Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Internet, Education, and the Digital Divide

It is important that we work to close the digital divide because we would be able to have access to so much more information. Ron Jacobson, in the chapter, “ ‘Are They Building an Off-Ramp in My Neighborhood?’” says that “information is not knowledge. Knowledge is gained by making evaluative judgments on the quality of information, which in turn is achieved through the cognitive skill of separating the significant from the irrelevant” (167). I agree with this statement, since the Internet is so huge, it is easy to get lost in the overload of information, and it really is up to us to determine what information is reliable and what is not. I think that this information that can be derived from the Internet is an important aspect for education, and as Jacobson says, it is important that users are media literate. Though it is true that students can easily cut and paste writing from the Internet onto their own papers, (as Lance Strate writes in “Cut, Copy, and Paste” (55)), the potential knowledge that can be gained from the Internet I think outweighs the trouble it could cause.

In the chapter, “The Digital Divide,” Frank Dance mentions how the Internet should “heighten the profile of education, of participatory government, and of human fellowship” (178). I recently found a site for the OLPC, or “One Laptop Per Child” project that is working to get computers into the hands of children in developing countries. Their goal is “to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves,” and it is interesting that children have to have a computer in order to achieve those goals. This I think, would be very beneficial for the children because these laptops, which were designed specifically for children will help them connect with other students in other schools or even access the Internet. I’m sure that the number of people online has increased since Dance’s writing of this chapter, and this shows how far some people have gotten in working to close that digital divide. It is good that these children are able to learn differently with these computers, but more importantly, it's that they can have access to the Internet. Though in this case, they would not have complete access to the Internet; what they can access will be determined by the government, which reduces the amount of information the Internet can provide. So maybe it’s not such a great thing; if their goal is to provide them with all of these opportunities and experiments, then limiting what they can access could hinder that process, as censoring the Internet anywhere else will do the same.

1 comment:

Lance Strate said...

Certainly, one question that might be asked is whether the digital divide is a temporary situation, that is in the process of being alleviated as the rest of the world becomes wired and connected. On the other hand, as long as we have capitalism, there probably will be some gap between those who can afford the best and most, and those who can only make do with the basics.