Digital Divide Multiplied

The Arizona Technology in Education Alliance holds three ed tech conferences each year. I’ve been asked to keynote each of them this school year. Since many educators attend all of the conferences, and each conference has a specific theme, I have to deliver three different keynotes — and the first one is brand new to me. The themes this year are:

  • Who are we Educating?
  • What is Important to Learn?
  • What is a Technology Supported Learning Environment?

Most ed tech keynoters have presentations on how our kids are different today. I’ve not done one like that, though I have snippets that I can pull from other presentations. Right now, I’m skimming through Millennials Rising by Howe & Strauss, and Growing up Digital, by Tapscott, and was surprised at how dated both of these books are. A lot has happened in the last five years. Or is it that I’ve had high school aged children over the past five years. I’m not sure, but I have a lot more research to do.

One thing that did occur to me yesterday, that I think is important, is the nature of our digital divide. There are lots of digital divides, each with its own seeds for danger. What I was thinking about was the digital divide between tech-savvy students and students with little or no access to networked digital information outside the classroom — and to some extent, the digital divide between tech-savvy students and less-savvy teachers.

The literacy divide of the 20th century distinguished between people who could functionally read and those who could not. Democracy was certainly at stake, but to no small degree, so was commerce. The literate could consume the messages of content producers.

Today, the divide has multiplied, because people with contemporary (digital/21st century) literacy skills not only consume content, but they are the content. Being literate means being part of the network. The difference is not merely the individual who can read and individual who can not. It’s the difference between networked communities of power, and individuals who are cut off. This is a distinction too broad to ignore or postpone.

Consider IM Speak, the abbreviations that students use in their instant message conversations. It is, in no small way, a new grammar, and these students invented it spontaneously in collaboration. The industrial literacy way would have been to assign a standards committee to establish a new grammar, and then spend years teaching it in our classrooms. We should be amazed and in awe of this accomplishment. It happened not because these kids were digitally literate, but because being digitally literate meant being part of a network — a community of power.

Where is our community of power?

AzTEA Conference Attendees

I will be using a feature of Technorati to identify blog postings that concern your conference. If you will be attending the conference, and will be posting blog articles about the event, before, during, after, or in between, then place the following code somewhere in the text of the article.

<a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/azteaconference” rel=”tag”>AzTEAconference</a>

Technorati should find your blog article and aggregate it together with other related blogs. If you will be taking photos at the conference and posting them on Flickr, then they too can be tagged with AzTEAconference.

It would also be helpful to signup on Technorati, go to account, and claim your blog. This will cause the service to regularly check your blog for new entries.

See you there at the conference!

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.