back to article OU: Digital divide now between clued and clueless

The vice chancellor of the Open University has said the digital divide is now between people who do and do not understand how to exploit IT fully. In an opening speech to the Jisc conference in London on 12 April 2010, Martin Bean said that the digital divide was no longer about haves and have-nots in terms of access to IT and …


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  1. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!

    Say what??

    Wikipedia as a trusted source of information?

    Sorry, but that just blew his credibility out of the water for me. It's useful for summaries/overviews and as a link to more in-depth information, but a trusted source in its own right? I think that's been disproved sufficient times.

    1. Suburban Inmate

      re-read what??

      The fella was giving that as an example of why we need to have a good long think about this stuff.

      Another coffee for Papiere!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      reading comprehension

      not your strong point?

      1. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!

        @Suburban Inmate & The_Noble_Rot

        Ah yes. My fail indeed. In my defence, however, I posted a few hours earlier than the time marked above, and I did indeed need more coffee.

        Harsh words from TNR, but deserved, I guess.

        Mine's the one with the pocketful of downvotes!

  2. Michael


    The day that teachers accepted that it was a trusted source of information was the day that education died.

  3. Robert Ramsay

    fixed that for you...

    "The vice chancellor of the Open University has said the divide is now between people who do and do not understand."

  4. davenewman

    Said that in 1998

    "In my mind now the digital divide is much more about those that actually understand how to use and apply technology in their lives and their work as a necessity, rather than simply getting access to the technology per se," he said.

    I said that in 1998, in a report for the British Library, see

    Lots of other people working in community informatics and community networking were saying the same things 10 years ago.

    1. lglethal Silver badge


      And the UK higher education providers are only now catching up...

      So everything running as per normal then...

  5. Suburban Inmate

    Not gonna happen.

    "The day that Google became a verb, and teachers in primary and secondary schools starting looking at Wikipedia as a trusted source of information, we should all have started to think deeply about the notion of how we longer teach people of all ages where to find information and talked instead about how to make sense of that information," said the vice chancellor.

    He predicted that trust in content will be one of the big issues in the future.

    "Our libraries collectively ... need to be spending as much time thinking about sense making of information as they do about simple retrieval of information," he told the audience of university and college delegates.


    So, the government must teach its little citizens-to-be how to reason, verify, discuss and use information effectively. Critical thinking, fact checking, reading up properly on important issues, questioning supposedly authoritative sources..... Yeah, we all know where I'm going with this, so I'll just go and get breakfast.

  6. D.R.S.

    Sounds familiar

    Sounds to me like the same pattern I've seen before. Folks don't want to change the way they do things by learning and adopting the new thing, so they tell the boss that there aren't enough computers, or that the computers are so slow and unreliable that they're unusable.

    Once the place is full of shiny new kit, they tell him that they can't do the new thing without being trained on it. Preferably somewhere with nice food and drink, and no exam at the end. This will take time and negotiation to sort out, and can only be offered to a select few. Meanwhile, still, nobody's doing the new thing.

    Once the offsite courses get too expensive, an in-house training facility develops and widespread training on the new thing becomes mandatory.

    The next step after this is to say that they're just too busy doing the day job for them to be able to keep attending all these pointless courses, and that this is causing workplace stress.

    By this time this has been through the union and back, the kit is obviously too old and unreliable again. And, this time, the screens are too small as well.

  7. Pete 2

    Learning stops when you leave school

    The biggest differentiator between the clueful; and the clueless is how they regard knowledge. For a lot (the majority?) of people "education" is a bit like a jail sentence. You do your time, but once you're out that's the end of it. For the rest of us, education is an ongoing process - throughout life. And we take the responsibility for self-improvement upon ourselves: rather than expecting others to deliver it to us.

    It would also help if our society actually placed a value on knowledge: especially technical know-how, rather than scorning it. That way we might, just, be in a position in a generation or two to start producing engineering and science graduates and (even better) not have to teach them how to flip burgers in order to get a job.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Suburban Inmate

      That's the point.

      Occasional letter number one [mission statement] - Rockefeller’s General Education Board 1906

      In our dreams...people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk......


      You can google the rest. :)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    But unfortunately often let down in practice.

    While the OU might not succumb to outmoded technologies featuring in "bring technology to the people" initiatives most FE colleges rely on course material and course software that is woefully inadequate yet at the same time claimed to be bringing new technology to the people.

    Shame really.

  9. Dave Bell

    Workplace Education implies Long-Term Employment

    It's all temps and contractors: employ somebody for long enough to be worth the training cost, and they have all those awkward little legal rights that companies have been dodging for years.

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