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:

SETDA Leadership Summit- Leveraging Technology for Learning

Yesterday was the leadership summit of SETDA. It was a great event. For the first thing, it was located at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, in National Harbor, MD. That made it easy to get to, and there was no hassle in parking. No rush hour traffic. Nice. The National Harbor is an inviting place to hold a conference and it is beautiful. It is near Washington , DC.

We signed in and got our resources. I had new sources of information that are also on line, If you go to you can access all of the publications and tools. Lots of information there. You can access the reports and research here. Doug Levin is the executive director of the group. What a wonderful day he crafted for us.

Arnie Duncan

Then there was the event itself. It was titled, ” Leveraging Technology for Learning” and it started with Lee Rainie from the Pew Charitable Trust, who shared ideas in the initial keynote. We got a review of the state of broadband, some ideas of where our students are in the use of technology and some Pew data on the use of mobility. You have probably already seen the Pew Reports. We enjoyed the mash up of data regarding their most recent findings.

Digital Learning Now,  is a report you will want to have.

Many  groups contributed to the report and you can access their information at the bottom of the document..Online access to the document and information about the ten elements of digital learning are on line at www, You want more than the PDF because the roadmap to reform that we talked about all day, is here.

Thomas G. Carroll, President, National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future was his usual perfect self in presentation. He talked about how we as artisans, in teaching needed to move on and collectivize . Karen Cator lead a very lively discussion on transforming teaching and learning and Tom was the star of that panel..
What you missed  by not being at the leadership conference was being with the movers and shakers in education from various areas and groups and geographical regions. NCTET, vendors, CSSO and the alphabet of educational group leadership was in full force. It was exciting,. We questioned, not much debating, but the discussions were lively.

Maine Shares its Excellence Technology Initiatives

SETDA members work nationally and collaboratively with a wide range of state and local colleagues and in public-private partnerships to address two core education leadership questions: (1) How can states deploy technology in meaningful, sustainable and scalable ways to help educators, schools and districts meet longstanding goals for education, especially those goals that have been most challenging for public education to meet?; and (2), what must the education system do to remain responsive to evolving expectations for what students should know and be able to do and for what students, educators, parents and the public expect of schools vis-à-vis technology?

Bob Gabrys was there from NASA, Stan Silverman from NYIT, Idit Caperton, Globaloria, Mike Haney, NSF, a bunch of Einstein Fellows, the most interesting characters and principal people from many leading educational organizations. Just walking around was a great networking event. A colleague reminded me that it was 25 years since I had been trained in geography by the National Geographic Society. that was Charlie Fitzpatrick  from ESRI. . So you can see that there wasconversation about all kinds of things going on. The state groups shared too.

A highlight of the conference is always the information shared with students, teachers and individual from a state. This year’s group was from Maine. You had to be there to understand the importance of their ability to use technology. It would be hard to explain as well as they did ,how technology influenced their lives.
Most of us know the effects of the One to One Computer Initiative in Maine. Jeff Mao gave us a perspective and shared the long range effects of the program. We heard from a high school, and students involved in technology. This part of the conference helps to frame the importance of the uses of technology.  We also talked about the initiation of the project in Maine way back when Angus KIng  started the idea and created the possibility for it to happen.

California shared Brokers of Expertise..

There was a plenary panel on the visions of the future of education. I know a little about analytics, but not enough to communicate what they were taking about. It was after lunch and maybe I was not paying attention as well as I should have. But I do know the Gates Foundation ideas, and have some ideas of what Gov. Wise , Jeb Bush and others are doing . I attend their workshops too.

Share.  Find.  Use. Amplify

The Learning Registry

Excitement was in the room. You have to go look at this project to see why.
Your investment of time will be well worth it. Explanations are at

It won’t be as nice as the presentation by Steve Midgely, but it will work for your understanding.

The cheering began. The groups that participated in the project the Learning Registry shared their ideational scaffolding and the idea of the mission.
With Common Core, it is easy to create innovations for Learning through Sharing.
We had Arnie Duncen, sharing his ideas, with total enthusiasm and interest.

Aneesh Copra guiding us through the thinking that created the project, and others shared the way in which they all worked together.  The military sharing with education and thinking of ways to help us access the resources that are available for us. Awesome.

The star of the show, Steve Midgely, demonstrated the project for us. We were enthused. We were excited.

It was a long day, with benefits. It was worth the investment of time, talent and
technology to learn with and from our educational leaders.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton