Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In the meantime

Is there a digital divide, and if so, what should be done about it?

Yes, there is a digital divide, but I feel this is just another symptom of the other inequalities in our world, and in the United States in particular. Not so much because the U.S. is better or worse, but I believe the way we fund our educational system is a major contributing factor.

The change that would make the largest dent in this and other divides is changing the way we fund public education. Basing our school funding on property taxes and state funds causes issues with the quality of teachers, supplies, buildings, and perceptions of education. Some solutions would be to base our education funding more equally though federal taxation, provide more funds to the localities where students have the most challenges, and develop curriculum that incorporate technology use across subject fields. I am aware that some people feel that redefining the way we fund education is bordering on "communism/socialism" or believe that the federal government may have too much control over curriculum. While I understand these fears, the benefits of a better educational system would improve our entire society.

However, since I don't project this as happening in the immediate future, there are steps to be taken by individuals and organizations who recognize this issue. Although the socioeconomic divides sometimes seem insurmountable, by recognizing the divide and providing small solutions we can take intermediate steps. Libraries in particular can help in several ways by providing learning environments and technology resources to a wide demographic, being aware of patron technology needs and differing skill levels and abilities, focusing available resources towards training staff and the public in information technology use, and directing people to other resources that provide free or low-cost technology education.

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