Recent comments on this blog, as well as several emails recently received have left me thinking more about the infamous Digital Divide. Admittedly, there exists such a chasm - a quick glance at the participants involved in the newly created EduBloggerWorld social network can attest to that glaring fact.
Even from this crude representation of global Internet activity, the glaring absence of participants from Africa is absolutely staggering. So I heartily admit it: The Digital Divide is real.
Nevertheless, the Digital Divide isn't what keeps teachers in my district from using technology with their students. Nope. That honor would go to two huge F's that exist within the personalities of many Jordan School District teachers: Fear and Fatigue. While there are certainly many excellent teachers in our district, there are also many teachers that are afraid to try anything new in their classes. An even larger population are too tired to take the time to learn new techniques and technologies.
Hence, Pay Attention was born - because, truth be told, the teachers in our district have a plethora of technological resources at their fingertips (labs, computers, technology a plenty). The choice to eliminate the Digital Divide that may or may not be present within their classrooms is theirs, and theirs alone.
In other places, however, such technological (also translated: pedagogical) autonomy for teachers and students sadly doesn't exist. The teacher in Nigeria doesn't use technology with her students because it's non-existent (at least within a 100 mile radius) - not because she's chosen to leave the laptops locked up in the hall closet. And the sad fact of the matter is that such a divide will continue to exist until the "Haves" chose to give a little of their bounty to the "Have nots".
Like it or not, there is no other way.
That said, however, I don't think that the entire process of eliminating the Digital Divide has to be completely painful. Here's one solution that I think has definite potential, given that participants actually choose to eliminate the divide, rather than direct once-used funds in some other direction:
- Why not implement California's Open Source Textbook Project on a global level?
If COSTP can really save California anywhere from $200 to $400 million dollars in textbook costs, let's do it everywhere - then divert saved funds in the direction of those students/teachers/countries with greatest need.
COSTP will employ the advantages of open sourced content and innovative licensing tools to significantly reduce California's K-12 textbook costs — eventually turning K-12 curriculum and textbook construction from a cost into a revenue generator for the State of California.
Three - amongst many — COSTP benefits will be 1) the complete elimination of the current $400M+ line item for California's K-12 textbooks; 2) a significant increase in the range of content afforded to California's K-12 textbooks; 3) a permanent end to California's textbook shortages; and 4) creation of fully portable content holdings database that scales with classroom technologies as they are introduced.
It is important to note that COSTP's mandate does not replace printed textbooks; it simply makes them less expensive to produce; and, in doing so creates many additional benefits, economies, and efficiencies that will fully leverage California's activities in the K-12 textbook publishing domain.
Granted, even after several years, the COSTP project is still in its initial stages. Nevertheless, I can't help but think that Open Source is the answer. Again, if the Digital Divide is to be narrowed, those of us that are actually reading this post (and posts like it) must be the ones to make it happen. There is no other way.
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