Is the Digital Divide Dead? Our 21st Century Challenge is to Level the Playing Field

Meeting the Challenge

The digital divide is very much alive. Reporters find it boring to discuss and would rather talk about new technologies. I understand. The nature of technology and its ever forward reach , change and transition is one reason that the digital divide continues to exist. There are other components of the divide that many people do not recognize . There is an information divide , a technology divide, a content divide in subject area and a use divide . Many people have devices that they do not use to the fullest because they do not understand, or have professional development to understand.There is always something new to learn. Sometimes we ask too much of our teachers and demand change by evaluation that is difficult to come by. Juggling the effects of poverty and poor schools is a daunting task. See here  but I digress . You can see why reporters don’t want to share the sadness of the still existing digital divide in our “education nation”. Positive projects are under-reported. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation shared a silent past of the problem in this report.


Children need to have technology and active learning in after school, museum and community programs that excite their imagination and fuel their learning.

Current education policy focused on “proficiency” misses opportunity to raise achievement levels among the brightest, lower-income students

Technology changes make learning a constant. Lack of broadband is another reason to know that there is a digital divide that is difficult to leap over. Most do not include the global reach of the technologies, but the daily news brings us the world. There are places in the world where technology is not a given. Some states that are more remote are using technology in new ways. Broadband is still a problem  and many people are still on the dark side of the digital divide The Seattle Times shared this story which is one that is hardly shared in the media.

The access to Broadband is a national problem in rural, distant and some urban areas.

. SETDA shares the Broadband problem in a powerpoint.

North Dakota accepted the challenge and created a project to share new ways of working and of training teachers.They train new teachers and in service teachers and university professors in online ways.

There are online ways to bridge the divide, using in person and online differ for learners depending on their comfort base. I try to be PC and Apple fluent.. that takes owning both devices and keeping up with the new applications, add a cell phone, the cloud, and a tablet and you will understand  .  The  hierarchy of devices is an article that shares and shows the ideas of how the technology should work. Actually we all have a learning curve to conquer you ,don’t to have to be a nerd, but that iyou do have to pay attention. The media also tells you that you , as a person if not a teenager.. that you can’t be a part of the new ways of using technology . Not true. It just takes immersion, exploration, involvement and sometimes time to learn and practice the new technology . I have been helped by the Supercomputing Conference and the resources.For 24 years, SC has been at the forefront in gathering the best and brightest minds in supercomputing together, with our unparalleled technical papers, tutorials, posters and speakers.

We also know that there are people who cannot afford the devices, Maybe some of them, maybe the ones they really want to have. But they try using what they have and watch for the changes. A printer comes in very handy, as does some kind of camera. You don’t have to have a printer but you do need to have access to a place to print  or a way to save your files until you can find a place to print.

This child had never seen an I Pad .. when working with the Teragrid we shared a lot of technology resources with kids who had never, ever seen them.

Everyone does not own all of the devices, but most of the devices are getting cheaper and are more user friendly. For educators with good professional development within their school systems, and who are up on the latest core curriculum, technology is a winning strategy. There are initiatives  that are aimed to help people in underserved communities to get technology at low cost, with some training for use of the tools.

There  are still people who are intimidated by the use of technology, and there are school systems that do not let teachers personalize, and individualize their technology resources. There are also rural, distant and difficult journeys that speak to the resources available to the community, the school and the local businesses.

Rays oF Hope.. New Directions

Funding and a major initiative in the District of Columbia. Who knew? There is a neighborhood Supercomputer center in DC that is operated by Dr. Jesse Bemley, of JEF. At the highest levels of technology the Supercomputing Conference has Education and Broadening Engagement to  involve those populations who have not bee involved.

There are a lot of people who have been toiling in the areas of computational thinking and wonderful things have happened.The Howard University Department of Systems and Computer Science proposes the Partnership for Early Engagement in Computer Science High School (PEECS-HS) program. This program partners Howard University with Washington, D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and Google, Inc. to introduce a new course titled “Introduction to Computer Science (CS)” across DCPS high schools. The course will adopt and extend the Exploring Computer Science curriculum, originally piloted in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). PEECS-HS will introduce students to the broad range of opportunities in CS, and allow them to develop basic competencies in CS fundamentals, and maintain a positive perception of CS. In addition, the program will produce a new unit on Mobile Application Development, which will be added to the general Exploring Computer Science curriculum.. PEECS-HS will prepare in-service and pre-service DCPS teachers to teach the new curriculum. For sustainability, PEECS-HS will prepare in-service teachers to lead future Introduction to CS professional development sessions. As with many urban school districts, DCPS is predominately African-American, an important but often overlooked, component of the groups that need broadening engagement. See  “Tackling America’s 21st Century Challenges”  a sobering thought is that of the opportunity gap.

The recent SIIA report defines these goals for change for all of education.

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry .

Software.2012 SIIA’s Vision K-20 Report 

SEVEN EDUCATIONAL GOALS represent the instructional and institutional outcomes enabled through technology and e-learning:

  1. Meet the personalized needs of all students
  2. Support accountability and inform instruction
  3. Deepen learning and motivate students
  4. Facilitate communication, connectivity, and collaboration
  5. Manage the education enterprise effectively and economically
  6. Enable students to learn from any place at any time
  7. Nurture creativity and self-expression

FIVE TECHNOLOGY MEASURES may indicate progress for technology and e-learning implementation toward these educational goals:

  1. Widely utilizes 21st Century Tools for teaching and learning
  2. Provides anytime/anywhere educational access
  3. Offers differentiated learning options and resources
  4. Employs technology-based assessment tools
  5. Uses technology to redesign and enable the enterprise support

The Future?

James Morrison states

“A “disruptive innovation” is a potential event that may change the future of educational practice. There are a number of disruptive innovations emerging in the contemporary educational landscape today in response to the demands of the global workplace (e.g., Western Governors University, Peer2Peer University, Khan Academy, ShowMe, the Independent Project, MITx, edX, Coursera, StraighterLine, MOOCs, Udacity, digital textbooks, flipped classrooms; see the “Open Educational Resources” page at the Horizon site’s On-Ramp section). The purpose of this presentation was to stimulate discussion on how and why such innovations have the potential to dramatically change current educational practice. A video of the presentation is now available.”

The National Science Foundation pointed toward the future as well with a Cyberlearning Conference.

The summit was sponsored by the National Science Foundation  as a means to engage the community in accelerating the focus on transformative R&D in Cyberlearning and related programs, and was hosted by SRI International, the National Geographic Society, and the Lawrence Hall of Science, signaling a strong commitment to innovative STEM learning both in schools and beyond schools. Additional support was also provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

 You can explore the researchers ideas here in their portal..Here is their portal with the ideas and topic to learn about without the cost of a conference, or workshop.
unfortunately a lot of professional training is very expensive. There is Open Courseware.1 – Great Expectations of ChemLab Boot Camp. Tune in here:

Games in Learning/ You Betcha! Works for Students and Teachers and …..Change in Education

Fun at school?Games in the Classroom?  Click the link and listen to experts.



This was a resource in my classroom, His nephews were in my class.

Bill Nye the Science Guy was the uncle of kids in my classroom. When I was teaching some things they would say. our uncle has some really cool lessons and games on that. Instead of getting upset, I said tell your uncle to send us some of his stuff. He had television games and laser discs and all. Not only did the uncle send things, they were waaaay cool and then he visited the classroom. That was a treat. He would send the class video clips and laser disc copies of his programs. The Nye boys were delighted that their uncle could be a part of their learning.

There are all kinds of games, simulations and events that kids get to experience on devices. We looked at a simulation of the oil spill on the Ipad.

Never mind that in a game it is ok to fail. When kids say that enjoyed learning or that school is fun, parents recoil sometimes. In a game you can practice, play over retain your score or go ahead of the pack. In a game it is ok to fail, it is ok to learn from others, it is ok, to go to the top and post your score. It just is.  There are kids who discover shortcuts in games and try again, again and again. I have been in schools since there was a NECC. We had meeting and learned around games, and strategies. I have been saying this since I stared with games in the classroom and have friends who know it. Never mind that I got laughed at at E3 forgetting that games are a business. What was important to me was that MIT invited me to participate in the E3 conference and so I met lots of people who were working on the concept of gaming and at the conference , so many new ideas. At the time the Department of Education was also seeking games as a way to teach, to create interest and to have students involved for in-depth learning.

When I worked for Vice President Gore, President Bill Clinton and Ron Brown, I came home one day to find 20 games that were sent to me to try out in the classroom. It was like finding a treasure chest. I thought… wow. The kids were more excited that I was. These were high level games that I would be using in outreach. The games are now old but they were at that time complicated compared to the Odell Lake Odell W0ods that we were using, and the games we made up were simplistic. But you know.. the kids were fascinated.

We started learning to integrate games into subject matter, ie. Oregon Trail, what goes with that? The search for the Northwest, Lewis and Clark, What maps do we need and who were the people who went there? Are there biographies, poems, recipes, movies, information about the culture? I even got to work on an interaction of Oregon Trail that made it complicated and more fun. Kids will let you expire in  game to see how long it takes…

Most of the first Oregon Trail Games only taught me that kids would push the limits to see how to stretch out food, clothing and the elements of weather.

But here’s the fun in games. Children that you don’t know well can demonstrate their knowledge and ways of learning. You the teacher, don’t have to entertain them. You just have to make sure that the do the other things they are supposed to do like, lunch, gym and go home.  You the teacher need to know the games so you don’t seem like a dummy. Ok, so the first several times I tried to land a plane in a game the little boys fell over laughing, but there was also a game in which we built a bicycle, a scooter, a hot air balloon and we all failed at first. It is amazing how time flies when you are trying to figure out something.

My supercomputing friends kicked up games and gaming a notch. The George Lucas Educational Foundation in its early days had some games. The students loved them. I did not have as much time as the students so I was always caching to catch up with learning of the kids. It was an interesting task. Heck it was hard, those were good games.

Games are a big feature on Facebook. Here is a passport to games in Education for you.

LGN and FableVision Release Innovative Game Design Tool Kit and

PD for Teachers

Free Handbook Download Supported by PD Workshops and Game Jams

Read about and download the Game Design Tool Kit here.

The Learning Games Network (LGN), a non-profit spin-off of the MIT Education Arcade and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Games+Learning+Society Program, with FableVision, a Boston-based digital media production company, has announced the release of the Game Design Tool Kit (GDTK), a series of free online resources to help teachers integrate game design across the curriculum. LGN has also expanded its professional development program to include Inservice Training Sessions and Game Jams for middle and high school teachers beginning with the current 2012-2013 school year. Local and on-site professional development workshops, such as four-hour Inservice Training Sessions and two- to three-day Game Jams, help school districts and administrators promote successful integration of the GDTK into core curricula and existing teaching methods through new project-based strategies that engage, inspire, and challenge students’ thinking and drive a deeper understanding of new ideas and information.

Available to teachers as a free download, the Game Design Tool Kit consists of a comprehensive handbook, which includes a lesson plan guide, research and design prompts, and step-by-step instructions and discussion guides that enable educators to coach students through four phases of game design: Explore, Discover, Create, and Share. You should join and learn.


Museums,the Media and Learning

By Bonnie Bracey Sutton

From Rome

Learning continues its change , while many try to keep it static. There are so many new ways to teach it makes those people who are afraid of change try even more to chain students to desks and the traditional ways of learning.

Outside of education, children are entranced by the media. But using the media and learning from the media are not enough. There was a time when the available media took part in education in a formal way.Some of those films still exist , you can probably find them on a special channel on your cable offerings.

Children enjoy interaction , and when the interaction is both STEM and art and music , or some representation of the same, that makes it all better.

For many years I worked with the group . an International one that was, ” World Summit on Media for Children” and we started before the Internet was well known. We included it as one of the tools of transition.

Museums have always had to give their programs in interesting ways , either to attract, assist, or involve an audience that may pay money to be involved in an experience.

I have several favorite museums, and the Smithsonian was the one that caught my attention early in life and almost through all of my teaching career. The school children and I could put on our Metro shoes and run to the Mall to find out what it was that the museum was offering. They carefully did professional development before their exhibits and it was fun to learn and to be up to date with the information. I don’t have a favorite Smithsonian Museum, I do have a favorite experience which took me to India from participation in an event.At the moment my favorite museum exhibit is the Sant Hall of Science where the Science is awesome.

Later in life I discovered teacher resources in lots of places, but often the teacher resources did not match outreach to the children. So when I found the Exploratorium it , a hands on minds on kind of place .. it suited me just fine.. except that it was in California. But the resources were great and actually using the resources of “ The Accidental Science of Cooking” I was invited to Milan, to Italy, to a forum in Lake Garda, ” You Are What you Eat”. Children and I had looked at the videos, cooked the foods and researched many of the questions on the topics.  Who knew it would get me a trip to Italy and published.

Today I am back in Italy, and the museum of Explora for children with workshops and integrated learning activities. I am tired, I am happy to learn a new place to share and my Ragazzi friends were right. It is a great learning place. It is in Italy but often places that are successful are duplicated replicated and shared.

Being welcomed to the activities

Here’s to learning places that integrate art, STEM and the humanities .

Mucca - Learning about the Cow and Milk

Hands on Learning