A Digital Divide That Keeps Widening?

Technology has certainly created many more opportunities for many more students to learn more about the world around them. So why does the digital divide keep getting wider in many parts of the U.S.?  I think this is more of an economic issue than a question of public policy or good legislation, intention.  We now have federal initiatives and programs supporting educational technology and Internet connectivity in our classrooms as prerequisites for learning in the 21st Century.  These programs began in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, and it seems that the students who may need them the most still have not benefitted to the degree intended.

The Federal Communications Commission’s eRate and Lifeline programs are often touted as two of the most enabling federal programs leveling the playing field for all American students wherever they may live, transcending zip codes and economic status.  Unfortunately, in spite of all the good intentions and rhetoric, this now appears to be a case of the rich getting richer, and the poor poorer.  Connectivity still seems to be a major issue contributing to this disparity, but it goes beyond the classroom. Students living in poorer districts do not have access to all the technological assets that their counterparts have in richer communities across the country.  So the digital divide may have moved more dramatically to the home environment where poorer students will always be more disadvantaged than their more affluent peers.

This was not intended to be part of the plan created at the end of the last century.  Where is Al Gore when we need him?  Perhaps the real issue is the structure of our public school financing and its dependence on property taxes as its base.  “New wine in old wineskins.”

Ray Myers


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Time and Tech and Remembering

Monday will be Memorial Day in the U.S., and we are all reminded to take time to remember those who are no longer with us, and perhaps spend more time with those who are the most important in our daily lives.  Perhaps the title of this blog deserves some explanation in this respect.  “TechtoExpress” is not only intended to reflect an “express” mode in the rapidity of our dealings with others.  It surely has that capacity in terms of how quickly we can communicate on any topic with anyone in the world.  Technology also empowers us with many more tools to “express” our thoughts and emotions using new powerful digital tools.  More expressive opportunities are now available for more people, who may become the new “artists” of a new century.

Happily we can also now connect with family and friends even when we are not able to be with them personally.  Such tools as FaceTime and Skype enable us to do that in real time.  So let’s always remember those we love and those who loved us and now live in our memories.  And be grateful for the technology that enriches our daily lives so that we can “be” with those we love in so many ways.

Many worry that technology is rapidly accelerating our loves so that we have less time to spend with our closest friends and family members.  I don’t think it has to be that way.  Do you?

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Ray Myers

Connect to Nepal Relief

Tragedy stikes Nepal as a huge earthquake and its deadly aftershocks continue to wreck havoc on the citizens of this picturesque country at the foot of the Himalayas. Various countries and non-governmental agencies are already rallying to Nepal’s rescue. We can easily use the technology readily available to us to help in some way.

Use your technology to connect and express your concern. Please go online to see what you can do. Thank you.

Ray Myers

Are Libraries Dying in the Digital Age?

Unfortunately, the title of this blog is more than just a rhetorical question about the future of our public libraries. While these community resources continue to enjoy immense popularity and usage, particularly in most of our urban centers, their continued public funding appears to be in jeopardy. It seems that more public dollars are being invested in underwriting the construction costs of cavernous sport complexes throughout the country.

Perhaps the irony in all of this is that technology’s ability to search and retrieve information from anywhere in the world and put it in the palm of our hand, may be the very force threatening the future of these historic repositories of human knowledge. If you are fortunate enough to have a smartphone and the connectivity wherever you may be, going to the library for the sheer pleasure of browsing or enjoying a quiet space may quickly become a cherished memory of your pre-digital life. If public libraries do become obsolete, we will be losing “the power plants of intellect and opportunity . . . distributed without regard to wealth” (Dwyer, NYTimes, 4/24/15).

Please understand that I am not trying to pit the future of professional sports against the continued existence of public libraries. But I do think this comparison of the amount of public funding invested in sports entertainment while our libraries struggle for the dollars needed for basic operational expenses and maintenance is truly a “wake up” call. Inevitably, I hope that we will all continue to value and support the services of our public libraries and not become hostage to the frenzy of building bigger and better sports complexes at the expense of “our power plants of intellect and opportunity.”

Ray Myers

Baseball and Tech

I know that the major league’s opening day is just a few days away, and I am looking forward to enjoying “America’s” past time, but please, let’s make it more low tech. I went to a spring training game in Florida last month and I certainly enjoyed it, even more than any regular season game I have attended in the past few years.  Why?

Perhaps the biggest reason, aside from a clear blue sky that day, and a hot dog and a beer, was the absence of the electronic entertainment that one must endure throughout the course of a regular season game.  Maybe the thing I miss the most is just being able to talk to friends and family who may be with you, or even with neighboring fans in the stands. Perhaps this is just nostalgia on my part, but I do think that sometimes “less is more.”

So professional baseball will surely never be the same, and I know tech also enables us to crunch numbers of players and teams’  statistical performance and predict winners, etc., but that’s not really why I like to go to ball games.  Maybe it was about routing for the home team, however good or bad they might be – too provincial for today?

Ray Myers

Online Identities

Thanks to Word Press, I can now have a number of different identities online.  Okay, but this might be a little confusing to someone as old as me who is learning a new task: writing this blog, creating a new “identity.”  And then in the back of my mine, I am reminded by a contemporary that we may all be living on “borrowed time.”  If so, I am certainly trying to make the most of it with the identity I have.

So please don’t worry as you read these posts on “TechtoExpress” that you may be hearing the comments of a person with multiple online (or offline) identities.  Maybe I will learn to do that some day, but for the present, it’s just me.

Ray Myers

 

 

 

Sex and Tech

I thought this title might get your attention, and I am going to talk about sex and tech, but more in the context of current events and personal observations. It looks like the bastions of male dominance in Silicon Valley may have received some sexual sensitivity training over the past week.  Oh, I know that Ellen Pao lost her case against Kleiner Perkins this past week, but it also seems that many more women are now pursuing similar cases against some of their tech employers.

These cases will not fit into the category of a sexual revolution I am sure, but may hopefully open many more doors for bright young women who can make their mark in this field.  In the area of social media, I think you will find that young girls and women represent both the early adopters and most consistent users of this technology-enabled means of communication.  In our formal educational systems, I am not quite so sure, particularly as it relates to opportunies for young girls and women to excel in the formal STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  To my mind, there may be more social barriers and sexual stereotypes that girls (and boys) will have to overcome in the school setting.  This may very well include the biases held by their parents, teachers, extended family and school community in some cases.

Hope everyone enjoys the beginning of spring, and any time they may have to be with family and friends during this season of renewal.

Ray Myers

What’s Your Reality?

So life is full of many choices, and now we have all have a very critical ones to make.  Would you like to live in a virtual or real world?  A bit oversimplified I agree, but we do now have choices that did not exist until technology came along and made it at all possible.  The virtual world may be rapidly becoming the world where we spend much of our waking hours where we work and play online, communicating with increasing ease and access on a twenty-four hour basis.  In a certain sense we can create our own realities in the choices we make.  This was hardly an option that earlier generations had.

Technology can also be a tool that enhances the breadth and meaningfulness of our personal and professional lives.  But access alone does not guarantee this.  I think one of the “twenty-first century skills” that our students and all families must now learn is the prioritizing of our time so as to maximize our life experiences in both worlds.  I am also concerned that many children’s realities are exclusively contained in the four walls, or stories, of their family homes.  Ironically it may be the technology that confines them there physically when the World Wide Web can take them anywhere virtually.

Of course there is always the experience of attending school in a building with other students and teachers.  This reality is also changing with many variations and permutations of how and where students can attend classes, from elementary school through higher education.   Technology has again made this all possible.  A flexibility that surely benefits and enables access for many more learners.  While “old school” advocates may decry such alternatives in learning, this is a “twenty-first century” reality that may make the biggest difference of all.