Home' Independence : Independence Vol 34 No 1 May 2009 Contents 64 Independence Volume 34 No. 1
Equity in terms of access is not as good
as I think people imagine it to be. For
example, just looking at Australia,
broadband here is much slower than in
other places in the world and that is a
form of inequity. Some Australians live
in places that don’t have reliable
electricity or reliable internet. For a lot
of Australians internet access is in the
category of luxury, not necessity. So even
within Australia there are geographical
and economic inequities. And this will get
worse in the next five years, not better.
The Australian Government has
announced a program that involves
spending money on school buildings.
Do you think greater equity could be
achieved if this money was providing
appropriate broadband access to every
child in Australia?
Maybe another approach to that is,
whenever we’re going to build a library
or a new auditorium or classroom block,
to think about wiring it for broadband,
in the same way that we would auto-
matically expect to wire buildings for
electricity. It should just become part of
the way we think about building our new
communities. Australia has to start
making and placing bets about our future
and, for me, connectivity is one of the
best bets we can make.
Do you think the internet is bringing us
closer together? Are we connecting?
Even in Roxby Downs I’ve heard lots
of people talking about how they love
Facebook and Skype because they can
stay in touch with their families in
Johannesburg or Melbourne and friends
who are in America or travelling in
Europe. In the same breath they’ll tell me,
‘I use Facebook to organise with the other
mums where we should have coffee
together’. These are people who don’t live
more than half a kilometre away from
each other. Here is this technology, that
is all about connecting up the planet, also
reinforcing really strong local ties.
From your observations and research,
is there a dark side of the internet for
young people that educators should be
In a lot of schools I’ve visited I’ve heard
less concern about how we teach kids
with new technologies than about cyber
bullying and harassment. Parents and
teachers are really concerned. Bullying
has always been an issue in schools – the
internet didn’t create bullying, but it has
created new ways of doing it.
There’ll always be in crowds and out
crowds, there’s always going to be
bullying, but now the consequences of
these have greater scope and a longer life
than when I grew up.
What would be your advice to the leaders
of independent schools in Australia with
regard to new technologies?
I think that one of the challenges for all
of us moving forward is how we function
as learners. Technology changes a lot,
which means a lot of us who are used to
being experts in our field have to become
novices. That’s really hard. I think it’s
hard to ask people who are the English
teacher or the history teacher or the head
of the maths department in your school
to go from being someone who knows the
answer to everything – they know their
subject, they how to teach, they know the
‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the school and the
politics – it’s hard to ask them to suddenly
become novices again.
So my number one piece of advice would
be to embrace technology as a wonderful
opportunity to encourage good educators,
that is, people who are constantly willing
to learn and grow.
My second is that we have to engage with
what the technology is about, what its
capacity is. We need to be playful with
technology and learn about it. So don’t
be frightened of the technology – it
Dr Genevieve Bell is an Intel Fellow and
director of the User Experience Group
within the Intel Corporation’s Digital
Home Group located in Oregon, USA.
She joined Intel in 1998 and currently
leads a research and development team
of social scientists, interaction designers
and human factors engineers focusing on
consumer-centric product innovation in
Intel’s consumer electronics business.
Her work is highly regarded internation-
ally for the insight it provides on the
importance of culture in the adoption
and adaptation of technology.
Prior to joining Intel, Dr Bell was
a lecturer in the Department of
Anthropology at Stanford University,
where she was awarded her doctorate.
Dr Bell was raised in Australia, moving
between Melbourne, Canberra and the
Aboriginal communities of central and
northern Australia where her anthro-
pologist mother undertook fieldwork.
Dr Bell was interviewed by
Garth Wynne, Headmaster
of Christ Church Grammar
School, Perth, WA.
Dr Bell is a SA Thinker in Residence in 2008-09.
As part of her residency she is collecting stories
about how people use technology. All South
Australians are invited to participate. More
information about Dr Bell’s residency and the
SA Stories project can be found at www.thinkers.
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