, 2010

Digital agility and digital decision-making: conceptualising digital inclusion in the context of disabled learners in higher education

Seale, J., Draffan, E. A., & Wald, M. (2010). Digital agility and digital decision‐making: conceptualising digital inclusion in the context of disabled learners in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 35(4), 445-461.

The purpose of this study was to explore digital agility and digital decision-making for students with disabilities in the context of a specific project—LEXDIS. Participants were 31 students in higher education in a school in the United Kingdom. The students were younger than 20 years old. The study included 17 female and 14 male students. This was a participatory framework where individuals with disabilities were involved as consultants or designers (or they chose to disseminate the final work).

The research design consisted of three phases — online survey, interview, and focus group. The intervention was learning about, using, and participating in the design of LEXDIS. Outcomes were coded and mapped against a framework of digital inclusion: resources and digital decisions, which were categorized as technology, personal, and context (social). The framework was designed to capture digital inclusion beyond accessibility and knowing how to do things with digital tools. In other words, it was designed to capture the complex, multi-layered nature of digital inclusion.

Technological = physical and material resources
Personal = human or mental resources
Contextual = temporal, social, or cultural resources

It was revealed that all students customised their computer digital devices (icons, colors, etc.), Most students owned a phone and laptop. Most students used instant messaging, discussion forums, social networking sites, and uploaded videos or photographs onto the Internet. All students Google or other search engine to access information and had used online learning materials. They also used word processing programs (google docs), spreadsheets, and email.

Students described many strategies in using digital tools. They expressed a high level of confidence in their usage.

Factors that influenced student usage of technologies: technological factors (affordances), personal factors (feeling stigmatized when using assistive technologies in public). Some students reported that they did not use social networking because it takes them “twice as long as everyone else to do it” (speaks to perceived value)

Digital agility of students was identified in the study. Researchers encourage educators to avoid seeing students with disabilities as victims of exclusion. They support an empowerment model.



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