October 07, 2005

Digital Divide - Time to divide and conquer

http://www.sandaigprimary.co.uk/pivot/johnjohnston.phpJohn Johnston made a comment on my research that I have seen elsewhere several times in the past day or so - must be the blogging telepathy operational once more. This will definitely have to be addressed in the research somewhere:

"I'd add access to the internet, both at school and home, one or two computers in a class and a blogging becomes an organisational task.
Lack of access at home means blogging cannot become a tool of all. In Scotland, many of our children do not have access to the internet at home. With the coming of SSDN this seems to me to be something that needs to be addressed."

All I can say is "yes, it does need addressed". But I don't believe SSDN will solve this problem entirely. All you have to do is look at the project I am coordinating, the Modern Foreign Languages Environment to realise that SSDN is internet based, so with no internet access, no SSDN!

SSDN will solve the problem of reliability of access in schools, as long as Local Authorities roll out the access to individual school centres in good time, but it will not help the perennial issue of home access. Nor will it magically make the number of computers in your classroom expand like Miraclegrow. Content, like that available on MFLE and future learner-centred versions of the content, will be available to all at home, work or school and, together with the impressive resources from BBC Jam (the renamed BBC Digital Curriculum), this might inspire some more of the middle classes to buy their home computer (those who can afford it).

Andy Carvin points out in a recent presentation in NYC that much has been done to help those relatively well-off middle classes in the States but that the digital divide has actually grown, much like the gap between rich and poor: we have more internet rich than ever, but the divide this is creating in terms of access to resources is growing fast. How many services do you use that are internet only: government initiatives, cheap car insurance, cheap travel...? Read his great PowerPoint.

Let's brainstorm - what could we do to help sort out this digital divide? Why not start by looking at the Negroponte's $100 laptop?

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I don't know about blogging telepathy I guess we all read the same stuff, I'd picked up Creating the $100 Laptop last week and last weekend I saw a £399 laptop and a £299 PC in Woolworth. I don't know the $100 laptop would be useful for looking at much of the SSDN content, but spending 3 times that amount might create a useful scotkid™ laptop. I wonder how much enough laptops for every child, from say 10 to 16, in Scotland would cost. Linux might help.
Support would probably cost as much again. From my own experience a fair percentage of the children I know who have a PC at home can't use it or can't connect to the internet often due to virus or spyware problems (Linux might help with that too.)
One of the things Andy Carvin quotes Negroponte on is the care Third World children took of their laptops, I wonder if Scots children coming from a different society altogether would do the same?
Negroponte spoke about five to 15 million units in a year with 150 million units in year two! Scotland is miniscule compared to that.

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Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

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