Thoughts on the four precepts: Access to up-to-date hardware, software, and connectivity; Access to meaningful, high-quality, and culturally responsive content and the opportunity to contribute to that content; Access to educators who know how to use digital tools and resources; and Access to systems sustained by leaders with vision and support for change via technology.
On the issue of up-to-date, hardware, software, and connectivity, I understand some of the points made in http://durandus.com/phaedrus/2008/01/26/four-barriers-really/ . It is possible for students, teachers and others to find free software on the internet, but up until I took EDUC 685 last semester, I had no knowledge of the volume of available open source material. I venture to say that the same statement could be made by a few more people than me. In fact, I know that this is true because I have shared the information with others. However, that doesn’t address the issue that not all students have access to computers and internet at their homes, and the fact that many schools do not have enough computers for all students to use everyday. Many public libraries are only open for one or two hours later than the school closing hours so students don’t have a great deal of time to use the computers. Plus, a limited number of computers are available to them.
Thinking along the same vein about connectivity and specifically, this quote from the blog”… a willingness to offload heavy network use to podcatchers, bittorrent, and other time shifting technologies…” I don’t know how many educators know how to use these technologies using big or skinny pipes, which leads to a comment on one of the other precepts: Access to educators who know how to use digital tools and resources effectively.” Whether we teach in online environments or incorporate the technology into classroom settings, the bottom line is that teachers must learn to use and use as many tools as possible as well as try to keep up with the latest devices and software. The principal at our school always looks for implementation of technology in our lesson plans. She is knowledgeable and helpful in this area, but not all teachers have the same benefit.
The fact that our principal seems to have an understanding of technological matters does not necessarily reflect the situation with our school system and this is just a minute part of the circumstance that provides a toehold on my understanding of the precept: Access to systems sustained by leaders with vision and support for change through technology. I have read extensively about websites being restricted from use both by students in schools and by others who wish to access a site, but are denied because they don’t have a membership of some sort. I am willing to allow as to how there may be some secret government matters that involve national security or similar concerns that the entire world should not be able to access, but information that will improve society as a whole should not be kept behind some kind of internet lock and key that can only be opened by those who have the money to join the club. Who knows – maybe if enough minds collaborated we could find some sort of world peace. That is probably a long stretch, but if we all work together to learn, I really believe we all benefit. For educators in a school system, I think this means that we need an instructional technology plan that includes everything from basic keyboarding to connections and discussions with experts and others with whom we share similar interests and goals.
A blog that I found which does a fair job of addressing the following precept: Access to meaningful, high-quality, and culturally responsive content along with the opportunity to contribute to the knowledge base represented in online content may be found at this blog http://teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk/ which contains a jump to a website –http://www.scidev.net/content/news/eng/free-wiki-textbooks-planned-for-developing-nations.cfm – that explains the idea in greater detail. The idea to which I am referring is the creation of Wikibooks for use in developing nations where textbooks are cost prohibitive. The effort to produce 1,000 books on subjects that include biology, physics, mathematics and chemistry is referred to as the Global Text Project. Using the software that brings us Wikipedia, professors all over the world will be asked to contribute sections that will then be assembled into textbooks with current material. As a safeguard against contributions being edited with inaccuracies, only editors will be able to approve changes to their entries. A theory behind the initiative is that since the books will constantly be evolving and updating as changes are made they will never become obsolete. A quote from the project’s website, “Each class using one of the books will be asked to add value to the book. They should leave a better book for the next class.” Sounds like a good enterprise to me.