Sunday, September 16, 2007

Are U.S. Students Hungry Enough?

According to “Toward Equality of Access: The Role of Public Libraries in Addressing the Digital Divide”, a report sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which can be downloaded in pdf form at, the digital divide has lost ground in the spotlight. The report claims that the term was firmly established in the media science community in 1995 due to the report “Falling Through the Net” by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The divide identified the gap of internet and computer technology use as directly related to socioeconomic status and claimed the disadvantaged in the U.S. were going to lose even more ground due to their race, geographic location, economic and education level. The current concern of the report is that the spotlight of this dilemma has diminished. It was strong up through 1999 but has lost ground due to attention drawn to other world events and less media coverage. The report also blames the NTIA for reports in 2002 that claimed the technology was available to people through schools and public libraries but the gap remained because people were “choosing” not to use the technology (blame the victim!) Recent studies are showing that the numbers of Americans who use the internet and technology is increasing however the disadvantaged groups from the early days are still lagging. Programs to increase the public access to computer technology by both the government and private corporations are essential. The Bill and Linda Gates Foundation is the leader in this area with a focus on bringing computers to libraries in underserved communities. I also like the recommendations of mentor programs to promote ongoing use of computers. Another area we have to look at regarding the digital divide is how we prepare our students to use the technology we have at hand. My sister was recently let go from General Electric because they are outsourcing their Accounts Payable department to a company in India. She stayed on to train the new department and left with a great education package and pretty sweet payoff, however she is close to 60 years old and facing the search for a new job. According to “News From India” Posted by Outsourcing SEO Services, IBM is the largest multinational firm in India with over 40,000 workers and Google has sales and marketing offices along with research and development centers throughout India. The digital divide may open up to include students who have access to technology but have not been given the education that provides them the "real world skills" to move on to careers that businesses are demanding. I recognize that India and China are providing businesses with work forces that cost less; however, I believe the workers in India and China are hungry for the new tech jobs and are spending their time and energy to learn the skills. I do not see that hunger in the students in the school where I teach.

EPIC 2015

EPIC 2015 is a Flash movie that came out in January 2005 and has provided fodder for discussion on the effects that current and upcoming sources for news may have on journalism and society as a whole. You can locate and view the movie by doing a Google search. My first response to the EPIC 2015 movie was that whenever new technology enters, the fear it will go to the worst form of abuse usually follows. The apocalyptic version seems to appear whenever control moves from an established institution to the unknown. It was interesting to have the news media referred to as the 4th Estate. We have always looked to the news media to provide information to the masses as a means to control the political and monetary powers that exist.

I guess I fall into the group who believes that more information to the masses is a good thing. It does concern me that some Internet news sources may be controlled by a monopoly with filtered information based on documented interests and consumption. I would prefer to be challenged with information that goes beyond my Internet searches and online purchases. I have faith there will continue to be alternative sources of information other than the news delivery projection called Googlezon. The amount of information and the number of people providing and editing information could create a confusion to rival the Tower of Babel; however, I have faith that the librarians among us will organize it in a fashion that will allow us to determine what is valid. Certain Internet sources will be annointed by “the masses” as the providers of the most valuable and reliable information, just as we, “the masses” determine what products are the most valued and reliable.

I looked at Wikipedia to get more information on the references used in the video. A bit of trivia I found interesting was that the name on the ID card was Winston Smith who was the main character in George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Virtual Field Trips for Career Exploration

I am fascinated with all of the Virtual Field Trip offerings for curricular areas such as science and history. There are also great interactive online field trips to augment novels that students are reading. However, my personal “quest” for this assignment was to find Virtual Field Trips that would work for career exploration. There is a great web article at which describes how a VFT can be designed and used for a vocational curriculum. The rationale comes from a National Health Interview Survey which found that “79% of adults without disabilities were working at the time they were interviewed and that only 37% of those with disabilities were employed” (U.S. Department of Labor, 2005). This is a dire fact that indicates special education is not putting enough effort and resources into transition from school to work.

Career Virtual Field Trips would be an incredible resource for working with students with disabilities during the transition phase from high school to work or college. Many students come into high school without a clue as to what they will do after graduation. Coming from a small town with limited opportunities to view different types of jobs they may be limited in their ideas of jobs that are available. The other side of this problem are the students who may have their hearts set on a career that does not match their skill level or potential.

I was so excited as I typed in my searches for “career virtual field trips”. Many different search attempts using many combinations of words has not resulted in much beyond web quests. What I was looking for were VFT’s with photo, audio and video opportunities for students to see different job settings. I finally came across career videos at College . I also found a great set of videos from Career Explorer .net for students to view on You Tube This is important because of the time constraints and the ease that a VFT offers to visit many different work sites. It is also very important when looking at the special education population where there may be physical disabilities or behavioral issues to address.