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Computer Divas Book Review

Toward Digital Equity:  Bridging the Divide in Education.
Edited by Gwen Solomon, Nancy J. Allen, and Paul Resta
  Pearson Education Group, Copyright 2003

This book is an eye-opening look at the multi-faceted concept of the Digital Divide.  It is an edited collection, with submissions from authors with different perspectives.  The book itself reads somewhat like a textbook, which is most likely its intended purpose.  It has some great discussion starter and focusing questions at the beginning of each chapter.

The book is divided into four sections, covering the barriers, literacy, learning and technology, and a vision for the future.

Highlighted in the chapters are some of the lesser-known (or at least lesser-considered) aspects of the digital divide.  Poverty is a given barrier to technology, we all knew that.  We hadn’t thought about why poverty was a barrier, though.  It’s more than just not buying the hardware and software.  It involves actually having a telephone for internet access, or electricity in the house for that matter. 

Cultural issues were also presented as a barrier.  It was enlightening (and maybe a bit disheartening) to read about the Native American culture and possible aversion to technology on the basis of their spirituality.  Putting hardware in a classroom won’t solve this barrier issue—it will require compassion and understanding.

Perhaps the best part of the book involves the “empowerment” issues—things that can actually be done to bridge the digital divide.  The answers are education, encouragement, enlightenment and enablement!  Educating administrators about the possibilities will pave the way for more funding for professional development as well as technology equipment.  Encouraging teachers to use technology in new ways in their individual classrooms will model technology use to students.  Enlightening the politicians will help create standards that are achievable, goals that are attainable, and schools that are successful.  Enabling the students to learn the best that they can is a more viable and realistic goal in education.

The conclusion to the book provides excellent summaries of the topics and issues.  An excellent resource list is also included.

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