Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Conference a great success!

I've been remiss in posting- Randall, Neela and I have been churning out documents left and right. Nametags, tent cards, reg forms, the devil is in the details... our final total was 177 registrations - a huge success for everyone involved!

Got up at 6am, to hit N. Campus 7am... we had some concern that we would run out of seats... Connie Majure-Rhett kept us on point as MC, Dr. Clay was a fantastic speaker, Dr. Rasheed did a great job with an outstanding and relevant panel and Jeff and Jeannette King of SpecialtySoft.Com finished us off with a technology discussion. Estimates are about 180 for breakfast and about 165 for lunch... great video coverage... everyone came together to pull off the most professional conference yet.

Most importantly, we had great community leader and black business participation... we increased awareness of the digital divide and through great insights and stories from the panel, stakeholders and speakers, we all experienced a great networking and learning opportunity.

I'm exhausted...
-m

3 Comments:

Blogger Ray Rose said...

I enjoyed the conference, but I've been involved with the digital divide from the education side for a number of years.

I just got the following message and thought it would add to the discussion.


Speaking Out

Education is the wrong career for martyrs

by Gary Stager,

During a recent panel discussion I shared my discomfort with the topic of the digital divide. While concerns of equity are laudable, discussions of the digital divide are often little more than simplistic distractions. First, most student access to computers is meager and what's done with those computers is pedestrian. Even students in wealthy, well-equipped schools rarely experience the creative and intellectual potential afforded by computers.

My bigger concern about the digital divide is that it represents a symptom of a much larger problem. As long as school education is viewed as a way to rank, sort, judge or label children, there will be winners and losers. The inevitable losers will be those who are already disadvantaged by race, gender, income or ethnicity. Arguments for zero-sum schools often masquerade as meritocracy but are based on the myth that education is a scarce resource. Schools need not create losers.

I just returned home from working with schools in another country. I asked the government to let me work with two of its most disadvantaged or "troubled" schools. I spent half a day in a K-6 school and the other half in a 7-12 school. The objective was to introduce students to a more expansive view of learning with computers and to create some models of what learning might look like in the 21st century.

I demanded the students be multi-age, represent different abilities and be with me for several hours per day, every day for 11 days. These requirements attacked three of the most destructive forces in schooling; age segregation, tracking and a schedule that makes serious work improbable.

The school buildings were unattractive and conveyed the message that the community does not care much for these particular students. The high school suffered from a system that weeds out kids for scarce university places. Teachers made countless excuses for student behavior and underachievement, none of them self-critical or related to the curriculum. "These children" are defective and the teachers are martyrs who care for them against all odds by delivering curriculum in bite-size chunks. The teachers own insecurity created dependency and neediness in their students.

Small Groups, Teachable Moments

In my class, students set up their own laptops, installed software, programmed video games, made multimedia storybooks and engaged in sophisticated engineering with LEGO and MicroWorlds software. Over time, they began to break themselves of their addiction to being taught and managed. They were able to work for long periods of time on sophisticated projects with students of different ages, and even schools.

My teaching was done with small groups at teachable moments, and then students shared their knowledge. I did not have a projector or even a whiteboard. Neither was necessary since I never lectured. I collaborated. We never went online.

There was so much activity from the moment I arrived that I did not notice that my class spanned from ages 5-12 until Rebecca, a kindergartener, hugged me at the end of the first day and said, "Thank you for teaching me so much." Sixth graders don't hug.

On the second day I saw an overweight sloppy boy hiding behind trash cans in the copier room crying. I had seen a teacher screaming in his face earlier that day. He turned out to be Rebecca's brother. Every day I saw him in the office in a fragile emotional state after being exiled. I feared that his bright happy sister might someday share his fate. So, I requested that Danny be added to my class.
He was quite thrilled to work with the robotics materials. Danny was a bit goofy, but cooperative and he did use all of the available LEGO people in his invention. He stayed an hour after class and nobody ever came looking for him.

The last day was open to the public so the students could show-off their accomplishments. Danny arrived early and told me that he had set up all of the laptops. I replied, "Thanks! You the man!" To which Danny said, "That's twice." I apparently had told him that a few days earlier and he was keeping score. Helping Danny join the community of learners and feel valued was not hard at all. I just needed to close the human divide that sends some kids to the principal's office and others to Harvard. DA

Gary Stager, gary@stager.org, is editor-at-large and an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University.

Fri Feb 10, 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger slidesage said...

Hi rmrose,
This is a fantastic article, though I disagree with the premise that spreading awareness of the digital divide is in any way a bad thing. We need to know there is an issue before we can deal with it.

Thanks for your participation in the conference.
Thanks,
Matt
PEI Conference Co-Chair

Fri Feb 10, 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Rose said...

Slidesage:

I didn't get that Sanger was saying spreading awareness of the digital divide is in any way a bad thing.

What I saw, was this line: "My bigger concern about the digital divide is that it represents a symptom of a much larger problem." and Sanger going from there. That simply working to solve the digital divide doen't necessarily address the cause. That the digital divide is a symptom of other larger problems.

So, simply thinking solving the digital divide is a solution, or concentrating on the digital divide we solve the other equite problems is too simple.

In education when we first started calling attention to the digital divide everyone got on the bandwagon, then as the numbers began to come closer together we saw that there were problems in how the computers were used, and differences in instruction that were racially or economically identifyable. So, the message is simply that its important to recognize that the digital divide is a symptom of a bigger set of issues, and while it's nice to focus on something you can see, don't think that a simple solution -- lessening the digital divide means everything is better.

Here's another source for some digital divide info:

Solving the Persistent Problem of the Digital Divide


Click here to view the full report as a PDF document.http://www.civilrights.org/issues/communication/summary.pdf

Introduction

This year, Congress will look again at the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and consider rules related to universal service and the transition to digital television. These rules will determine whether all Americans have access to and can afford high-speed, high-quality communications services, including the Internet. Though many Americans have taken these services for granted in the past, Hurricane Katrina demonstrates that a robust and accessible information infrastructure is not only vital to the educational and economic life of our nation, it is critical in emergencies as well.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, it is no longer possible for the "haves" to ignore the plight of the "have-nots" and the disparities of poverty and race that many in the civil rights community have worked to end. As Congress decides the future of our telecommunications infrastructure, the Leadership Conference believes closing the persistent digital divide should be a priority.

Despite recent reports to the contrary, the digital divide is large and does not appear to be disappearing soon. Blacks and Latinos are much less likely to have access to home computers than are white, non-Latinos (50.6 and 48.7 percent compared to 74.6 percent). They are also less likely to have Internet access at home (40.5 and 38.1 percent compared to 67.3 percent). Native Americans also have lower rates of access (51.6 and 40.9 percent).

Income differences are partly, but not entirely responsible for ethnic and racial disparities in computer and Internet access. Even among individuals with family incomes of at least $60,000, blacks and Latinos are substantially less likely to own a computer or have Internet access at home than are whites. Language is also an important determinant of computer ownership and Internet use even after controlling for education, family income and immigrant status. Spanish-speaking Latinos, especially Mexicans, have strikingly low rates of computer ownership and home Internet use.
In short, too many Americans still do not have access to computers and Internet service in the home. In the places where homework is done, where job searches are conducted, where information about health care and political information is sought, there are still too many Americans who are not able to participate in this digital age.

Sun Feb 19, 07:17:00 AM  

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