Digital Divide: Poor and Rich Children
On top of all of these, the technology we now have also provides an entirely new social medium in which relationships can be established. The internet enables us to network with each other with so much ease. We are able to share information, moments and photographs instantly. Facebook, as an example, has indeed become a gigantic meeting place where one can share what one has just read, what one has just seen, what one has just heard. Electronic mails as well as messages or posts no longer require postage stamps and long waits. And if by chance, the two parties that are communicating are both online, the response could almost be instantaneous.
Social media truly add a different dimension to technology. These tools can certainly influence schools and learning in the same way other social interactions do. The classroom can extend much farther both beyond its walls as well as scheduled hours. The internet can indeed be a virtual learning experience. The internet allows people of different backgrounds, social status, and educational attainment to be connected. Sadly, in this new medium, the digital divide takes life beyond mere access to technology.
It is true that in a developing country, access to the internet is still a major impedance to utilizing technology for learning. However, access has been improving dramatically all over the world. The widespread activity and large presence of Filipinos on Facebook clearly demonstrate that the problem of access has been somewhat alleviated. Having access, however, is not enough to destroy the digital divide between poor and rich children.
A new digital divide can arise not from a lack of access to technology, but from a lack of access to the right people, helpful connection, and correct information. The new digital divide comes not from a lack of technology, but from not knowing how to use the social networks for the benefit of learning. Recently, I was delighted to receive an email from the Mai Uichanco, currently the national secretary general of the League of Filipino Students. The email speaks of a student leader, who is actively engaged in discussions concerning Philippine basic education. We do find support and new relationships on the internet. Such an introduction would not have been possible if Mai and I did not meet on the internet.
Being a social medium, the internet can serve as a source of support. Students can build and maintain friendships. These connections are very important for adolescents. The internet can easily become a place where students are able to share frustrations on a difficult homework or project. I recently posted a quotation from Einstein:
""Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common."And in addition to the "likes" I got from friends on Facebook, I got the following response:
Angel,not only in school but also in the house and with some friends and relatives as what I've learned from you during the days we spent in your house at Instruccion,the names of all the horses you bet in DIVIDENDAZO,seems inherited and received.......Oops, I was just reminded of the times I used to spend on San Lazaro and Santa Ana (These, by the way, are not religious places, but horse racing clubs). Thus, by being with each other, even in a virtual sense, we are able to share ideas, experiences, and yes, even grief. These are all helpful connections.
The last one, getting the correct information, hinges in fact on the first two, the right people and helpful connections. It also depends on an ability to think critically, which is a must to filter irrelevant and incorrect information. Sadly, the internet is also full of hoaxes, misconceptions and in simple terms, garbage. Students have the responsibility to develop critical thinking, but as adults, it is our responsibility to provide the support they need on the internet.
Christine Greenhow, Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Michigan State University, works currently on how social networks can help education and civic engagement. Recently, she was a guest at the
American Public Media - American RadioWorks:
One of Greenhow's recent papers is the following:
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