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New report shows increased use of internet by women and older people

August 23rd, 2007 by Graham Attwell

The UK telecommunication regulatory body, Ofcom, have just published their annual report.

It is a substantial body of work and I have to admit I haven’t read it myself – relying rather on press and radio reports.

There seems to be much of interest in the report. For the first time women webusers have taken the lead in key age groups. At the same time an army of silver surfers has emerged and the over 65s are spending more hours online than any other age group, according to the Guardian.

Predictablyyoung people are spending more time on line, with growing use of social networking sites. This time spent appears to be at the expense of watching television.

Much of the BBC radio coverage was taken to the emergence of older people at heavier internet users than youth. Commentators speculated that this was due to the rise of internet commerce and to women using the web for social networking.

However, the preponderance of older users bares out the survey we carried out of the use of ICT for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises. We found older workers far more likely to use the web for learning than younger employees (albeit for informal learning rather than pursuing formal e-Learning courses). We speculated at the time this might be due to wider web access for more senior employees.

However, we felt, although could not proof, that older workers felt more at home using the internet for informal learning. Tomorrow I will have a look at the Ofcom report to see if it has anything to say about learning. But it remains my feeling that educational technologists have over-focused on developing learning applications and content for younger students and have failed to see the potential for extending and supporting lifelong learning and continuing professional development through the internet.

The term social networking also covers a multitude of activities. the radio reports tended to assume social networking as a leisure time activity – a replacement or chatting on the phone. Women do more of this than men, the reasoning went. I am unsure of this is true. But I would certainly suggest that much of the so called social networking is actually the use of social software for informal learning.

A new UK report from Ofcom found increasing use of the internet by older people and by women. How much of this is driven by (informal) learning?

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