Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

Build Bridges, Flatten Barriers

Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

Build Bridges, Flatten Barriers

Article excerpt

Don't allow your students to suffer due to the digital divide. Begin here and make changes for the better.

By the time you read this, the term "digital divide" may have worn out its welcome. The phrase hit just a little more than a year ago, with the publication of the U.S. Department of Commerce's important study, Falling Through the Net. It's since spawned scores of newspaper and magazine articles, a PBS special series, dedicated Web sites and countless marketing slogans. It may even show up on the wrong side of some "Wired vs. Tired" list any minute now.

The problem is that while the catchphrase may have been used to death in the past year, the reality it refers to still remains. Falling Through the Net made it clear that the whiter, richer and more urban you are, the more likely you are to have ready access to the Internet, and that your advantage seems to be growing rather than shrinking. A lot has changed since July 1999, including some real progress by Latinos and African-Americans to make the Net their own, but not nearly enough. And new divides appear with each new step forward.

That's what this column will be about over the next six or so months: the many technology gaps we still face as a nation hurtling headlong into the future, and more importantly, what your colleagues and neighbors are doing to mend those gaps where they see them.

TECHNOLOGY MORALITY: I know that computers can't solve all the problems of education and that kids often use the Net foolishly, sometimes even dangerously. There's a downside to all of these devices that keep us perpetually plugged into the busyness of our lives. But I have also seen an eight-year-old boy with multiple learning disabilities and a fixation with pit bulls start by looking up his favorite dog in an electronic encyclopedia, find his way onto the Internet, track down information about the breed from a dozen different sources, collect pictures and video clips, write (ever so painstakingly) a fact-studded prose poem, integrate the text and graphics into a perpetual play PowerPoint presentation, turn that into a Web page, e-mail thank you note/link invitations to several of the Web sites he used as resources and find himself on the receiving end of queries from pit bull fanciers and research report writers around the world. …

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