As I mentioned in the Google Effect entry I penned last week, the access to technology and the internet is not something everyone enjoys. With such a heavy shift towards online technologies to facilitate many services we offer in education, we have to wonder how low-income areas are dealing with these changes. This dilemma is presented to us in the form of what has been coined the digital divide.
In Miami-Dade county, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is seeking to change his district. In 2008, a survey showed that 72% of residents in his county did not have access to the internet at home. As part of the merger deal between Comcast and NBC Universal, Comcast is required to give low-cost internet and computers to those in schools who qualify for the reduced lunch programs currently in place. As noted in the eClassroom News article, taken from the Miami Herald, the company must supply internet for less than $10 a month for internet service and $150 or less a month for a computer. In addition, free courses on digital literacy will be offered to these families. A similar program was launched last month in Chicago.
Also noted in the Sun-Sentinel, the Elevate Miami initiative has also sought to distribute computers and internet access to communities that need them the most. This is encouraging news for technology advocates.
Miam-Dade has a large population of native Spanish speakers, and is one of the nation’s largest regions for ESL education. With access to the internet and new found digital literacy, this could potentially open the doors to free, accessible language learning for adult learners and children alike. This particular initiative is quite encouraging because of the focus placed on parent-student interaction. The students are the ones who will be the driving force, involving their parents in technological literacy, introducing them to the wonderful resources that will soon be available to them through the internet.
The potential to improve educational quality in low-income areas of the state through this initiative is quite substantial. As the program matures, it will be interesting to see figures and news relating to how the initiative has had an impact on educational quality, test scores, and school grades.