The Digital Divide and Digital Inequality

As part of my work in EDTECH 501 at Boise State University, I was recently given the following assignment:

You are the Chief Technology Adviser for your State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and she has asked your help in budgeting some special funds. She has been given a special allocation of $50M to address digital inequalities in the state, and she wants you to consider the following seven options:

1: Install computers in all public libraries in the state and expand the hours when the computers are available.
2: Expand staffing and other resources so that public schools can be open to the public after normal school hours, on weekends, and during the summer months.
3: Provide individuals in disadvantaged communities with computers.
4: Provide high-speed Internet and mobile access for all state residents.
5: Subsidize Internet Service Providers to provide low-cost Internet to all state residents.
6: Provide information literacy courses to enhance computer skills and enable knowledgeable use of digital technologies.
7: Develop free online educational content, giving first priority to content most relevant to lower socio-economic groups before content that is relevant to the rest of the public.

Links (I am having some trouble with the embed feature in WordPress.)

Narrated Presentation

Presentation without Narration

Digital Inequality Presentation-Narration Notes

In researching the material needed to address these ideas, I learned a great deal about the digital world that I had not previously considered.  Over the past year and a half, I have pushing myself and my students to actively engage in online activities.  I have come to recognize that these skills are going to be more and more important for my students as they venture forth into the world after graduation.  Although I have always suspected that the vast majority of students are not receiving such education, I always assumed it was due to educational systems that were now flexible or teachers who were not willing to move outside of their comfort zone.  It had not occurred to me in any meaningful way that the education wasn’t happening because the access wasn’t there.

I am lucky in many regards in my life.  One of those is the fact that I am immersed in technology to just about any level I desire.  I can connect with family and friends, seek advice from virtual colleagues and learn as much as I want about just about any topic of my choosing.  (Just yesterday I watched a baseball game on my phone.  Now that’s immersion.)  The fact is, I can move in and out of technology use as I see fit.  This assignment has made me more aware of the fact that there are many around me-and beyond- that simply cannot do that.  As I state in the project itself, I feel that access to the virtual world is no longer a luxury, but a need.

Heading forward, I will much more aware of this issue as I engage my students in the online pursuits.  In many ways, I think it is my students that need universal access for everyone.  For if they are truly engaging in an online, global conversation, shouldn’t everyone have a voice?

The assignment itself aligns with the following standards:

Standard 3.2- Diffusion of Innovations: The production of the video allowed me to utilize a form of communication that I have and will continue to use.

Standard 3.4 Policies and Regulations: Clearly, the “rules and actions of society that affect the diffusion and use of Instructional Technology” can be seen in this project.  The project itself is about an inequality that is largely based on the rules of society and a social hierarchy.  If the age of the “lifelong learner” is indeed upon us, then it is critical to give all equal access.

Standard 4.2 Resource Management: The biggest jump I made in this regard was that I have expanded my use of Google Docs and PDF editing.  Housing all my documents in Google docs allows me access from anywhere.  In addition, I explored the ways PDF editing allows me to highlight and take notes within each of the documents.  During the project itself, I went from having a desk full of papers to highlighted online documents.

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