Friday, May 30, 2014

Digital Divide Series: Public Education vs Charter Schools, Finland, and Media and Information Literacy Skills

Educational infrastructures are changing and adapting to their surroundings. How does this impact the digital divide?  This post highlights pertinent sound bites and references to resources.

Public Education vs. Charter Schools

In order to somewhat stay informed about public education, I regularly view Diane Ravich's blog.  She is a tireless crusader and advocate for public education. She provides insight how public and private schools effect each other.  Her motto is that an attack on public education is an attack on democracy.  I think that an attack on democracy fuels the digital divide.

Money, Money, Money (lots of library connections to Abba songs lately :)

Ravich's recent appearance on Bill Moyers alerted me to the following issues.
  • "Watch for charter schools putting public schools in the positive on being for sale and the privatization of public education." 
  • "The belief that public schools aren't failing but with 25% rate of poverty that schools have to deal with it because the communities are the problems.  Let's fix the communities instead of putting them into the hands of entrepreneurs."
  • "Charter schools run by hedge funds, competition for test scores, and want to keep people with disabilities out. Are politicians saying no to this?"
  • Virtual charter schools=academic results & making money
  • "Why can't we be more like Switzerland and their schools striving for equality?"
  • "Education is a central part of our democracy.  Can democracy beat big money?"

Inspiring Video
Toxic Culture of Education: Joshua Katz at TEDx University of Akron

Fascinating Findings From Finland

Our approaches, decisions and actions in education really matter and they contribute to the digital divide. Schools are experiencing accelerated learning or struggling to stay afloat with access to information, hardware, software, and acquiring skills through instructional practices. Yes Finland and America are two different countries with two different sets of educational circumstances but I like what they are doing in Finland.  I admire them from afar. 

Forward Thinking Education: Smithsonian A+ for Finland
  • "Teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around."
  • "Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student.  If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else.  They seem to relish the challenges."
  • "Children from wealthy families with lots of education can be taught by stupid teachers. We try to catch the weak students. It's deep in our thinking."
  • "Equality is the most important word in Finnish education.  All political parties on the right and left agree on this."
  • "We teach children how to learn, not how to take a test."
  • "It was simply the idea that every child would have a very good public school.  If we want to be competitive, we need to educate everybody.  It all came out of a need to survive."
  • "Sifting and sorting children into so-called ability groupings was eliminated.  All children-clever or less so-were to be taught in the same classrooms, with lots of special teacher help available to make sure no child really would be left behind."
If you want to learn more about Finland I suggest starting with Ravich's blog post What These American Educators Learned in Finland.

Here is a quote from the article that caught my attention, "Surprisingly for several of us, we did not see technology used in classrooms at all."

Media and Information Literacy Skills: Policy and Guideline Strategies

"Without a MIL policy and
strategy, disparities are likely
to increase between those who
have and those who do not have
access to information and media,
and enjoy or not freedom of
expression. Additional disparities
will emerge between those who
are able and unable to find,
analyse and critically evaluate
and apply information and media
content for decision-making." -p.13

Source: UNESCO

Closing Remarks

Reflecting on this post I anticipate the digital divide creating mass chaos with the issue becoming more apparent in our society.  From my perspective each day the digital divide is growing and there is the potential for more mass confusion than the day before.  I believe that the gap is widening between those just trying to survive vs. flourishing. Because of the digital divide the lower end spectrum of people won't know what to do.  This may sound a bit dramatic but it seems like this path is a race to extinction on both ends. In the back of my mind I think about the possible social and economic outcomes due to real extremes in our educational system. I believe that extremes are dangerous causing problems of intolerance and hatred. Libraries need to be ready to help. 

Topics for the next digital divide posts include dispositions and educational communities.