The term “Digital Divide” refers to the gap between people who have computers with Internet access and those who do not. Digital inequality refers to how digital resources are used among individuals, households, businesses, or geographic areas, usually at different socioeconomic levels or other demographic categories. For this artifact, our professor placed our class into groups, known as “task forces”, and instructed us to choose a state and investigate how the digital divide affects that state. Our task force chose to investigate the digital divide in California. Barbara O’Connor, a professor emeritus at California State University, Sacramento, and secretary of the California Emerging Technology Fund states “Closing the digital divide in California is essential for fairness, equity and economic prosperity. Today, 21 percent of all American households remain offline at home. Rural and poor children can’t use the Internet for homework assignments and fall behind in school. Low-income adults can’t search for better jobs, and public safety in times of emergencies is compromised.” O’Connor also points out that today, much of our community and government information is online, so if people are not able to access the information, they are being excluded from “democracy itself.”
In order to combat this problem, our team came up with nine proposals, four of which we felt were most workable and useful to the people of California. The four proposals we felt would be most effective were 1. to install more computers in public libraries and expand service hours, 2. to provide digital literacy courses to library patrons, 3. To create a program of renting or loaning laptops and tablets through the public libraries, and 4. to provide additional staffing in public libraries. We felt these four proposals would best serve the needs of the citizens of California. We believe that California should consider these proposals a priority when allocating funds in their effort to bridge the digital divide.
Working in a group, at times, was a challenge as our five group members live in four different time zones! This made me think of my own students and how I should be mindful when I assign group projects that they have to work on at home. Many times such a project may require parents having to drive their children back and forth to one another’s homes to work on an assignment. Google’s suite of apps can be a tremendous aide when doing group projects. Through the use of Google Hangouts (GH), which is fabulous tool, we were able to meet online and discuss our plan of action. As we began our research into the digital divide, we created a Google Doc to “take notes” Once we felt we had adequate information, we created a poll to decide which proposals we felt would be most effective. We were mindful of multimedia principles as we began to think about our presentation. After viewing some examples, we decided that less is more and that the visual attributes should not interfere with the audio narration. In other words, too much text on a slide makes it difficult for the audience to absorb all of the information while listening to a narration. We also wanted to keep our pathways simple and make the slides visually appealing. At that point, a Prezi layout was decided upon and a basic structure was created. From there is was simple to plug in our findings and add relevant images. Once we had settled on the Prezi (we met again on GH), we began our narrations. Again, Prezi makes the process easy by allowing each member to record their content and then connect the narrations to a path on the Prezi. Unfortunately we did have one big hiccup late one evening when one of our group members discovered that most of our Prezi content had mysteriously disappeared! Rebuilding it took a few extra hours. To complete this project, we held a final Google Hangout and reviewed the entire presentation. In reflection, given more time we may have changed a few of the images, but overall I am very pleased with our presentation.
Through this experience, I have a better understanding of how the digital divide and the lack of access to technology and the Internet has a tremendous impact on those not privileged to have these resources. It is also important to note that just having access is not enough. Without knowledge of functional digital literacy the technology has little value. One takeaway I have from this project is a greater understanding of working collaboratively. We each brought our unique talents and world views to this assignment and contributed to what I believe is a quality final product. As I assign group projects in my own classroom, I will be mindful that the skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity are vital to 21st century learning.