When I was a student in my first year at Northern College we were asked by our tutor, Frances McKenzie, to bring in a poem, a picture or a piece of text and to discuss what irt meant to us. I chose to read the passage from Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' where the Ghost of Christmas Present finishes his time with Scrooge by showing him two pauper children who he referred to as 'Ignorance and Want.'
This scene always resonated with me, particularly as a young child when my dad read this novella to me and my brother in the winter of 1976/76! I couldn't believe that there might be children who didn't have a happy home, shelter, good food and someone to read to them....
I think that was a seminal moment in the development of my value base, particularly in relation to my views on community and the importance of equal opportunities to a good and engaging education.
The reason for this preamble is that I just witnessed a powerful and passionate presentation by Valerie Thompson from the elearning Foundation. She spoke about the digital divide and in some ways made me take a step back and take another look at access to the social software that it is argued. One of the figures that she quoted was that 2.5m children still do not have access to the internet at home. I was rather embarrassingly blind to this figure.
In view of this fact and what it means in terms of inequality of access to effective learning resources, communities and practices, Valerie went on to ask:
So does every child matter?
I think that is a question that we all need to ask ourselves as a fundamental aspect of how we build learning communities. The figure she quotes suggests that our developing web 2.0 social learning community is unfortunately excluding a great number of people who may be shrouded by the cloak of the Ghost of Christmas Present.