Web 2.0 for Education Outreach to Low-Income and Minority Students

I've been asked to help facilitate an event at the end of March with educational and government representatives on the topic of using the new technologies of the Web specifically to help low-income and minority students--and in particular to open greater opportunities for higher education to them. If all goes as we're planning right now, I'll be broadcasting the event live as a part of the interview series here and for anyone with an interest in this topic.

My job for that day will be to lay out the vision and possibilities for this angle on Web 2.0, as I've told them that I don't have any particular expertise directly here, but want to be a part of helping to bring the dialog forth.

I'm interested in what ideas you, dear network members, have on this topic, and if there is anyone you think I should particularly look to for thought leadership here. I'm also interested in involving some students in the discussion.

Thank you for any help.

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Alice hit my point: neither my kids nor their families have consistent, reliable access to the tools of connectedness that the middle and upper classes depend on for their learning, working, and "friending." Our schools are neglected technologically; the technology used is for yesterday's world (just Office or skill games); the tech department and administration determine how and what to use. Innovative teachers, tech savvy teachers are not supported. These kids, due to their SES, have intermittent access at home to the connected world. They are, in their schools and homes, separated from the newly interconnected democratic process and the opportunities that responsible and fluent knowledge in the use of these tools provide. Everyday I struggle with slow connections and old computers to provide my students with the opportunities to learn research, networking, and presentation application of tools they will be expected to use. The greatest inequity in our schools is the differences in availability of technology. One of my classes is working with another class; their situation includes 1:1 computing on new computers. We have (thank goodness) eight eight-year-old computers and slow connections. It's a stark difference. And my kids love it; they expect it -- as most kids do since, though living in "poverty," they own the toys and phones, just as their counterparts do (they just don't last as long and they don't have the internet connectivity consistently). Without access to the tools of today, our students will not have equal access to higher education. It's not if the students will be helped by the new technologies of the web, but when. I hope that while sharing all the wonderful things that many are able to demonstrate, that this issue also is discussed. Thanks for accepting the opportunity to help educational and legislative representatives understand what "could be, if..."
Great thoughts. I've invite Larry Ferlazzo to join the conversation. He's done amazing things getting computers into the homes of immigrant families. http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/
I teach in a rural area with the same restrictions. We have no computer classes. I teach some through my English / history block. The restrictions and limitations are crazy. How do we access technolgy as the state continues to tighten the budget?
In the UK the govt. has just introduced a scheme to get low-income and socially disadvantaged families, not just students, online. They are providing free lowcost laptops and free connectivity. You can see the details here:
http://localauthorities.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=eo&catco...
While it promotes itself as an educational programme it is not narrow in its focus. Its looking at education and life experience suggesting that if you are already disadvantaged then not having access to the net will further hinder your life chances. So it is not about kids doing homework as much as families being part of the net 'community'.
Martin, thanks for sharing this. Yes, connectivity and hardware acquisition is one side of the story, the other is what you then do with this to make a difference to the world. Although I am no expert on this, Australia are working through similar issues with providing the tools, but then need to go the next step and provide pedagogy and community applications that foster improved learning and thinking.
Julie, you are absolutely right here, (Hi, Martin, too). Recently saw a presentation where a school had spent lots of government cash on 3G thin-client access for about 100 familes. The question was asked, "What did you do with it then?". A disappointing silence. It's tool not toy. The kit is the beginning, surely. I liked Alice's phrase, above, where she was critical of ICT used as 'remediation' not creation. Punchy!
OK, we really have to bring Larry Ferlazzo into this conversation. http://www.stevehargadon.com/2007/11/great-computer-program-for-imm...
Martin thanks for sharing the BECTA information. It looks like the project deploys this month. I'd love to read more and follow this progress. Are you involved with it?
This program is comprehensive: it sets out to eliminate the digital divide through cross-platform/device access and curriculum. It involves extensive professional development with a curricular focus to design lessons that extend and personalize learning for all learners, including learner styles and needs at school and at home. The focus is 21st Century, personalized learning with access anywhere, with the added benefit that families improve their technology learning also. It's ambitious because the alternative creates such disparity in opportunity. Thanks, Martin, for showing a possible model. Look around these sites; you'll see the careful consideration for how technology drives our lives, how curriculum and lessons apply to student/careers; and
how access to a personal learning platform, equipment, and connections by everyone is necessary and possible:

http://schools.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=oe&catcode=ss_es_...
http://www.becta.org.uk/nextgenerationlearning
http://www.nextgenerationlearning.org.uk/
Love it. Thanks for the link.
I have mentioned Google Apps many times on a number of discussions on classroom20.com. I think it is a marvellous set of tools that google have made available for free for schools. I suggest you take a look at the website to get an overview, but for some basic info Google Apps includes: gmail, google calendar, sites, documents and start page/igoogle.
http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/index.html#utm_medium=et&a...

It's very easy to use, secure, versatile and as I mentioned before, free.
Re Google Apps, Ben: two colleagues in Kinshasa and I used Google Docs for a long collaborative translation back in December 2006. Motive: they could only use computers in cybercafes, and Kinshasa cybercafes are liable to haphazard electricity and connection shutdowns - besides people having to run away because shooting in the streets comes too near. So Google Docs, where your work gets automatically saved at short intervals, made sense.

However, another important feature is the possibility to export your work to a support, (laptop, USB key, whatever), in case a web app server goes on the blink or when a web app disappears. Google Docs has it, but Google Sites does not. So if Google Sites had existed back then, even though it would have been more convenient for gathering the various parts of the translation, we would not have used it. And teachers who trusted Google Lively for their class activities got let down brutally when Google decided to scrap it at short notice.

Other problem with Google apps and for-free Web 2.0 apps in general: they are blocked in many schools, partly because education authorities want to keep control on everything done in schools, partly because they are afraid of the legal issues involved: copyright (that Terms of Use clause about granting "complete, non exclusive rights" to the provider, even though it is necessary for publication of content and rarely used otherwise) and students' privacy. And the latter is a serious concern: take even wikispaces.com, which has a serious privacy policy, and where you can make a private school wiki for free. Once the kids have a wikispaces ID, though, they can - and do - interact with other members of wikispaces in general without any possible control by their teachers.

So maybe one solution would be that education authorities provide Web 2.0 services themselves. Worth following: the Indian Sakshat initiative, with its sakshat.ac.in portal. The site itself is awkward in its obsolete structure, its content is mainly links to other resources for the time being, but the "Interact" part does comprise a blog - though it has not been updated in 3 years - and a wiki [1].

In the long run, of course, education authorities will have to realize that preparing students for the real information society means training them to use this society's real tools. But this means first educating these education authorities about them.

[1] Unfortunately, Sakshat mainly drew reviewers' attention, then contempt, by the announcement of a "$10 laptop" that is not a laptop but a computing device. innovateblog.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/the-10-indian-laptop-implicat... is an attempt to go beyond this misunderstanding.

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