BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: A CASE STUDY IN INTERNATIONAL SERVICE LEARNING
Marist College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Conference name: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2015
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:The digital divide refers to socio-economic inequalities between people who have access to information technology (e.g., computers and Internet access) and those who lack such resources. A growing need for technology education necessitates curricula for breaking down the digital divide, particularly in areas in which such education has been scarce. Recent efforts have focused on programmatic solutions that bring technology education to regions that are lacking. For example, a mobile computer lab called the Brilliant Bus provides under-privileged communities access to digital resources. In addition, Computers for Families has provided refurbished desktop computers and computer-skills training to low-income families in an effort to improve digital literacy. Other programs have focused on providing technology resources to schools in under-developed countries (e.g., Kano and One Laptop Per Child). This paper presents a cooperative project between Spanish and Computer Science undergraduate university students completing a service-learning course in the Dominican Republic.
Students and faculty collaborated to:
a) develop and facilitate a Spanish-language curriculum for junior-high and high-school students at a summer technology camp and
b) collect pre and post-test data about the effectiveness of the program.
Following the self-organized learning environment (SOLE) method, Dominican students collaborated in small groups on technology-related activities alongside university mentors from the United States specializing in either Spanish language or Computer Science. Spanish students served as camp facilitators while Computer Science students designed and supported underlying technologies for the program. This collaborative effort between populations of disparate interests and backgrounds set out to change perceptions of technology among the Dominican participants. Low cost devices, including the Raspberry Pi and the Android XO tablet, were used to introduce basic concepts of computing to camp attendees. Applications such as Scratch were used to introduce programming through the creation of interactive stories and games, while the introduction of HTML allowed participants to build and edit content for their school website. Pre and post-test data were collected from a questionnaire aimed at examining the effectiveness of this two week program. Paired-sample t-tests revealed significant differences in the Dominican students’ perceptions about the usefulness of technology in school and the workplace after participating in this technology education program. Findings also suggested differences in gender and the importance of using technology in more personally meaningful ways when encouraging STEM initiatives. Spanish students gained valuable contact hours as interlocutors in this immersive program, and Computer Science students were afforded the opportunity to apply their technical knowledge while giving back to an economically repressed community with limited access to technology resources and education. All students benefited from this innovative approach to interdisciplinary service-learning, and gained valuable skills in critical thinking and problem solving. This paper will provide an overview of an empirically-based case study, identifying successful teaching methods and curricula for promoting technology education in areas with limited access to digital technologies and Internet connectivity in an effort to break down the digital divide.
Keywords: Service learning, technology education, digital divide, academic projects, international education.