Posts Taged education

By the Time Apple’s IBook Textbooks Reach Minorities And Inner City Schools, The Divide May Be Too Wide To Close.

With the launch of Apple’s IBook textbook application a new era in learning has begun. Listen to my podcast where I explain that while the technology is game changing, not getting it to minorities and the inner cities could create a new digital divide. I believe a post from Time magazine paints an accurate picture of the worst case scenario:

Thus in the most frightening scenario, one could imagine a world where Apple’s textbooks serve only to increase the digital divide, and thus the achievement gap. In this scenario, there will be some students who are able to use the new textbooks, likely those at wealthy suburban schools where either the school or their parents can afford to buy them an iPad, while other students, most likely those in impoverished urban schools, are stuck using paper textbooks that have been handed down for years.

Schools Are Failing at Teaching Kids Tech

I came across an interesting  article recently that struck a cord with me. The woman in article talks about how she remembers how she was taught basic technology concepts in school.  And by learning those concepts her comfort level for technology was nurtured even though she was not a “geek.” Her nostalgic look reminded of those times and how true she was. Schools did teach basic technology skills as part of their core activities and that part of the learning process is almost totally absent in schools today when it is needed more than ever
Douglas Rushkoff wrote a similar article ” Why Johnny Can’t Program: A New Medium Requires A New Literacy” Where he also contends that our schools are doing children a disservice by not teaching them programming skills.  The bottom line is that we are missing the boat when it comes to teaching our children the skills to enable them to be technology innovators. In this facebook, twitter and Foursquare society we are not equipping our next generation with the skills to create the next wave of tools that  could change our live. What do we do to change this problem before it’s too late?

Better Education or waffles?

Today  I wrote a post that appears on the huffington post today that talks about the recent donation by Mark Zuckerberg and how another group called free press spent their money last week.

You can read the post here and  listen to my audio podcast below.

Economic Study Misconstrues Benefits of Computers, Broadband

This post originally appeared on

A recent article in Investor’s Business Daily revealed a startling bias against the potential benefits of broadband, particularly for low-income and minority students.

According to Norm Alster, the article’s author,

[T]he latest research suggests that dumping technology on people actually widens the gap between haves and have-nots.  Kids who are given computers and high-speed Internet begin to slip in math, reading and English.  The impact is worst among the poor students who were supposed to gain the most…

While the study Alster references provides a troubling view about the impact of computers and broadband on our culture, it does not tell the whole story.  As John Horrigan, FCC Consumer Research Director, Omnimus Broadband Initiative noted:

[T]his finding was not as earth-shattering as some may have assumed.  In fact, it is consistent with the findings in the National Broadband Plan: connectivity and hardware matter, but computers and broadband access cannot replace parents, teachers and broader social support as critical inputs into student achievement.  Laptops in the home are not a silver bullet–digital literacy training for parents and teachers, appropriate content for online learning systems, and broader community digital literacy efforts are necessary to ensure children benefit from technology…instructional gains come about only if schools undertake new instructional approaches tethered to technology and if they adopt new practices to support the technology.

So there you have it.  There is no silver bullet.  And while a student may be given access to the implements of a modern economy, absent new methods of learning that compliment these tools, we cannot expect substantial educational gains to result from the mere presence of technology in the home.

What Alster fails to realize, however, is that the Internet is a part of almost every aspect of our lives, from healthcare to education and job creation and everything in between.  Anyone who looks around for a second knows this.   The people who are falling behind in all of these areas — typically minorities and people subsisting in the lowest income brackets — have either chosen not to, or are unable to, adopt broadband into their homes.

We live in an increasingly digital economy, and despite the result of the study described by Alster, broadbad is the single most viable option we have toward increasing positive economic impacts for people of color and for those who have been historically marginalized and underserved.  Were it not such a vital infrastructure for our nation’s recovery, success and prosperity, the Obama Administration likely would not have encouraged Congress to include $7 billion in broadband stimulus in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the FCC would not have gone to such great pains to create our country’s first National Broadband Plan.

While Alster may be personally biased against the substantial investments being made into broadband expansion and use in this country, his is not an attitude we can afford to adopt.  And in fact, it runs counter to the overwhelming evidence that broadband can and must be the critical infrastructure in an information economy – our increasingly digital society.

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Fast Company 30 sec mba

I recently was asked to answer some questions as part of the 30 sec MBA series on I was humbled to be asked to be in the company of some great thought leaders. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Broadband Access Saves Budgets, Improves Education, Just Ask The State of Oregon

I live in New Jersey and I’ve been following our new governor’s massive education budget cuts.  Everything from clubs and sports programs are being removed. Teacher’s are being let go and classes are being consolidated. The public school experience as we know it is changing dramatically for the worse. For those who want to know more about the issues in New Jersey you can read here and here. I’m sure that there are similar issues going on  in the your states as well.

The point here is that states are looking for ways to cut budgets and are willing to jettison almost anything to get there.  I’m pretty sure that in most of these budget debates no one has really looked into how technology and broadband access can create cost savings. I know from experience it can, but am always looking for proof. I came across a story today about how the state of Oregon  has moved  to using Google Apps in every classroom in the state.  For those unfamiliar with Google Apps is it “offers simple, powerful communication and collaboration tools for any size business – all hosted by Google to streamline setup, minimize maintenance, and reduce IT costs.

Google Apps includes Gmail for business, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Sites, and more for $50 per user per year.” For  companies of 50 employees or less there is a free version.  So think of it as a version of Microsoft office products  that operate totally through your web browser.

The one key things is that Oregon will save 1.5 million a year  once they make the move for teachers and students, but honestly that is only one part of the value proposition. This will change the way students interact with each other, with teachers and how work is done and shared. Here are a  few examples

  • All documents are stored in the cloud (over the internet) so that they are stored in a central location and available. (so the dog will never be able to eat your homework)
  • Real time collaboration of documents allows to students to work on one document together real time from multiple locations ( THIS IS HUGE)
  • Google Marketplace gives you access to other apps that can extend features even more. (expect an education marketplace soon)

There is a great except from the article that speaks to this

“If all goes smoothly, Casap wrote on the official Google blog, the Oregon experiment has the power to reshape the classroom experience. Students, for instance, will be able to access a range of documents from home; teachers will be able to provide feedback remotely; projects that once required hours in the library can be organized and executed via the cloud.

It blows my mind to think about how far technology in the classroom has come since I was in school, and how far we still have to go to make sure kids in classrooms everywhere have access to these tech resources,” Casap wrote. “Cloud computing tools like Google Apps are one way teachers, schools – and now a whole state – are addressing the issue.”

Of course, Oregon students can already access the cloud, provided they have a working laptop and an Internet connection. The difference in Oregon is that the cloud itself will become institutionalized – a buzzing, whirring extension of the classroom”
So my question is why aren’t urban centers making changes like this. It gives them the dual value by saving money and also give the students access to a new suite of tools that allow them to collaborate and learn more effectively. Actually I believe in most cases there are school systems who can’t afford to give access to desktop computer tools to the entire school body now due to software licensing costs, etc.. So imagine the immediate benefits in those cases. And ALL IT TAKES IS AN INTERNET CONNECTION AND A COMPUTER, So instead of cutting teachers and cutting programs that make our younger generation more well rounded and in some cases keep them out of negative lifestyle choices let’s look at how technology and broadband access to can cut costs and improve the education experience at the same time. Let’s just take a cue from Oregon. Maybe I’ll give Governor Christie a call or better yet send him an email with the Google apps link in it. Maybe we can get some of our programs back.

You can follow me @navarrowwright on Twitter, hear my audio casts at

Daily Digest 12_3_09

Give children some broadband with that apple juice

The allocation of broadband stimulus funds are being widely debated, and it seems like a lot of people are weighing in on how those funds are being used. I came across an article that talks about a program to offer discounts for broadband service to all the children that qualify for the National School Lunch program. I applaud the idea, but consider this: the odds that these children have a home computer are low, so in order for this to work, someone needs to figure out how to get hardware makers involved as well, because broadband access without a computing device of some sort creates yet another missed opportunity for progress. I still say the subsidized cell phone model would work here as well. Take a read and give me your thoughts. You can read about these two stories below,2817,2356532,00.asp <,2817,2356532,00.asp

What about Content Neutrality?

All the discussion around Net Neutrality focuses on keeping the internet open and not allowing content to be segregated. Well then, what about when the content host forces you to go to certain search engines to find the content you’re looking for? Well that’s what Rupert Murdoch wants to do. He’s accused Google of “stealing his content” and asking consumers to pay for the clicks to access Murdoch’s sites. This story is one of the many reasons why I believe there cannot be a rush to judgment on the net nuetrality issue. Acting too quickly will open a pandora’s box of problems. I’m also wondering why this story was not featured on any of the open internet campaign sites? You can read about it here

Second-Class Students

Imagine the outrage from parents, teachers, and the community if a school announced that some of its students would have access to textbooks, research papers, and literature, but other students would be denied those resources.  Some students would be branded as worthy, while others as second class.

It baffles me that broadband Internet access in our schools is not seen as such as concern. However, it is encouraging to hear that this digital divide is not being accepted in some schools- just look at two districts in North Carolina — Asheville and Green County.  “We have kids with voracious appetites for information. It’s our responsibility to give them the tools they need to satisfy their own curiosity of learning,” an Asheville media specialist says.  And Greene County educators say its program to provide laptops “breaks down the digital divide between students who have access to technology at home and those that don’t, and it also better prepares students for a workforce that is increasingly reliant on technology.”

I applaud the efforts of these schools.  What lessons could their experience mean to your schools?  Read more:

And speaking of Asheville, Mayor Terry Bellamy has made broadband access among the high-profile issues on her agenda.  She doesn’t miss a chance to discuss how the gap must be closed on the digital divide.  I’m sure thinking like that is one reason that in 2005 she was the first African-American elected as mayor in the city.  I’m just as certain it is one of the reasons that just last week she was re-elected for another four-year term.