Chief Executives of Netflix and CommonSenseMedia Comment On the Digital Divide

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This New York Times piece Will the Digital Divide Close by Itself? From the Google’s Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age provides a look at and arguments about the digital divide from two different perspectives.

From Jim Steyer, chief executive of CommonSense Media and co-sponsor of the event

“every kid needs to be digitally literate by the 8th grade” and called for a major public education campaign to make that happen. He argued that technology and learning are synonymous and that schools, parents, and kids must get up to speed in the next five years.

On the other hand:

Reed Hastings, the founder and chief executive of Netflix, contradicted him directly, saying it would take well more than five years to bridge the divide.

Mr. Hastings, an avid education philanthropist and proponent of school reforms, argued that at the advent of any new technology — television, cars, even rockets — people get riled up and wring their hands over a growing gap between the haves and have-nots.

He said that gaps narrow naturally as the market evolves and prices drop, enabling more people to bring new technology into the home and schools.

Most interestingly:

“We need to shift our expectations,” Mr. Hastings said. “This is a natural part of the evolution of technology.”

If I understand this correctly he is saying that the digital divide is part of an evolutionary process where technology and access to technology will be ubiquitous. I’m not sure I make the connection.

Most importantly:

Failed school reform might point to the need for more efforts outside of the classroom.

This is where libraries need to step in. We need to help students close the digital divide because what that means, what were talking about is the same thing as transliteracy. Becoming transliterate closes the digital divide. If schools can’t or wont, libraries need to step forward. We’ve done it for years with literacy, we need to do it now with transliteracy.

Originally blogged at Commentary On the Digital Divide from the Chief Executives of Netflix & CommonSenseMedia | Librarian by Day.

Transliteracy Lecture by Sue Thomas

from the Institute of Creative Technologies‘ Vimeo Channel:

This 40 minute lecture by Professor Sue Thomas on the nature of transliteracy was delivered to a mixed group of postgraduate students from the Online MA in Creative Writing & New Media, the IOCT Master’s degree, and students working on Music Technology. October 24th, 2008.

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The National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies

[tweetmeme source=”librarianbyday” only_single=false]I can not find a website for The Center, however, the press releases are fairly recent, I’ll be watching for more information.

Federation of American Scientists :: The National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies.

National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies is part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (section 802) approved by Congress on July 31, 2008, and signed into law by President Bush on August 14, 2008. The National Center will be organized as a Congressionally originated 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation located within the Department of Education. Supporters are seeking a $50 million appropriation for the National Center for FY 2009.

Purpose: The National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies will support a comprehensive research and development program to explore ways advanced computer and communication technologies can improve all levels of learning.  This includes K-12, college and university, corporate and government training, and both formal and informal learning.

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Practical Transliteracy Exercise

[tweetmeme source=”librarianbyday” only_single=false]Chad Boeninger, on his blog Library Voice, posts an exercise he uses for library instruction. Boeninger uses a variety of media (clip from TV news, blogs, discussion of video games) to teach basic concepts of information literacy. This exercise is an excellent example of utilizing the types of media students frequently encounter and are more comfortable with to teach information literacy. Although he does not use the term “transliteracy,” Boeninger is capitalizing on these students’ familiarity with a variety of popular media in the hopes that they can go forward and apply the concepts elsewhere. He writes:

The point of the exercise is to demonstrate to the students that evaluation of information goes beyond  telling the difference between popular and  scholarly articles.  This exercise shows them that they should look at things critically, regardless of whether they are doing academic research, watching the news, buying a new camera, or trying to decide which movie to go see.  Even in real life outside of academia, we are required to make choices about the information that we ingest and digest.  Even when information is fed to us via Fox News, CNN, the New York Times, our professors, or our mothers,  it’s important to understand and look for bias and misinformation.

Slate: A History of Media Technology Scares

Although not directly related to Transliteracy,’s article, Don’t Touch That Dial: A History of Media Technology Scares from the Printing Press to Facebook, addresses the need to understand in what ways new technologies affect culture. The author, Vaughan Bell, gives a quick history of the fears people have had as new forms of communication enter the culture. People often presume that new means of communication are more harmful than their predecessors. He stresses how these suspicions about new technologies are often unfounded:

To date, studies suggest there is no consistent evidence that the Internet causes mental problems. If anything, the data show that people who use social networking sites actually tend to have better offline social lives, while those who play computer games are better than nongamers at absorbing and reacting to information with no loss of accuracy or increased impulsiveness. In contrast, the accumulation of many years of evidence suggests that heavy television viewing does appear to have a negative effect on our health and our ability to concentrate.

Being able to understand and successfully navigate new forms of communication can help mitigate these fears.

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