Digital Inequality Assignment

This assignment asked us to create a hypothetical task force to research the issue of Digital Inequality.  We chose to research the issue as it pertained to the state of Tennessee.

Throughout the last decade, internet use has opened up a wide spectrum of opportunities.  We are able to communicate, research, shop, look for employment, etc. more easily.  Can I imagine living without it?  Never!  I am one of the fortunate ones.  This assignment opened my eyes to the Digital Divide and the Digital Inequality that exists in our world today.

According to numbers released last year by the Department of Commerce, 40% with annual household incomes below $25,000 in 2010 reported having wired Internet access at home, compared with the vast majority — 93 percent — of households with incomes exceeding $100,000.  That is incredible when you think about it.  So, what do we do?  As part of the task force, we were asked to look at seven possible options for reform. The options (as well as our rankings) are listed below:

  1. Install computers in all public libraries in the state and expand the hours when the computers are available. (Ranked #3)
  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. (Ranked #7)
  3. Provide individuals in disadvantaged communities with computers. (Ranked #6)
  4. Provide high-speed Internet and mobile access for all state residents.(Ranked #1)
  5. Subsidize Internet Service Providers to provide low-cost Internet to all state residents. (Ranked #2)
  6. Provide information literacy courses to enhance computer skills and enable knowledgeable use of digital technologies.(Ranked #4)
  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. (Ranked #5)

Our task force evaluated each option and ranked accordingly.  Our general feeling was that the majority of options were much more realistic if coupled with another option.  The goal of our task force was to provide access (reducing the Digital Divide) as well as providing instruction for use (reducing the Digital Inequality).  One without the other is pointless in my opinion. As you can see with our rankings, our priority was to provide access to the infrastructure first and foremost.  We chose to offer internet at users homes first as opposed to extending the hours of public facilities for convenience purposes.  Our second priority is to provide courses to help the public use the internet to its best capability.

So, how many of my own students are in this situation?  I don’t know, but I need to find out.  I teach in a relatively rural area in a lower-middle socioeconomic area.  We definitely have a “haves” and “have nots” differentiation between many of our students.  My plan is to somehow incorporate a survey within a lesson in our English classes (they see all students) to determine my next step.

I really enjoyed collaborating with others (our alpha group) from all over North America on this project.  That is incredible in itself.  It is very easy to use and can definitely extend the learning of us and our students as well.  We had planned on using narration (either Camtasia or VoiceThread) for our project, but ran out of time.  I am having my students use Voice Thread as part of a Linear Programming group project and it has been a great tool to learn for myself and my students.

Standards Addressed:

2.4 Integrated Technologies:  We integrated different technologies (email, chat, videoconferencing) to produce and present information.

3.2 Diffusion of Innovations: We identified strategies to implement change.

4.2 Resource Management:  We discussed the cost effectiveness of different strategies and prioritized them accordingly.

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Posted on November 11, 2012, in 2.4 Integrated Technologies, 3.2 Diffusion of Innovations, 3.4 Policies and Regulations, 4.2 Resource Management, Standard 2: Development, Standard 3: Utilization, Standard 4: Management and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Beth, the stat you cited (from the Dept. of Commerce) really reinforces what our assignment was all about! Like you I didn’t really think about the digital divide or digital inequality until we were assigned this project! I have polled my students about technology use but I focused on `mobile` technology not Internet access or computer access. Now, I think I need to look at this too.

    Thanks for sharing both your eagle-eye and your expertise with the group! We couldn’t have done it without you.

    Nona

  2. Beth, I appreciate your thoughtful response and the way you parse out the various elements of the exercise. I, too, was affected by the statistics I encountered during the research process. Yes, a lot has been done to provide internet access, but there remains much to do. I appreciate so much what K-12 teachers do to support their students and expand their access to and knowledge of the internet and information in general. It certainly makes the students more prepared to be successful in whatever they do. And it makes my job as an academic librarian more productive and allows me to help students develop more advanced information-handling skills. Thanks for the designing eye you brought to the project. – Lance

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