The Digital Divide Is the New Civil Rights Issue in America

My friend Allan Jones gave me this title from a piece that he wrote to describe the inequity of learning in the US. We were thinking about the effects of the PISA report in the US. We were also thinking of places where new ideas and participatory learning are not a part of the program. We have plans to transform education.

The “digital divide” that persists in Internet use is  based on income, education and community means people are not acquiring the digital fluency that is required to operate in to-day’s world.

The part that bothers, us, worries me , is that lots of people who are well connected technologically do not have an awareness of the level of difficulty that others have in reaching technofluency based on connections and awareness.

There is also a level of learning, a depth of knowledge that is lacking in many schools , and learning places.

“To put it quite simply, America is a diverse society in which educational differences have the potential to become a progressively larger source of inequality and social conflict. Many people now recognize that eliminating these differences has become a moral and pragmatic imperative.”

College Board, Reaching the Top(1999)

There is a concern about the status of education in the nation. The recent publication of the  PISA 2009  results have caused a wringing of hands and a contemplation of why the US has declined in education. In minority areas and in underserved areas we have always lived with these kinds of statistics. We are always racing to catch up to whatever is just regular. Broadening engagement is our goal. I was delighted with the US Department of Education Technology Plan. To implement it, however we need assistance. Those of us in minority communities have always been striving to catch up. We never seem to make it.

Rural, urban, distant and compromised describe some of the schools, students adn communities not making use of the Internet. The Internet has gone global in a big way. Here are some interactive ways to share how the web works, resources and the state of and power of the Internet, from the BBC.

What are we talking about? The Web

How the Web Works

Explore this interactive graphic to find out which are the biggest sites on the internet, as measured by the Nielsen company. This feature is part of SuperPower, a season of programs exploring the power of the internet.



Interactive program from the BBC- SuperPower

resources from Superpower

We need support for teachers.

I wrote years ago of the importance of teacher support.

There are many teachers who simply want to help kids as best they can. What is the motivation for the change from chalk and talk to the use of technology as a tool? In American education, the textbook remains the basic unit of instruction. Absorption of its contents tends to be the measure of education. How can we change that? What motivation is there to take on the task of change?

Many teachers and instructors use chalk and talk to convey information. Students are often recipients of instruction rather than active participants in learning. When teachers upset the industrial model, what are the predictable differences? How do we convey to the public the models of this change and the reasons why U.S. education should change?

In the past, even the most dedicated, skilled, and caring educators needed paper, pencils, and books to ensure that their students got the knowledge they needed to succeed in the society they were being prepared for. To succeed in the society of the 21st century, however, today’s students must graduate with more than the memorized knowledge of the past. They must be able to synthesize and analyze information, not just memorize it. Today’s students must learn to think for themselves. And they must be able to adapt to a world in which the only constant is rapid change and the participatory culture is desired by students to be a part of their learning .

Most schoolteachers work largely in isolation from their peers, and many interact with their colleagues only for a few moments each day. In contrast, most other professionals collaborate, exchange information, and develop new skills on a daily basis. But teachers are often in the classroom, where the bell and the loudspeaker or PA system are the most significant technology. Although half of this nation’s schoolteachers use passive video materials for instruction, only a small fraction have access to interactive video, computer networks, or even telephones in the classroom. And these technologies offer opportunities for collaboration in spite of distance.

While computers are a frequent sight in America’s classrooms and training sites, they are often used simply as electronic workbooks. The interactive, high-performance uses of technology that the NII will allow—such as networked teams collaborating to solve real-world problems, retrieving information from electronic libraries, and performing scientific experiments in simulated environments—are all too uncommon in our schools. U.S. schooling is a conservative institution that adopts new practice and technology slowly.

So how do we teachers make the change? We have a variable set of needs: access to hardware, some familiarity and training, on-site permission, and patience and support within the educational setting. The support should hopefully be systemwide and involve all of the layers of funding; parents and community members; and—to effect significant national change—teacher inservice and training. And, finally, time: teachers need time to learn technology, to understand the applications, to synthesize ideas so they can use technology as a tool that will enhance the teaching process. All of these ideas are considered in detail in the NIIAC’s KickStart Project.  This was written years ago, and for many people the world has changed significantly, but there are those still toiling in pre-technology stages.

Here us a simple test for thinking about the level of teacher use of technology. Take the test.

Examples of Need In areas of the US – What about your Neighborhood?


Without ready access to computers, students struggle

Even wealthy Fairfax is forced to contend with a digital divide

Fairfax County , Virginia USA


Teachers describe administrative failings at Dunbar

Her account is one of several that have emerged since Bedford was ousted, less than three years after it was hired  by former Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to turn around Dunbar. City records show Bedford has been paid $1.2 million this year as part of a three-year contract to overhaul Dunbar and Coolidge high schools. The firm remains in control of Coolidge. of course, Rhee is gone but this was her project.


Private Operators Ousted at Dunbar


There are rural schools in which I have worked that do not welcome the use of the Internet for various and sundry reasons.I have traveled tribal regions with Karen Buller of NITI, in the  Navajo nation and am impressed by the Hogan to the Internet program start. I work with Idit Harel Caperton in West Virginia, so I know the rural challenges. Her example of facilitation of the power of technology.

Lots of good examples of what works can be found at the NASA, National Geographic, NOAA and Edutopia Sites

Case studies , resources, and video are at

Some Programs that work/Projects

I loved this learning experience also.

Scalable Game Design

Our main goal is to bring computer science to middle schools with the ultimate aim of developing a larger IT workforce to address the IT crisis.

Community Outreach for IT

NCWIT’s “Programs-in-a-Box” offer turnkey solutions to pressing issues facing the IT community. Programs-in-a-Box provide all the components necessary for quick and strategic action — right out-of-the-box. Each Box includes instructions, letters, templates, slide presentations, and other resources designed for practical use by IT professionals. Roll over the boxes below to read descriptions and find the one that’s right for you, then click a Box to download and get started.

Power Across Texas

Interactive Sites that Demo Good Use

There are also some groups that are restricted by disability in powerful uses of the Internet because new tools and ways of working are not commonplace, and well known.


/ Curriculum for Computational Thinking