digital divide Archives - The Jose Vilson

digital divide

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Me Looking Out

A week or so ago, I ended a blog entry about my appearance at GothamSchools.org’s fundraiser likeso:

While at times in that gathering, while chewing on some wonderful chocolate chip cookies, I mulled over whether a Black / Latino man severely outnumbered ethnically and culturally in the many educational arenas I’m involved in even really belonged in this set, I couldn’t help but feel like part of a community genuinely interested in bringing positive change to life through this relatively new media.

That’s mostly true, and in my heart of hearts, I’d like to tone down the color consciousness in favor of understanding how many true and sui generis teachers and administrators, promulgating fantastic ideas, and continuing to push a larger agenda of honest education reform here and across the states.

And then it hit me: I might be in a small handful of Black / Latino bloggers who people consider part of this edublog echelon. That scares me.

I didn’t pay much attention to this fact until I saw the latest nominees for The Edublog Awards, a forum I’ve rarely ventured except when asked to do so. I often find that award nominations of this caliber in any arena often help to read the pulse of its constituents, sifting through millions of published bytes by the same process that a microwave heats popcorn. They have as little control over how people vote as the Black Weblog Awards does (except in how they choose nominees, I assume).

I’m neither claiming discrimination nor racism on the part of the organizers, simply because omission from the popular vote works just as well on the Internet as in real life. I’m simply stating that this digital divide even within the edublogosphere makes even the most popular among us question the representation of “popular” as a whole.

The digital divide here not only exists with Black and Latino children and children from urban districts, but also Black and Latino teachers, many of whom still fear the negative effects of putting their efforts on the Internet. Then again, if we think about the digital divide amongst Black and Latino children with access to technology compared to their White counterparts, we still see a big gap, even with all the initiatives used to decrease that gap. This will inevitably add another dimension to the already stratified experiences of education for different groups of students.

The same can be said for teacher bloggers.

Personally, I understand many of the questions Black and Latino teachers have about using blogs and other technology not under Microsoft’s domain. I thusly admit to a few advantages I have compared to other teachers of my culture(s):

  1. I have a degree in computer science, so I don’t have trepidations about technology or information.
  2. I have a good eye for web design, so I don’t worry too much about making things look presentable.
  3. I’m younger, so I grew up with some tech savvy.
  4. I’m also situated somewhere that has a strong union that (however controversial) actually fights to make sure I get due process for whatever I may say and / or do. (here’s hoping the UFT sticks to their guns here.)
  5. I have some serious cojones. Either that or I never developed a real off-switch.
  6. I’ve been told I can write.

Yet, my nervousness lies with knowing just how many strides teachers have made in helping build a movement online pedagogically, professionally, and technologically, evolving the image of “teacher” in many off-shoot but assorted versions that put holes through the silhouette of the aforementioned image with speed … and Black and Latino teacher bloggers have often been overlooked in that process BECAUSE we are so few and far between.

What’s more amusing about this whole thing is that the White educators who I have met have frequently validated and congratulated my work here. From The Weblog Awards of 2007 to the Teacher Leaders Network, these outlets where I’ve consistently found myself as the sole Black voice or 1 of 2 in a room have also helped me my voice as a teacher, something my other spheres of influence on the web haven’t done for me as effectively.

Maybe because of my role as the urban Black / Latino teacher in the edublogosphere, I’m able to have some influence in this dialogue and not leave it up to higher ed professors on TV or people who left the classroom long ago writing in popular newspapers. Maybe my continued focus on writing about that abandoned and desolate bridge where it’s not “edu-tech” and it’s not “edu-politics” will help sand the wooden figure that is our discussion on K-12 education just enough so more people like me see themselves talking more about their experiences.

Maybe I’ll find the answers across that bridge …

Mr. Vilson, who’s always willing to engage in this dialogue …

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Does Social Media Mean Social Justice?

by Jose Vilson on August 27, 2009

in Jose

puzzlemirrorplanet

The World as a Puzzle

In the 1950′s, as civil rights groups of interest (i.e. dissident and radical groups) began to truly penetrate the mainstream thought of America, the FBI developed a program with a series of protocols for disruption and misinformation called COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INtelligence PROgram). By most reports, not only did they intend on gathering as much information about these dissident groups and individuals as possible, but they also sought to produce misinformation within the groups to create malcontent and chaos within even the most structurally sound organizations.

While J. Edgar Hoover’s dream child no longer exists under that name, I have a couple of quandaries I think about all too often. As someone who has run the gamut as far as social networks are concerned, I have to wonder how much of my information I’ve freely given to agencies whose primary function is to silence my voice. On the other end, I also wonder how much of the networking I’ve done online has helped me mobilize and proactively find like-minded individuals across the nation and the world.

On the one end, most social media users I know don’t give away information that we don’t already know through simple conversation with them or through their friends. They’ll post pictures of themselves, their friends, and the events they’ve been a part of. They’ll discuss their thoughts on a certain issue, and usually not too in-depth. They may even post their personal troubles, but again, nothing out of the ordinary in the grand scheme of things. Thus, this information becomes almost redundant for those looking to find information on anyone they’re interested in. On the other end, with the advent of these social networks, it becomes more enticing to reveal more about yourself to distinguish yourself from other profiles in the interest of “standing out” or becoming “most popular.” It’s a temptation a few of us fight, especially if we don’t have people who market for us. Promoting oneself has its positives, but how deep do we take that?

Even deeper is that social media can also be a mechanism for misinformation and eventual separation. For instance, today on Twitter, I laughed when someone wrote “Huffington Post has 18 white men as their featured bloggers,” and immediately called out the lack of diversity at Huffington Post. My questions cascaded as follows:

1) Why should Huffington Post care?

2) We have a few Black / Latino bloggers on Huffington Post and they get featured on the site every so often, so why does a day where they strictly feature whites surprise you? That’s stat quo.

3) If / when people of colors (and I do mean Asian and indigenous people as well in this conversation) have a viable alternative to Huffington Post, will we use it as a platform to converge or to outdo the next? The latter has become customary here on the Internet, if you ask me.

4) Do we somehow believe that the Digital Divide has seized to exist? That really doesn’t even come up on any social media platform I’ve seen. People are so concerned with having Barack Obama’s ears instead of giving “the people” in their communities a real voice.

In all of this, we should already see how social media in and of itself has very disparate consequences on the ideas of information. It can liberate and celebrate the ideas and voices of our generation and future generations to come and make these ideas more facile to build around. We can build whole curriculi and engage hundreds in a matter of minutes without leaving our seats. Some of the biggest campaigns of recent history came via the power of the interwebs. On the other end, if we don’t keep tabs on the sorts of information released out there, the consequences can become much more dire. Instead of a rumor about Lindsay Lohan’s plastic surgery or Chris Brown’s new chick, we’ll get a made-up report about a local activist or an nonfactual tweet about health care reform (is that happening already?).

So, does social media mean social justice? You tell me.

Jose, who just got 2 more projects to work on just now …

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