Dissolving the Digital Divide: Creating Coherence in Young People’s Social Ecologies of Learning and Identity Building

  • Kristiina KumpulainenEmail author
  • Anna Mikkola
  • Antti Rajala
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


This chapter discusses current research on educational efforts to connect school learning with young people’s digital practices in- and out-of-school. Instead of focusing on divides between in-school and out-of-school learning or between the “digital generation” and other age groups, in this chapter we discuss what recent research says about the ways in which school can become a space in which young people’s digital practices can transformatively converge with schooling, and how this convergence is related to their learning and identity building. We begin our narrative reflection of current research by focusing on the myth of digital natives. Next, we will conceptualize recent efforts to researching and understanding young people’s engagement, learning and identity building across sites and contexts. We will then turn to illuminating some key rationales of current educational research on creating convergence in young people’s social ecologies via the use of digital technologies and media. We conclude our reflections by pointing out that although there are some promising findings on how digital technologies and media can create convergence in young people’s engagement and learning across sites and contexts, less research attention is given to young people’s personal sense-making and self-making mediated by their digital practices, and how formal education could build on those practices for academic, vocational and/or civic ends.


Young people Digital Learning Identity building Social ecologies In-school learning Out-of-school learning 


  1. Ala-Mutka, K. (2011). Mapping digital competence: Towards a conceptual understanding. Seville: JRC-IPTS. Accessed: Scholar
  2. Barron, B. (2006). Interest and self-sustained learning as catalysts of development: A learning ecology perspective. Human Development, 99, 193–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bempechat, J., & Shernoff, D. J. (2012). Parental influences on achievement motivation and student engagement. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 56–96). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  4. Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39, 775–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berndt, T. J., & Murphy, L. M. (2002). Influences of friends and friendships: Myths, truths, and research recommendations. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 30, 275–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bronkhorst, L. H., & Akkerman, S. F. (2016). At the boundary of school: Continuity and discontinuity in learning across contexts. Educational Research Review, 19, 18–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, R., & Renshaw, P. (2000). Collective argumentation: A sociocultural approach to reframing classroom teaching and learning. In H. Cowie & G. van der Aalsvoort (Eds.), Social interaction in learning and instruction: The Meaning of Discourse for the Construction of Knowledge (pp. 52–66). Amsterdam: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chaudron, S. (2015). Young children (0–8) and digital technology. A qualitative exploratory study across seven countries. European Commission. Joint Research Centre Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. doi: Scholar
  9. Cole, M. (1996). Culture in mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. de Lange, T. (2011). Formal and non-formal digital practices: Institutionalizing transactional learning spaces in a media classroom. Learning, Media and Technology, 36(3), 251–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  12. Engeström, Y., & Sannino, A. (2010). Studies of expansive learning: Foundation, findings and future challenges. Educational Research Review, 5, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Erstad, O., & Sefton-Green, J. (2013). Digital disconnect? The ‘digital learner’ and the school. In O. Erstad & J. Sefton-Green (Eds.), Identity, community and learning lives in the digital age (pp. 87–106). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. European Commission. (2013). Survey of schools: ICT in education: Benchmarking access, use and attitudes to Technology in Europe’s schools. Luxembourg: European Commission.Google Scholar
  15. Fauville, G., Lantz-Andersson, A., Mäkitalo, Å., Dupont, S., & Säljö, R. (2016). The carbon footprint as a mediating tool in students’ online reasoning about climate change. In O. Erstad, S. Jakobsdottir, K. Kumpulainen, Å. Mäkitalo, P. Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, & K. Schrøder (Eds.), Learning across contexts in the knowledge society (pp. 179–202). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. FNBE. (2014). Perusopetuksen opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2014 (National Core Cur­riculum for Basic Education 2014).
  17. Gutiérrez, K., Bien, A., Selland, M., & Pierce, D. (2011). Polylingual and polycultural learning ecologies: Mediating emergent academic literacies for dual language learners. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 11(2), 232–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hakkarainen, K. (2010). Communities of learning in the classroom. In K. Littleton, C. Wood, & J. Kleine Staarman (Eds.), International handbook of psychology in education (pp. 177–225). Bingley: Emerald.Google Scholar
  19. Hung, D., Lee, S.-S., & Lim, K. Y. T. (2012). Authenticity in learning for the 21st century: Bridging the formal and the informal. Educational Technology Research & Development, 60(6), 1071–1091.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., Boyd, D., Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, B., Horst, H. A., Lange, P. G., Mahendran, D., Martínez, K. Z., Pascoe, C. J., Perkel, D., Robinson, L., Sims, C., & Tripp, L. (2009). Hanging out, messing around, and Geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  21. Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., Schor, J., Sefton-Green, J., & Watkins, S. G. (2013). Connected learning: An agenda for research and design. Irvine: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.Google Scholar
  22. Kearney, M., Schuck, S., Burden, K., & Aubusson, P. (2012). Viewing mobile learning from a pedagogical perspective. Research in Learning Technology, 20(1), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kirschner, P. A., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 135–142. Scholar
  24. Kumpulainen, K., & Mikkola, A. (2014). Boundary crossing of discourses in pupils' chat interaction during computer-mediated collaboration. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 3(1), 43–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kumpulainen, K., & Sefton-Green, J. (2014). What is connected learning and how to research it? International Journal of Learning and Media, 4(2), 7–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kumpulainen, K., Krokfors, L., Lipponen, L., Tissari, V., Hilppö, J., & Rajala, A. (2010). Learning bridges – Toward participatory learning environments. CICERO Learning, Helsingin yliopisto: Helsinki.Google Scholar
  27. Kumpulainen, K., Mikkola, A., & Jaatinen, A. M. (2013). The chronotopes of technology-mediated creative learning practices in an elementary school community. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1), 53–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lantz-Andersson, A., Vigmo, S., & Bowen, R. (2013). Crossing boundaries in Facebook: Students’ framing of language learning activities as extended spaces. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 8(3), 293–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Li, S., Hietajärvi, L., Palonen, T., Salmela-Aro, K., & Hakkarainen, K. (2017). Adolescents’ social networks: Exploring different patterns of socio-digital participation. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 61(3), 255–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lipponen, L., & Kumpulainen, K. (2011). Acting as accountable authors: Creating interactional spaces for agency work in teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(5), 812–819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Loveless, A., & Williamson, B. (2013). Learning identities in a digital age: Rethinking creativity, education and technology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Ludvigsen, S. R., Lund, A., Rasmussen, I., & Säljö, R. (Eds.). (2010). Introduction. Learning across sites. New tools, infrastructures and practices. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. McLay, K., Renshaw, P., & Phillips, L. G. (2017). iBecome: iPads as a tool for self-making. International Journal of Educational Research, 84, 68–78.Google Scholar
  34. Phelan, P., Davidson, A. L., & Cao, H. T. (1991). Students’ multiple worlds: Negotiating the boundaries of family, peer, and school cultures. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 22(3), 224–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9, 1–6.Google Scholar
  36. Rajala, A., Hilppö, J., Lipponen, L., & Kumpulainen, K. (2013). Expanding the chronotopes of schooling for the promotion of students’ agency. In O. Erstad, J. Sefton-Green, & J. (Eds.), Identity, community, and learning lives in the digital age (pp. 107–125). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Rajala, A., Kumpulainen, K., Hilppö, J., Paananen, M., & Lipponen, L. (2016). Connecting learning across school and out-of-school contexts: A review of pedagogical approaches. In O. Erstad, K. Kumpulainen, Å. Mäkitalo, K. C. Schrøder, P. Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, & T. Jóhannsdóttir (Eds.), Learning across contexts in the knowledge society (pp. 15–38). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Resnick, L. B. (1987). Learning in school and out. Educational Researcher, 16(9), 13–20.Google Scholar
  39. Rosebery, A. S., Ogonowski, M., DiSchino, M., & Warren, B. (2010). “The coat traps all your body heat”: Heterogeneity as fundamental to learning. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19(3), 322–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Salmela-Aro, K., Muotka, J., Alho, K., Hakkarainen, K., & Lonka, K. (2016). School burnout and engagement profiles among digital natives in Finland: A person-oriented approach. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 13(6), 704–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sharples, M. (2006). How can we address the conflicts between personal informal learning and traditional classroom education? In M. Sharples (Ed.), Big issues in mobile learning (pp. 21–24). Nottingham: Nottingham University.Google Scholar
  42. Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. New York. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  43. Thomson, P., & Hall, C. (2008). Opportunities missed and/or thwarted? ‘Funds of knowledge’ meet the English national curriculum. The Curriculum Journal, 19(2), 87–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vigmo, S., & Lantz-Andersson, A. (2014). Language in the wild: Living the carnival in social media. Social Sciences, 3(4), 871–892.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wineburg, S., Mosborg, S., Porat, D., & Duncan, A. (2007). Common belief and the cultural curriculum: An intergenerational study of historical consciousness. American Educational Research Journal, 44(1), 40–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wong, L. H. (2013). Enculturating self-directed learners through a facilitated seamless learning process framework. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 22(3), 319–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wong, L. H., Chin, C. K., Tan, C. L., & Liu, M. (2010). Students' personal and social meaning making in a Chinese idiom mobile learning environment. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 13(4), 15–26.Google Scholar
  48. Zipin, L. (2009). Dark funds of knowledge, deep funds of pedagogy: Exploring boundaries between lifeworlds and schools. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 30(3), 317–331.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristiina Kumpulainen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anna Mikkola
    • 1
  • Antti Rajala
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Educational SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

Section editors and affiliations

  • Joke Voogt
    • 1
  • Ola Erstad
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Child Development and EducationUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations