Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Divide: Real and Imagined

The Digital Divide has been an issue that I have personally worked hard to break down and I know that my efforts alone are not going to solve the problem, but I want to do my part to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  Yesterday, there was an article that appeared in the San Jose Mercury News where they published the statistics for Computer Use, Internet Use and Broadband access for people of different ethnic groups.  The results are some what surprising, but not completely unexpected.  

This data is promising and troubling all at the same time.  I was happy to see that Internet use among Asians and Blacks is on a par with White Americans.This means that Asians and Blacks are learning how to use the medium, even if it is only to e-mail or access social networks, and integrating it into their daily lives.  Many of these skills are transferable to other applications and technology tools and will eventually enter students academic lives.  The troubling statistic is that Latinos lag behind all other groups by 20 percentage points in Internet usage and Broadband access.  One can only hypothesize for the reasons, personally I believe that culture, language and the lack of Internet access in Central and South American countries are all contributing factors.  The article also mentioned that in households earning less than $40,000 annually the level of Computer and Internet access is less than 50%.
Programs, like Digital Bridge, at Capuchino High School and Computer Check Out at Woodside can help bring computers and Internet access to many families who currently do not have access. With more than half of all of the people on the planet owning cell phones,  those running on 3G wireless networks will help bring many more Latinos into the digital age. 
While most schools send most school-wide communication home in both English and Spanish, I also think teachers need to work with families who speak languages other than English, by using translation tools like BabelFish and Google Translate to bridge the communications gap. 

Is the "Digital Divide" real?  Yes...  Is it permanent?  No!  Will it disappear tomorrow?  No, but we can see it from here!

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