Welcome!

Thanks for checking out our site.  This is a work in progress as we attempt to define, analyze, and recommend solutions to the challenges of a digital divide in parts of Upstate New York.   We hope you find the information, resources, videos, and links helpful.  Please feel free to contact us with questions or suggestions.

You can use this site by scrolling through the posts on the right-hand side of the screen or by clicking through to the different pages (at the top of the screen) which will take you to posts and documents about those particular topics.

 

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BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

2012 article looking at specific schools and their BYOD- http://edudemic.com/byod-classrooms/

Having students use their own devices for educational purposes in school opens a new can of worms, which both enables instruction in digital and information literacies and can strain the socioeconomic and digital divide of the school community.

 

A 2014 article in thejournal.com reports a quick increase in BYOD programs in schools and teacher workshops to support device use for education- http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/03/27/report-most-schools-delivering-byod-programs-training-teachers-in-mobile-devices-usage.aspx 

 

This article from Intel is a “toolkit”, I would say checklist for planning a BYOD program- http://www.k12blueprint.com/sites/default/files/BYOD-Planning-Implementation.pdf

 

These resources were compiled by Dr. Marilyn Arnone for SU’s ischool’s course on Technology in Educational Organizations

Access and Education

Living in Upstate New York almost my entire life, I can say first hand areas with good internet access change to areas with little or no Internet access rather quickly. This is something that many love about central and northern New York. You can live and work in a city that is completely suitable for quick communication and easy technology access, but with one short drive you will find yourself in in the country or the mountains. Although many find this appealing, there are also those who see it as a burden. These are the people who don’t have Internet access at home. They are the people whose children cannot complete a homework assignment or research a paper at home.

It is a quick drive from city to country in Upstate New York, but here lies the digital divide. Even though they are a part of the same school district, there are children who do not have the same resources as their peers because they live in an area with poor Internet access. This makes districts extremely varied, and is something I have witnessed during my fieldwork experiences for the School Media program. It is obvious which students have access to the Internet at home, and therefore ICTs, the moment you put a digital device in front of the child. I have met kindergarten students who can use an iPad with ease, navigating to the internet, exploring web 2.0 tools, all while the child sitting across from them can’t even turn the device on.

The only way to combat this problem is to face in head on in schools. Students should be given access and instruction on digital devices from the start. Living in Upstate New York, an area where the digital divide is evident, we must expose our children to technology in school. Step one is exposure, but step one must be followed by education. We need to teach students to use digital devices, to research a topic use online resources, and to communicate in the digital world actively. We cannot use poor Internet access at home as an excuse. Education is as much about access as it is about learning.

Access to the Internet: some personal reflections from a rural Upstate New Yorker

Living just 20 minutes south of Syracuse, NY I assumed I would be able to at least get cable Internet when I moved from the city out to the country.  Sure I lived next to a farm, but I was not that far from a city.

Not so.  There is no cable.  There was no DSL either.  The only option was satellite Internet.  10 years ago this was expensive, but we did it because we needed Internet access for our jobs.  $400 for the satellite and $50 a month.

It took forever to load: upload, download.  Arrrgh!

In frustration I called the cable company and asked if they would run cable to the house. They said the closest box was a country block away.  I thought it would be good for their business to run it and then try and get the houses between the box and our house to sign up too.  ” You would have to pay for it.” “Well how much is it?”  Now I don’t remember so well what the amount was but it was more than a couple thousand dollars.  No way could a couple teachers afford it.  So, back to the satellite.  It was better than dial up.

A couple years later we got a new neighbor and we were chatting and he said he got DSL.  It was so exciting.  As it was true.  Why we didn’t know this new service existed?  Beats me.  But the one phone company you can choose in this rural town had started installing DSL (and not advertising it).  And so 8 years later I type this little story using DSL.  Sometimes it works and sometimes the wind blows and the telephone company is at the corner tinkering with the phone box to try and fix the DSL.  But, I can be an online student and only occasionally have to go to the public library 15 minutes away to turn in my homework.

Broadband in the US

Under the US Department of Commerce is an agency called the National telecommunications and Information Administration.  They had administered several programs related to federal funding and assistance to fund Broad Band Access.  Reports related to these grants are found on their website BroadbandUSA.

One of the difficulties we see in some funding sources that try to aid the Digital Divide and provide access is how the funding is spent.  This 2013 New York Times Article , by Edward Wyatt highlights one case where the NTIA grant might have missed the mark.

All Tech Considered, a segment of Fresh Air on NPR, interviewed Susan Crawford who has written a book called “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the Gilded Age.”  As part of her interview, she gives an overview of the state of US Internet infrastructures: NPR Audio Clip of interview “When it comes to High-speed Internet the US is falling behind”

 

 

National Public Radio (2014, February 06).  When it comes to the high speed internet the US is falling behind.  Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/02/06/272480919/when-it-comes-to-high-speed-internet-u-s-falling-way-behind

Wyatt, E. (2013).  Waste is seen in program to give internet access to rural U.S.  New York Times.  Retrieved from  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/technology/waste-is-seen-in-program-to-give-internet-access-to-rural-us.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Foundation for Rural Education and Development

One of the obstacles in Upstate New York is funding.  The economy in not booming in rural upstate.  Many of the rural communities are impoverish, as already highlighted in defining the problem.  Finding money to support rural growth of information and communication technologies can be difficult.

The Foundation for Rural Education and Development(FRED) http://www.fred.org was created to help find ways to bolster economic growth in rural areas of the United States and Canada.  To do this they have several programs, including technology and community growth grants.  FRED is both a possible source of funding and another model of how to bring together institutions and communities in need.

http://www.viodi.tv/2009/08/06/fred-celebrates-20-years/ – This is a video of the 20th anniversary of FRED with some examples of what they’ve done over the 20 years.

Technology company and community partnerships

Stephanie Chard, an ischool student contributed this find in our discussion about access.  It’s a program funded by Samsung and I think a great model for how companies can collaborate with communities to resolve issues of access and affordability.

Hope for Children is a Samsung program that worked to create rural solar powered internet schools in Sub-Saharan Countries in Africa.

http://blogs.voanews.com/techtonics/2014/06/20/africas-solar-powered-internet-schools-bridge-digital-divide/

Though upstate New York does not have issues with electricity, it could use a partnership like this as a model for finding solutions to the lack of high speed internet, winter heating solutions and technological expertise.

http://www.samsung.com/us/hopeforchildren/

 

Akl, A. (2014, June 20).  Africa’s solar powered schools bridge digital divide [Web log post].  Retrieved from http://blogs.voanews.com/techtonics/2014/06/20/africas-solar-powered-internet-schools-bridge-digital-divide/

Samsung Corportation (n.d.).  Hope for children.  Retrieved from http://www.samsung.com/us/hopeforchildren

Participatory Engagement is key

Robin Mansell is at Professor at the London School of Economics focuses on “bottom up” participatory engagement.  This is an important factor when looking at access and affordability issues in rural settings.  People who will use the technologies need to be involved in the discourse around how to provide and what to provide in terms of ICTs.  They also need to be involved in the training and give training to each other.

Mansell, R. (2013, June 25).   Digital divide- Robin Mansell [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wvxWCRpE2Q

How do we do this in rural Upstate New York?  Getting people to participate means identifying the community centers in a rural community.  This could be the :

Public Library

Lions Club

Public School

church

Fire House

 

Inspiration, what works, and further considerations

I wanted to share some ideas and thoughts from a variety of sources on the topic of bridging the digital divide. What follows are a few articles and videos from people on the ground who are working in the fields of education and information technology and who have a close connection to the efforts (on all levels) of bridging the digital divide. These articles and videos offer a variety of perspectives and some useful ideas to consider before setting out to create digital access and training programs in the rural communities of upstate New York.

Day, Lori. (2013). Bridging the New Digital Divide. edutopia. Retrieved July 11, 2014 from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/bridging-the-new-digital-divide-lori-day
In this article focusing on the relationship of students and teachers to technology at a prosperous charter school, we get a sense of some of the challenges facing any community as it tries to integrate digital literacy skills and digital tools into its learning centers. Of special interest is the discussion of a need to find a balance between virtual and real world experiences within the push toward digital goals.

Harvey, B. (2014). Bridging the Digital Divide. Education Week. Retrieved July 11, 2014 from: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/07/02/ctq-harvey-digital.html
This article by Brison Harvey, a Social Studies teacher in Lexington, KY, offers suggestions for how teachers can infuse digital learning into their classrooms and create access opportunities for all students. The article also deals with some of the major considerations to think about before implementing new tools or techniques.

The Knight Foundation. Five Lessons in Bridging the Digital Divide. Retrieved July 11, 2014 from: http://www.knightfoundation.org/blogs/knightblog/2012/4/5/five-lessons-bridging-digital-divide/
The Knight Foundation offers great tips for working to bridge the digital divide in under-served or un-served communities in the United States. The video testimonial of one of the graduates of their basic training program offers another great perspective on what the digital divide means for real people.

Morgan, R. & Bedi, I. S. (2013). Bridging the Digital Divide: Connecting the unconnected. Knowledge Center, Analysys Mason. Retrieved July 11, 2014 from: http://www.analysysmason.com/About-Us/News/Insight/Bridging-digital-divide-Jul2013/
This article offers perspective on the meaning of “digital divide” and the implications of the same. Data is provided to support the relationships between digital access and prosperity (the information all deals with EU countries but the general analysis can apply to digital divides in other regions as well). Most interesting are the suggestions for infrastructure intervention to create more fluid access across socioeconomic barriers.

Molinari, A. (2011) Let’s Bridge the Digital Divide!. TedTalk. Retrieved July 2, 2014 from: http://www.ted.com/talks/aleph_molinari_let_s_bridge_the_digital_divide

In this video, Fundación Proacceso founder Aleph Molinari discusses the true meaning of the “digital divide” or as he calls it, “the digital abyss”. He offers thoughts and information about how his foundation is working to provide customized programs and support for digital access and training to under-served communities in Mexico. There are many great lessons to take from this video from thoughts on the carbon footprint of one-to-one technology programs, to the loss of ideas and perspectives from whole segments of the global population due to a lack of ICT access. Molinari’s holistic approach to bridging the divide is full of good sense and good lessons.  For more information on Fundación Proacceso go to: http://proacceso.org.mx/eng/

Fundación Proacceso

Finding solutions: What is the user need?

Every community is unique which means that every community will have unique needs when it comes to digital access, training, and usage. Finding out what those needs are is an important first step in building practical digital solutions. In terms of economy alone, upstate New York includes farming and agriculture communities, tourism-driven communities, communities revolving around higher education, etc. Each of these communities will have different goals when it comes to bridging the digital divide and they will require different solutions. The various education levels, social systems, and cultural norms in the individual communities will also dictate what types of solutions will have the most impact. Getting the best information about the communities from the actual stakeholders is key in creating the most affective digital literacy and digital access programs.

Here are a few ideas on how to ask questions and find answers about the specific and individual needs of unique communities in rural, Upstate New York:

Teacher Surveys – Teachers have a unique window into the challenges, interests, and goals of their communities. They are at the forefront of providing opportunities for the younger generation but they are also on the front lines when it comes to understanding what’s important to the community (parents, local government leaders, etc.) Teachers are also in a prime position to encourage and support digital literacy skills in the classroom. For all of these reasons, getting their input is important when building access and digital literacy programs in a community. Designing surveys which produce useful results can be tricky. Wood and Howley (2011) recommend creating an initial draft of the survey, pilot testing the survey with focus groups of a select group of teachers, interviewing an expert in the field about the survey, and then using the feedback from the pilot tests and interview(s) to create a finalized version of the survey. Administering the survey can be done by ground mail; sending an introductory letter prior to sending the survey is a good way to encourage more participation. (Wood & Howley, 2011)

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What’s the problem? (Part 2: Equipment quality, frequency of access, and training)

In their article, Dividing at an Early Age, Lawrence Wood and Aimee Howley discuss the need for not only access but also the quality of equipment and the training of users on that equipment. They assert that while much focus in the past has been on programs which equip schools or homes with internet service or computer hardware, there has been less focus on integrating computer skills into the classroom or creating affordable (or free) community digital literacy courses; there has also been less focus on making sure that the level of the equipment and internet services are meeting the same standards for speed, reliability, and sophistication in all communities. (Wood & Howley, 2011) Therefore, though the access to equipment may, on paper, appear to be equitable across school districts or communities, the actual level of skills and benefit from the equipment is vastly different from one place to the next.

Wood and Howley further point out that: “a critical element of scholarly digital divide research now involves examining more than simply access, but issues such as frequency of access and sophistication of computer use as well.” The question of “frequency of access” is something that comes up in a number of other studies in fact. Some studies emphasize the need for access not just at work or at school but also at home or in some other type of private or semi-private setting. In order to deepen digital skills and literacy, people need to be able to expand on the types of digital practices they engage in. In other words, while at work or school the focus may be primarily on research or practical applications like word processing or spreadsheet creation; at home or during leisure time, people may expand their digital skills through gaming activities, online shopping, social media use, etc. (Zhong, 2011) In their article, If We Build It, Will They Come?, C. L. Brown and L. Czerniewicz discuss the findings of their study which indicate that more frequent access and more varied access (i.e. at home, at school, in public places) leads to more varied types of digital use. (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2007)

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