Thursday, April 01, 2021

Building Support for Digital Access

This photo shows teens and volunteers using computers during one of the tutor/mentor sessions offered at the Cabrini Connections location in Chicago. I led that program from its founding in 1993 until 2011.  With the help of volunteers we opened a computer lab in the late 1990s.  

Below is a photo from the mid 1980s, showing Don Bohling and Ken Cartossa, two volunteers at the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, who created and led the computer lab at their location in Chicago.  We did not have Internet then, but we were teaching kids to use computers for learning.

In both examples we were creating digital access for kids who lived in a high poverty neighborhood and did not have this access at home.  We were able to do this because we were a "site-based" tutor/mentor program where youth and volunteers came to our space on a weekly basis (some came  more often). 

And because we were able to recruit workplace volunteers who used computers in their daily jobs and were willing to share their experiences with kids in our programs.

Yesterday I participated in a webinar focused on digital access and the digital divide, titled, "Turning America’s Digital Divide into Digital Dividends: Ideas for the Biden-Harris Administration". I've posted a few Tweets showing some of the maps and graphics included.

here's one
here's another Below you can see a concept map that I started a few years ago to share links to information I was aggregating about the Digital Divide.

Last year I connected with a network of educators brought together through an initiative at Arizona State University, called  This group is also focusing on the digital divide, broadband access and digital learning. The Tweet below points to a webinar they hosted on March 18.

Miguel GamiƱo Jr. ( @MiguelGamino ), EVP Enterprise Partnerships & Head of Global Cities at Mastercard, was the final speaker at the Turning America’s Digital Divide into Digital Dividends: Ideas for the Biden-Harris Administration webinar. He encouraged participants to share these ideas widely so more people get informed, then involved in bringing solutions to reality.  I posted the Tweet below to amplify that message. Then, I follow this by posting a couple of Tweets drawing from my efforts to encourage universities to mobilize student/alumni talent to help build public awareness and involvement in efforts that help youth from birth to work. Creating digital access and digital learning habits is an essential part of such a strategy. There are many programs at high schools, colleges and in non profits that encourage students to do research on issues and then present their findings. I'm actually going to attend the Spring 2021 Student Project Exposition for the University of Michigan School of Information later this week. Students will present posters, presentations, or video pitches to share their projects from course and co-curricular experiences, internships, and research.   

What I usually find missing is a "call to action".  

Imagine if you could find a map of the country, where icons represented schools (with links to web pages) where students were blogging about the various Digital Divide issues that are being shared by different groups, each with a call to action that mobilizes voters, policy makers, business leaders and activists.

At the same time as the Tufts webinar was providing information about the Digital Divide, the ShapingEDU group was hosting a webinar focused on telling the stories. I show that in this Tweet:
These ideas are related. Good information needs to be shared widely through on-going stories.

So let's get more people looking at this information. Let's find a few companies who will sponsor student research and blogging about the Digital Divide. This "map the system" site is an example of what's possible.  I include a link to that site on a wiki page where I encourage student research and communication projects.  

Step 2 pf the four-part strategy of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, started in 1993, focuses on building on-going public awareness of specific issues.  Skim through these articles to see how important this is. 

One strategy to increase the number of people who care, and support student digital learning, is to help site-based, non-school, tutor, mentor and learning programs grow in more of the high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago, and to point to them with stories of the digital divide, so they can attract volunteers and donors.

If we don't find ways to dramatically increase the number who understand, empathize, then act, too little will change for people living on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.

I hope you'll share this. Thanks for reading.

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