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)

Continue reading