Nov 29 2015
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The Digital Divide is basically a term that describes an imaginary line between people that have unrestricted access to modern information and communications technology and those that do not. As I mentioned in a previous article, we did an informal survey at Llano ISD and found our numbers to be about 30% without access, which is in line with other surveys from other schools around the country.
The obvious question is, “Does it really matter?” There are plenty of studies that support the fact that it does matter and a few that say it doesn’t. Personally, I think it matters because I have seen the difference it can make with my own kids. I like technology, so you can probably guess my kids have access to it. They may not have the very latest toys (I am not an Apple fan) but I have always thought it was important for them to have access to information and the tools required to get it. For example…when my daughter is studying calculus, she accesses tutoring videos online and she has a subscription to Wolfram Alpha so she can receive more detailed help if she is working on a particularly difficult problem. Most people don’t work on calculus problems every day but you cannot believe how amazing the Wolfram Alpha website is if you are stuck trying to figure out a complex math problem.
Maybe calculus isn’t your thing…how about football? My youngest son loves kicking a football. We went to the field and shot a video on my phone of him kicking. Then, he loaded the videos onto the computer and created a single video so he could slow down each kick and look for mistakes. The next time he kicked, getting the ball between the goal posts seemed a lot easier.
So the next question; “If it matters… what is Llano ISD doing about reducing the number students on the “other side” of the Divide?” Our first step was to give great access while the kids are at school. That problem took the city, the hospital and the school district working together to find a solution. The second step was to get a grant to allow some students to have access at home using cell phone hotspots. Our most recent project is to take older laptops that, for various reasons, aren’t good for everyday classroom use, and make them available through the high school library for checkout. We also have tablets that can be checked out from our elementary campuses.
None of the above solutions give unrestricted access to computers and the Internet at home but it is a start. The solutions we are working on wouldn’t be possible without help from those that believe the Digital Divide is a problem that can and should be solved.