When I think about it, the "digital divide" is amazing. The second paper we read for today (eSchool News 7/7/08 Educators wrestle with digital-equity challenges) had some amazing stats: 1) 80% of websites are in English but only 10% of the world speaks it (how much is Spanish or Chinese?); 2) broadband costs only 2% of income for high-income opulations but 900% for poor; 3) 82% of Americans (I'm assuming that's USA North Americans) own cells phones (74% Anglo, 71% Af-Am, 84% Hispanic -- but what about American Indian folk?)*. The opportunities of digital access are great but not yet there -- cell phones seem to be the greatest hope, especially in developing areas.
This thought is confrime by other paper we read on Paul Kim's (Stanford) "Mobile Learning Design" in which cell-phone type readers were given to poor, isolated, often migrant kids in developing parts of the world... they were well-received as reading texts! The potential is amazing. And cell phones are being used as a lot of things, other than phones (photo album, included). Solar charging doesn't seem useful (bummer, says the white liberal) but motion energy charging (playing with toys that recharge the batteries) does. As there is a growing development of motion-based digital toys in the US (see the exercycle), there could be some good syngeries here, too.
Combine these insights with what CAST is doing with making universally designed readers on Google Books (see www.CAST.org ) and their advances in accessibility of content combined with acessibility of physical tech could mean that more kids in more places could be literate and have economic advancement, in simple but concrete ways. Micro-lending? Micro-learning!
The dog-eared paperback book of my generation is now a mobile device, but the social impact is the same. Cool! Paperback books (Pocket Books) were a major advance, epsecially during World War II. Now we're headed toward Star Trek kids hand-held readers.... as long as the kids using the device pay attention to the real-people next to them and don't walk into lampposts, I'm good with that!
[NB -- Dept of Appropriate Lost Irony-- During my reading of said articles, Spouse's friend Sebastian arrives to pick up our old laptop and associated devices, including wireless keyboard and router. Sebastian is running a non-profit in Latin America (it runs a house that assists preganant women in the DR -- this is so they can be near medical care which is otherwise not easily available in the hinterlands). Sebastian remarked that the router will be really useful because the hotel next door to the house will let them use their wi-fi outside the hotel (not inside) in exchange for the router which he now has. According to the eSchool article the top 1000 companies have ~70 million machines to freecycle -- if we can do this one-to-one, why can't they??]
*I'm currently reading Sherman Alexie's The True Diary of a Part-time Indian-- it's is absolutely fabulous, if initially heart-rending. A must read for an appreciation of issues of modern American Indian life as well as the mind of a 14-year-old boy.