Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Digital Divide Series: An Introduction

I started working in a school library five years ago oblivious of the realities of the digital divide.  I thought that I was equipped to save libraryland but there have been drastic changes in my library space in a very short period of time. My firsthand experiences have taught me that the not so good consequences of the digital divide are very real.  I can’t ignore what is happening and despite my determination, I question if this library can be saved. Even Batman knows that Gotham is incurable and Batman knows that he will move on but Gotham may not.  Batman struggles with the idea that Gotham is incurable.

Changing The Conversation

I think that all of our professional futures hinge on the consequences of the digital divide. defines the digital divide as “the socioeconomic and other disparities between those people who have opportunities and skills enabling them to benefit from digital resources, especially the Internet, and those who do not have these opportunities or skills.”

As a follow up to the School Libraries Research Studies IASL blog post from last month, I would like to state that I fully support studying and learning from quality school libraries. But sometimes I can’t relate to these highly successful reports from elementary, middle and high school libraries. After I read these types of articles that are extremely informative, I feel like I need a different type of guidance. I would like to see more mainstream research conducted about school libraries that exist and are wanting to participate as strong library programs but are unable to due to the digital divide.  I yearn for more accessible and widely known resources that addresses issues like “Please help I am stuck with a tech director that thinks all you need for research is Google!"  When I read the subject lines on slik-12 varying from uggggg to reader’s theater I wonder if it is possible to organize teams of teacher librarians matching people needing serious help with librarians in well established school districts?  I am grateful that we have UNI’s slik-12 to support each other but I believe I think a team of mentors to help guide people who are struggling and desire to improve their circumstances would help morale.  Can we a create a teacher librarian mentoring system that is more explicit to bring out everyone's best performances?  I envision an enormous potential for learning opportunities with these types of partnerships.  I know that IASL is a strong organization but I think that if we don’t have tangible interventions based on the digital divide sooner rather than later with measurable results, down the road it could be very tough for all of us.

The theme of our upcoming IASL conference leading, connecting, and learning will provide content and relationship building opportunities that benefit all of us.  I believe that in order to ease the digital divide we need to take a closer look at the differences as well as the commonalities between the successful and not so successful school libraries. To me sometimes it seems like we don’t talk to each other but talk about each other.  I think that increased interactions between the haves and the have nots teacher librarians through an open a forum could allow us to grow together and/or possibly even the playing field a little bit. I hope that because of the digital divide we will become a stronger unit instead of wondering what happened or how did this happen?

Questions Lead To More Questions

I was inspired by  IASL’s Vice President Dixie Forcht’s question from an IASL meeting, “are people ditching libraries for the Internet?”  My initial response is that I think some people are simply content with the Google mobile and truly believe they can find EVERYTHING on Google themselves.  As information seekers they are taking the easy street and they don’t seem to want to change.  This type of environment where change is not exercised, encouraged, or realistic based on demands makes it difficult to incorporate information literacy skills into the curriculum. Since technology is changing so rapidly information literacy and technology skills are needed but not always wanted.  So then what? Small steps? But how long is that feasible before that digital divide gap is wide open? That is why establishing a culture of learning that involves AASL standards for the 21st century learner is so important.

What’s Your Mantra?

My mantra is I hope that freedom of educational opportunities can prevail in our democratic society.  I will not be stuck in my beliefs. I will…

  • Focus on the needs of students
  • Deal With Bias Towards Action
  • Be Hopeful About Radical Collaboration

Consequences...Push The Pause Button Please

I think that we need to slow down a bit before we move forward.  Technology is changing and changing fast and the gap between the haves and the have nots is growing very, very, very quickly in terms of access to software, hardware, and effective instructional practices.  We are advocating our expectations in school libraries according to our standards to achieve success. I think that we need a game plan that matches up mentor and mentees in libraryland just like teachers have when they start teaching in Iowa.  I am so grateful to those on the front line working tirelessly to save teacher library positions but I think this could be another way to keep us working together.  
What I Want To Know….What Are The Underlying Issues?

  • What would an action plan look like where mentoring and team building occurs between librarians with varying backgrounds and needs? What would the evaluations measuring progress look like?
  • How can teacher librarians stay motivated despite the digital divide to bring services to their patrons? Matching up our teacher educational philosophies I think will become increasingly more difficult over time with our disparities in types of services and environments that reflect very different places.  To me it is almost like it we are getting to the point that we need two different playbooks.
  • Since technology is changing so quickly, how are learners going to adapt and create projects with various tools if they are not exposed to them? How can the most people possible embrace varying and new technologies over time? How can administrators and teachers feel comfortable asking us for help?

From ALA...Equality and Equity of Access: What's the Difference?

Equal interest
Equal motivation
Equal inquiry
Equal desire to dig deeper and learn more
Equal talking and listening
Equal opportunity


Why am I investigating the digital divide? Because I think that it needs to be done. The digital divide is complex, overwhelming, and comes with many consequences for our educational system and life in a global society.  When I think about potential solutions for the digital divide I believe we need to hold on to imagination, ask questions, and value curiosity and innovation.  I think that digging deeper into digital divide will not be easy.  However I think presenting these ideas and opinions in a straightforward manner may shed some light on the state of school libraries.  Over the next few months a series of related posts about the digital divide are my attempts to explore, examine, and simplify the varying aspects of the issue.

Next time on the digital divide series I will talk about the history of education and school culture.