Wednesday, December 19, 2007

11/07 Readings: Race Online

Out of this week's readings, what really resonated with me was the first Monroe chapter. I'd love to see updated and expanded versions of some of the studies she talks about here, as I'm sure she would. The issues around computer access keep changing, and they're more complex than what's covered here.

Two examples:

My mother has taught in inner-city high schools for about forty years. She's been in the district she's in now since 1980; it has always had monetary issues, since it's a steel down that has been losing its factories for quite some time. However, the district received an abundance of computers some time back, through corporate assistance. According to most of the studies in the chapter, this would be wonderful. End of story, right?

Nope. First, at those times when students can use computers, this leads to questions of personnel. Since most rooms she's been in have had one or two computers, what do they do when a few people are online, and the rest of the class is doing something else? How do they assist and monitor all students at once? Second, questions of repair are huge. Apparently, there are insufficient district staff to maintain all the computers, so computers often break down and just sit there indefinitely. In neither of these cases are student needs really being met.

The other place that I've seen interesting issues of access are in libraries, particularly in the economically-depressed city where I used to live. I used to live right downtown, and since I couldn't afford home internet access, I often walked to the library, where there were at least 30 computers set up for patron internet use.

Interestingly, though, the demand was FAR higher than the supply (as, apparently, more of those "don't want to"s have gained interest). Therefore, people had to wait, often for quite some time. Often there was even a lengthy wait to sign up to formally wait for a computer in the first place! Once people were on them, there was a time limit for their use. However, that time limit was across the board, regardless of what people were doing, resulting in people waiting hours to try and apply for a job online because someone was playing poker. I'm not saying that both of those aren't important, of course, but is there some better way to ensure that people can apply for jobs and do online schooling? That library district would tell you that either of those things were easy to do at their branches, but that wasn't the case.

Just a few thoughts on this complex issue...have new studies been done that provide new data and reframe this debate further? I'm curious!

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