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Art Lader
Digital Divide?
Group Documentation writers
Well, this issue came up for maybe the thirtieth time yesterday, and I wonder what you all think about it...

We have been showing Moodle to everyone who will give us a few minutes and talking to them about its benefits, etc. Most teachers and parents are very impressed, of course. Then comes the question, But what about the children who do not have Internet access at home? Aren't they at a terrible disadvantage? My answer is that we provide access at school, but this never seems to satisfy the person who has posed the question.

The truth is, there are plenty of genuinely poor people in South Carolina, and I am sure that some students really do not have computers at home, much less Internet access.

Is this an issue in other places? What are your thoughts?

Thanks,
Art
 
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Picture of Hans de Zwart
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Developers

In the end I think it will just be a matter of time... Internet is slowly starting to come in to all parts of everybody's live (I know this is a gross overstatement in the light of many people not having enough to eat..., let's then say of anybody's live who has Moodle at their school). Moodle is one of the driving forces pushing the internet.
I teach in Amsterdam South-East in the Netherland (the notorious bijlmer) where you could say that lots of people are poor. However I have noticed that the one thing people are willing to spend money on is a computer with broadband internet. Around 95% of the students have this, rich or poor. I think this will even rise more and become as prevalent as TV.

One more thing to make sure though is that you give students free and plentiful access to your internet computer in school and make that access not too restrictive. Let them do what they want!

 
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Picture of Bryan Williams
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Art,

It sure is an issue, I imagine in every State.  I wonder if the discussion with parents were placed into the context of other social issues of great importance, rather than standing on its own, whether it might have a different impact.  For example, many poor and elderly do not have automobiles, however there is a social safety net in place that can help these folks get to the store, doctor etc. I read not long ago that 40% of children in America who live below the poverty line are malnourished.  There is a social infrastructure in place for these families, which is apparently not being taken advantage of fully.  Many poor do not have telephones, so even giving a family a free computer (which my State has done) would not be a solution for participating in online courses.  

The computer and Internet are simply not seem in the same light as other resources that todays students routinely use (e.g. phone, TV, auto, school bus etc.).  This may be because of the technologies relative newness, and also a resistance by parents to understand the importance to student life in the 21st century.  Somehow this has to change.  One argument that can be made, adding to the one you are already presenting (school computers), is that every boy and girl in America has access to a computer at their neighboorhood library, if they don't want to use school resources.  The discussion needs to be reframed in the minds of parents.

Hope this helps a little.

Bryan 

 
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Ray Lawrence
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I'm by no means an expert on this but it's an issue in the UK too. There are organisations such as this one set up to address this sort of issue (although they seem to use the term Digital Divide to mean provision of computers per se, not necessarily internet connection).

Poverty is one issue, home budget priorities are another, parent's attitude is another, I suspect there will be other too. To illustrate the third point, we have some friends who are wealthy and educated but are hopeless on anything remotely associated with technology and are genuinely fearful of allowing their chilren access to the internet. Irrational it may be, but I doubt they're alone.

Just my 2d.

Ray

 
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Picture of Floyd Collins
Re: Digital Divide?
 

When this issue comes up, I have a piece of paper with names of internet coffee houses and libraries in our local area that offer free internet. In one such place our local ISP and our school has given free used computers and the ISP has provided free internet service. In another instance we have a church that leaves the basement door open for after school students to come in and use the computers and internet, this church does have an afternoon custodian who keeps an eye on things but it does work well for those who dont have computers. I have seen on an average of 9 students in there studying when I have went in to service the computers (this I do as a volunteer).  Filling the gap is something that as a community I am sure everyone can accomplish but it takes going door to door and getting others involved.

 
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Picture of John Gone
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Developers
Big question Art! Always a relevant one. WIFI may be a way to temporarily provide access until it's ubiquitous, someday.

I've seen this done by establishing repeaters in strategic locations and then pulling the signal into a public space where generous souls have installed a few computers for those who have no chance of getting one.

I know this thread will be full of dreamy and fantastic schemes exhibiting much dis-connect with the real world conditions of the students you speak of. If ideas are shared and imaginations jogged maybe some student somewhere will gain access, and so on, and so on, and ...

I really think wireless is a possible solution to many connectivity problems. The computers exist and can be utilized for little expense. Most geeks would be thrilled to have an opportunity to help out with the set-up and maintenance as Floyd mentions in this thread.

Bit by bit, one step at a time...
 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

If anyone is considering using WiFi it makes sense to look at the Mesh technology that a friend of mine is involved with. Our favorite price and license (GPL) and the ability to extend a wireless link or mesh far beyond the standard WiFi limits. A combination of Mesh netoworking and Moodle could make a powerful combination. Could also be very good in parts of the world with little general Internet access. See

http://www.locustworld.net/tracker/wiki?p=WhatIsTheMeshbox
 
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Picture of John Gone
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Developers
Excellent info Marcus! I've been reading about this for some time but lost track of the project when I changed computers. Do you happen to know if this is the system that was tested in Wales a while back. I've told a lot of people about this project. It is a practical way to deliver affordable and field-proven access to remote areas.

Thanks for hooking us up with this information.
 
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Picture of elearning edu
Re: Digital Divide?
 
Hi Marcus,
I read with interest about the innovative technology that you have suggested for linling with moodle.  I am aware of the Wireless loop tehnology for internet connectivity in India especially for rural areas.  Today I had a discussion with a company laying an eight lane road (about 22 KMs) for improving the trasportation facilities to various software companies ( having 1000s of professionals)  They name this project as information corridor.  The specific request for my assistance is to provide IT related services to those residents who are relocated due to this project.  The contnent will be educational and informational (Interactive and constructivistic) in the local language.  Moodle will be the ideal choice.  I am keen to have further information about Mesh Technology ? Your kind help in this regard is greatly appreciated.
Porf.V.Nagarajan.
 
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Picture of David Le Blanc
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Yes. This does seem to be a topic that comes up often in my local context. I'm not too surprised to see that others elsewhere in the world are raising this issue.

I think that it is important that we think about how to put provisions in place for those learners who have limited computer/Internet access. We cannot assume that everyone is equipped to own and use information technologies. Unfortunately, the focus for many that raise the issue seems misplaced. The solution isn't to impoverish everyone down to a level playing field (ergo, remove the playing field). Particularly for the have-nots we need to provide more opportunities to use computers for instructional and communication purposes. Even for those with the latest and best of equipment and resources, it is simply false thinking to believe that because they have access they are learning to exploit these devices for personal growth. We do a disservice to all if we don't promote the potential of information technologies beyond their entertainment value.

Definitely, we all need to be more aware that it isn't a level playing field; that we need to do more to support learners with limited access. Surely, the solution is not to cripple them more by never providing the kind of exposure to growth that constructive teaching and learning activities can offer.    

 
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Picture of Mark Burnet
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Art, In rural Virginia, we too have those without access.  We began a program that has had mixed results, so far.

A few years ago, a rich New Yorker who works for Fidelity Investments found a way to help our schools. While berthing his yacht in a marina here, he spoke with some of the locals about computers in our schools.  I think he found a way, while upgrading their office computers to get a tax right-off and avoid the tipping charges to the NY dumps for computer monitors (about $50 per unit).  These were three year old computers and a semi-trailer load of 250 arrived a month later. After several years, we too were ready to retire these 200mhz Pentium machines.  Selling them requires several political hurdles, so for reasons of software licensing among other reasons, we assigned these machines to the Library.  Like books, they can be checked-out for as long as the student is enrolled in the school.  The problem is that they have no modem and Internet access here is about $20 per month and for some this is difficult but the biggest problem is that there is still a stigma in asking for this service.  We have some to take us up on this offer.  I would love to see Social Services or a local service club work with us to improve this situation.

 
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Picture of Paul Nijbakker
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

The stigma could be lifted by offering the machines under another guise. Put a different game on the hard disk of each machine and offer the PCs under the guise of "game machines" (which also happen to have all the other normal PC functionality) . This should increase their popularity quite a bit.

Just an idea...

Rgrds, Paul.

 
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Picture of Paul Nijbakker
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hello Art,

I too think it is a matter of time (as well as money). Here in Finland the problem you mention is practically non-existant. The government, which has declared broad access to information one of the spearheads of its economic development policy, does a lot to have broadband Internet access (either by cable or cell phone) rolled out to everyone, even in the remote areas of Lapland.

Citizens who do not own a PC with Internet connection yet, can access the net at local schools, libraries and community centres. There are EU certified education programs aimed at the computer illiterate and the elderly to familiarise them with PCs and the Internet (In fact our school offers these kinds of instruction programmes). Often social security benefits are tied to requirements to follow education (for free) the accessibility of which has greatly increased due to eLearning.

Rgrds, Paul.

 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Documentation writers
I don't understand why that is not the case in the USA. I am simply baffled.

Or maybe I'm not. I know a lot of people who believe that most poor people are poor because they are stupid and/or irresponsible. "If they would just live like normal people," the thinking goes, "they would have everything that normal people have."

If that's what you believe, then of course you resist "wasting money" on people like that.

Or am I wrong about this, fellow Americans?

-- Art
 
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Picture of Mark Burnet
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Your assessment is correct,  but  much of the American culture was built on self-reliant individuals who left countries to "better" themselves.  This culture fosters a belief that one's own efforts yield individual rewards.  It follows that lack of effort yields smaller portions at the dinner table.  The reasons for poverty are complex and very often not to the fault of the poor.  I think after seeing social experiments played out over the past hundred years throughout the world, that in a socially diverse culture,  the root of poverty is lack of understanding of the importance of education.  (Preaching to the choir here...)

 
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Picture of Tom Backer Johnsen
Re: Digital Divide?
 
Puh.  It is very easy to offend Americans when responding to a question like this.  From the perspective of a Scandinavnian with partial US roots, the answer is obvious.  In the Scandinavian countries and a lot of other places as well, essentially the population is regarded as a resource, as capital, which you (society) do not want to waste.  Therefore (a) you offer competitive, but free education to the very top of the education system (medical school, engineering, whatever), (b) you also have a comprehensive health care system which covers everybody, without any extra costs to anybody.  Not perfect, but good enough for 99% of the cases.  If you want progress in a sparsly populated area, also you have to subsidize communication, which these days is (a) roads, and (b) internet based connections.   If I say this to Americans one common response is:  But, but ... That is socialism (or even worse --communism)!, we cannot do that!  The response is simple, this is good capitalism, as long as you regard the population as capital.  If Annti, the son of a reindeer herder in Northern Finland or Norway has the potential to be a brilliant mathematician, you do not want to waste that kind of talent (or capital), regardless of the resources of the family.  That would be stupid, perhaps for him, perhaps for the the country -- nobody knows.  Therefore you offer health services, kindergartens, shools, internet, whatever, anything to encourage further education -- to absolutely everybody.  In the long term, that will be a good investment, and is in any case both democratic and simply decent behavior.

Final point, Scandinavia is in general very poor in respect to resources (with the exception of Norwegian oil in the North Sea from the 70's onwards).  But all the same countries have a very high scoring on most dimensions on quality of life).  Wonder why.  The US must have the highest proportion of the population under the poverty line of all western countries, while Canada, and Europe etc. are low on the same dimensions.

Tom
 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide? Just getting old, I guess...
Group Documentation writers
Well, the responses to my question are illumninating and helpful. Thanks. smile

I guess I am just getting old, or maybe I am tired (end of year, lots to do, blah, blah, blah), but what frustrates me is that everyone where I live knows that students can simply go to the public library for free Internet access. I have the impression that many people automatically respond to any good news with half a dozen reasons why something cannot work, is not really as good as it seems, must be a scam, and so on. This makes me crazy.

Joe Blow: My child needs a little extra help in math.

Art Lader: If you have Internet access, we can certainly help.

Joe Blow: Yeah, we do, but what about sun spots? And using more electricity will increase global warming. And spending more time online leads to isolation from one's peers. And what about carple tunnel syndrome? And reading from a monitor is bad for his eyes. And you can't really be sure that no one from Iraq is online with him, can you? And I read an article that said prolonged exposure to the light from a monitor delays the onset of puberty. And my minister says the net is evil. And how can you offer online tutoring for free, anyway? There must be a catch. What's in it for you? What are you getting out of it, huh?

Art Lader: You're right. Technology is evil. Moodle is bad. I am Satan. Please kill me. Here, use my Moodle lunch box.


Do these people pass this weird cynicism on to their children? Is that how they interact with their spouses? Are they automatically negative with their friends? How can anyone live like that!?!

Oops, got a little carried away, there, didn't I?

My wife is right. I am just getting old and testy. Maybe I should take a nap. Maybe a warm glass of milk or a cup of hot tea...

-- Art
 
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Picture of Mark Burnet
Re: Digital Divide? Just getting old, I guess...
 

LOL big grin.  Those student's and parents who are truly committed to the path of inactivity, will find every bit of the "evidence" necessary to "stay the course".  It is my belief that this is main reason that "Some Children are Left Behind".

 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide? Just getting old, I guess...
Group Documentation writers
How can they endure living like that?

-- Art
 
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Picture of Joyce Smith
Re: Digital Divide? or fear of change ?
 
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things, because the innovator will have for enemies all who have done well under the old system, and only lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."
- Machiavelli

Art, you aren't getting old, it just feels that way sometimes ( I know !) when you try to 'change' anything ,there is always resistance .The above was written in the 15C ( I think!) Many of Machiavelli's quotes are used in 'Change Management ' literature ,by the management 'gurus' , but just try to actually change attitudes and beliefs in your own work environment ! Open Source, they question it , if it doesn't cost $1m it can't be secure, blah,blah,blah .However .I have great faith in the Moodle community ,only been here a short time , but have received more help and friendship from complete strangers all over the globe ,than I ever imagined possible!
Would it be out of the question to establish a Moodle "Give the Children Internet Access Fund', for us all to contribute a modest amount to ? Legal issues , all sorts of 'stuff' o.k.
Just an idea ,from grandma, who believes in education for all of our children , wherever they are !
Joyce
 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide? or fear of change ?
Group Documentation writers
True! But the use of new technology in education is not new. There was a time when the overhead projector was cutting edge, right?

Okay, I have respond with my favorite quotation:


Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as the cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twisted pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes second to achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not, as the possessor would fain think, of superiority, but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part manfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affectation of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the The rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

-- Theodore Roosevelt, Speech, University of Paris, Sorbonne, Paris -- April 23, 1910



 
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Picture of Joyce Smith
Re: Digital Divide? or fear of change ?
 
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

-- Theodore Roosevelt, Speech, University of Paris, Sorbonne, Paris -- April 23, 1910 "
Art, Love that one, thank you !!
Particularly,
"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; " .... at least fails while daring greatly;"

He who dares wins? is that the bottom line in this one ?
Thank you again, inspirational , for all of us !
Joyce
 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide? or fear of change ?
Group Documentation writers
I find it very inspirational, but I do not have the courage of Teddy Roosevelt - a fearless man, I think.

-- Art
 
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Picture of Hans de Zwart
Re: Digital Divide? Just getting old, I guess...
Group Developers

big grinbig grinbig grin Well, Art you are definitely not too old and cynical to make me laugh. You have probably made a parody on how a lot of Europeans think Americans are. How can anyone win in a society which is like that? You cannot win, there will always be another objection.

I have to admit that I would probably become very passive very quickly. So let me pose you this question:

What makes you stay enthousiastic? (especially at your age, now that you mentioned that yourself wink )

 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Digital Divide? Just getting old, I guess...
 

You always can show them the use of a text filter, they will love it..

For a demo you could ban the words evolution theory.

(I heard yesterday an American writer telling on Dutch Radio "That 50% of the Americans, including the so called president, believe that the world was created 6000 before Christ, for the others: that's somewhere in the stone age.")

 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide? Just getting old, I guess...
Group Documentation writers
I have no trouble believing that, Ger. Sigh...

-- Art
 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide? Just getting old, I guess...
Group Documentation writers
Well, Hans, that's quite a question!

I think that many members of the community could give very interesting and erudite explanations about how they remain enthusiastic in the face of the challenges they face every day. I can't do that, because I operate on a pretty superficial level. But I can respond honestly to what seems to be an honest question.

Of course, I have a great wife. That's critical for me.

Beyond that, I try very hard to maximize the time I spend with positive, energetic, enthusiastic people. They inspire me. They make me laugh. They make me happy.

I also try very, very hard to avoid negative, cynical people. I have found that they drain away my own happiness with their weird determination to be miserable themselves.

It was a great American, Abraham Lincoln, who said that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. I think he got it right. And I crave the company of people who have made up their minds to enjoy life, especially life at school. And all I ask of the others is to stay the hell away from me.

I am not saying that I refuse to deal with the occasionally unpleasant realties of being an educator. We must never be afraid to do the hard things, the things we'd rather avoid doing. That's just being an adult.

I am simply saying that there are plenty of reasons to feel good about being a teacher and it's important to me to be with people who understand that.

I wonder what other members of the Moodle community would say about this.

-- Art
 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Digital Divide? Just getting old, I guess...
 
"Even if they tell me that tomorrow the world will be destroyed,
I still will plant a tree of hope today."

Free after Dr. Martin Luther King.

Yes Art, surround yourself with this kind of people is the best medicine.


By the way, the Belgium version of this Quote is that they replay the video registration of a lost soccergame again and again, in the hope that in the next replay...




 
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Picture of Mary Kaplan
Re: Digital Divide? Just getting old, I guess...
 

Art,

I can tell you that more than one of your colleagues would say that you have just described yourself as a colleague. You are full of the joy of learning and teaching, and it infects all around you!

--Mary

 
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Picture of elearning edu
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Hi Art,

You have raised a critical issue for the sustainability of elearning at a global level.  The issue of digital divide is thoroughly discussed on so many plaforms without the final resolve.  The UNESCO described it as "info poverty" and suggested that the Haves must irrgate the IT resources to the havenots since info poverty is contingent upon the economic poverty.  However, the World bank experience revealed that the diffusion of IT to the havenots through donor-donee model did not work and suggested that the resources must be owned by them and the ownership will empower them.

The digital divide has to be viewed with the backdrop of "cultural divide".  Though the computer is describbed as an adult tool, more and more younger people are prone to take IT.  Due to FUD many adult members are hesitant to pursue the use of computers.  Similarly, the gender also plays a crucial role.  Somehow the IT is described more as gender biased.  Another way of lookig is from the North-South economic paradigm.

The percolation, PC propensity, bandwith and localisation issues are tied up with the market economy.  The front end of the market is always happy to innovate and experiment with the marvels of IT without worrying whether the same will reach the back end of the market.  Similarly, the back end of the market still views that the IT is not consumable bescuse of its faileure to provide economic sustainability.  As it was rightly pointed out "Electronic chips cannot fill the empty bellies".

Unfortunately IT market emulates the economic market in all respects.  Many poor countries buy computer with brutal power without knowing how to use it to the maximum.  It was hypothetically believed that the humanity before achieving liberty, fraternity and equality may first reach the stage of cyber liberty, cyber fraternity and cyber eqality.  However reaching the cyberspace to discuss many issues including the trinity still remains a dream for many.  Economic reason alone may not be attributed to the faileure of IT in this regard.  The problem is much more serious than as it appears.  Bill Gates suggested that by using his product (of course after payment) people are equal in the cyberspace.  The open source movement says witout any payment all will be trated as equal.  However, the mind set of the people, market force and cultural imports are the barriers and bottlnecks.  As long as these symptoms prevail elearning cannot reach all the learners particularly those who are labelled as disadvantaged.

Prof.V.Nagarajan

 
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Picture of Floyd Collins
Re: Digital Divide?
 
Wow great insite, Thank You, I enjoyed reading your take on this issue. 
 
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Picture of Bob Boufford
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Art,

As I look at the latest versions of the two big commercial CMSs, my concerns about the digital divide resurfaced and I was getting ready to ask if Moodle could close the gap, but you beat me to the posting. My biggest concern is not the issue of Internet connectivity as discussed in other messages but the level of technology required to access a CMSs. Connectivity is cheap, becoming more ubiquitous with WiFi and can be subsidized by several means, but without the computers, connectivity is a moot issue.

Several years ago, I thought "WebTVs" would be a great way to get online courses into homes of the urban disadvantaged. Most lower income homes where I lived in the States, somehow managed to have access to cable TV and a phone. So a $150 USD WebTV would be a starting place. If not WebTV, a low end 486 or Pentium I running the Opera web browser would be an idea setup. (At the time while IE and Netscape were getting fat, Opera would still fit on a 1.44 mb floppy disk.)

Unfortunately, the two big commercial CMSs only run on the full current versions of IE and Netscape/Mozilla. So forget using any low end "recycled, reused, refurbished" systems with IE 3, Netscape 4 or Opera along with any interactive TVs (iTV, WebTV) And what's more disappointing is one version of a commercial CMS now also requires the full Sun Java plugin all the time, which means at least a P4 or G4.

So even if there is connectively, we still have to deal with the issue of the computer requirements to connect to the Internet. As I see it, the digital divide is there and growing wider each day.

So the question I was orginally going to pose....

What is the absolute minimum system to access a Moodle course? Is a Moodle course accessible from a 486 or Pentium with a lean browser and no Java? How about PDA/Smartphone web browsers? WebTV or iTV? Game consoles such as PS2 and XBox? (No need to respond, more to think about.)

If a Moodle course can be accessible from really low end 486/Pentium I systems or web-enabled games consoles and the Moodle developers can avoid bloating Moodle with features that require the fat browsers and fat Java, then there is a good chance of helping close the digital divide.

Cheers,

Bob

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Digital Divide?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
> Is a Moodle course accessible from a 486 or Pentium with a lean browser and no Java?

Yes, of course. And I can guarantee Moodle will NEVER require Java. smile

Here where I live in Australia, you can get second-hand computers from the classifieds that are perfectly good for normal web browsing (eg Moodle) for under A$100 (that's around US$75), telephone penetration is very high, and basic internet costs about A$10/month (US$7.50). I think even the poorest families within a developed country could justify spending that much on education and connectivity.

The main problem I see is lack of knowledge about using computers. Things seem to be improving rapidly, though (look at all the teachers in these forums!) so hopefully in a generation this notion of the digital divide will cease to be a real issue.
 
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Picture of Mark Burnet
Re: Digital Divide?
 
In many rural places in the US, access is still $20 US, because there is only one service provider that is a local phone call.  In Guatemala it is about $80 US per month plus and (which is worse) phone service is on a per minute plan.  Fortunately, third world cell service is growing very rapidly, but it is not breaking the govenment monopolies of high priced phone access.  These costs, and not computers, appear to me to be the largest problem for the poor receiving Moodle instruction in their homes or villages.
 
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Picture of Paul Nijbakker
Re: Digital Divide? Infrastructure
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hello,

In Finland unlimited ADSL broadband costs about 30  per month (at the current exchange rate that is about 35 US$). Older PCs like the 200MHz pentium IIs and IIIs are given away practically for free (and with Linux and a lightweight browser like Opera those run just fine, so I guess that the cost lies mostly in the infrastructure).

However, in most developing countries the telecommunication infrastructure is poor or decaying, so that even if Internet access is relatively cheap, and even if there is a great interest in the Net, as is evident in all the larger towns of Africa that I know (Cybercafés are shooting out of the ground), we cannot expect to see large scale eLearning programs running in those countries. But the question is whether it is al that important in view of the other problems these countries have.

An education official from South Africa explained at an eLearning conference that some 90% of the schools in her country do not have windows or enough and proper classroom furniture for their students, so rolling out eLearning to schools is not the first priority. In most rural areas in the African countries I have visited, if there is electricity at all, the supply is highly unreliable, so that alone is a huge obstacle to eLearning. The divide between the have nets and have nots is here almost unbridgable, because it is deepened by so many local and international economic and cultural factors.

Still, I don't want to sound like dr. doom, I have met many Africans who are exploiting the Internet to its fullest local potential. In fact, I met my wife kisskisskiss, who is from Cameroon, via the Internet, so there already is a coming together of hearts and minds of some sort smile!

Rgrds, Paul.


 
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Picture of Bryan Williams
Re: Digital Divide?
 
Noticed the other day that Wal-Mart now offers unlimited Internet service (with 7000 pops in US) for $9.95 mo. When the price drops to about what you pay for a few burgers, it's starting to be in range of even the poor that do have phones. 
 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Digital Divide?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
Yeah, I did say developed countries. smile wink smile wink big grin tongueout
 
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Picture of John Gone
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Developers
I live in Canada where you can get:
- adequate used pc $75 CDN
- 12 hours of dial-up per month $12 CDN
- wireless PCI Card $90 CDN

If a motivated but under-priveleged student is to take advantage of distance learning the part that's missing then is probably a Geek to keep the pc running well.

Better yet the Geek could help establish a local WIFI network and split the cost between several needy students. Lower cost for better service. Once established this network can be used to teach a lot of students. When one student is finished with the equipment it could move to the next needy student. The Geek seems to be the main ingredient here.

Someday even course material may be shared through a Moodle repository. If for no other reason than to use as examples for new teachers and as presentation materials when trying to drum up support from the community.

I think any and every advance will drive the need and the implementation but this will likely take a generation as pointed out by Martin.

Yes, there are plenty of needy students in Canada, when you're poor you may as well be living in a developing country.
 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Documentation writers
> Yes, there are plenty of needy students in Canada,
> when you're poor you may as well be living in a
> developing country.

South Carolina, too. sad The town I live in is prosperous, but drive toward the coast and you enter a different world. Hard to believe you're in the US.

-- Art
 
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Picture of John Gone
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Developers
Unfortunately the people needing the knowledge the most are the least likely to be able to access it, regardless of their global location.
 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Documentation writers
This is certainly tru where I live.

Last year, one of our German students took it upon himself to (as an International Baccalaureate service project) solicit donations of old computers that he refurbished and sent to a local middle school. The folks at the middle school knew who needed the computers and gave them to those families. Dozens of families benefited from this project.

I sure do miss that boy. He's at Yale now.

-- Art

 
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Picture of elearning edu
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Let us focus on digital divide with specific reference to moodle.  Moodle is an open source software available freely without any discrimination in terms of price or quality.  Unfortunately, moodle has to run on a server and the users must have access to it.  All the market manipulation and discrimination plays a major role here.  No self respecting moodler will agree that moodle as a product must be tuned to fit into the rejected and dumped hardware.  First moodle has to establish the optimum standard in hardware configuration for the best performance.  Those who are economically disadvaged are not destined to get themselves with the rejects of the upmarket.  Technology is fast forwarding and must not be tampered to rewind it backward.  That is why World bank said that they have learned the lesson that the people will be empowered when they own the technology.  In 1970's IBM in order to market their products in the educational sector they gifted the latest computers upto the elementary school.  Hence it is the responsibility of the market to irrigate their latest technology to the back end of the market.  I feel donation and dumping of outmoded systemd will be a discriminating and segregating excercise in elearning since these computers are injurious to physical health. 

The problems of PC penetration and bandwidth are tackled by governments and through deregulation and technology upgradation, significant advances are being made. 

The grey area for moodle implementation is the browser software.  Reently, I hosted a free moodle online course to help the aspirants of a professional entrance examination.  The news papers gave a good coverage and hundreds of them enrolled.  They complained that they are not able to access the quiz (mock tests) because of browser problem.  We suggested an upgrae to IE6 and they came with a complaint that the upgrade of IE to IE6 requires an 18 MB download which is impossible with the existing bandwidth.  Suggestion to use other browsers once again require some downloading and installing an additional browser.  We suggested a thin version firefox and later found that many people churned because of the browser problem.

Elearning requires animation, multimedia and streaming audio and video.  Content developers go for the latest and demand the user to have some pre requisites which are beyond their control.  For moodle digital divide is not people/hardware but the browser.  The solution?

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Digital Divide?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
I'm interested to hear what the problem was with IE5 (or IE4), as I'm not aware of anything in Moodle that requires IE6.  Moodle does use some Javascript and CSS but only in a minimal way.
 
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Picture of elearning edu
Re: Digital Divide?
 

The mock tests were created with hotpot.  The third party software hotpotatoe V6 runs only on IE6.  The problem is not with moodle per se but with the additional content delivery modes.

Prof.V.Nagarajan.

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Digital Divide?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
Aha, phew!   smile
 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Digital Divide?
 

One of the pittfalls of "guest" products like HotPot, is that you create exercises for the HTML-graveyard. If you create the same exercisies in quizz or lesssons (action mazes), you have your resources in MySQL for later use. (only Jmix and JCross are not yet supported.)

Another drawback is that it limits the use of the webbrowsers, not a Moodle problem but a problem you introduce with HotPot6, like you experience. (Using HotPot 5 broadens the choice for IE5 and IE6, stillvery limited..)


Still a question: should there be a fork with a Moodle Lite for less expensive machines?

 
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Picture of Andy Diament
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Confused by this one - I've made a few things with HotPot6 and they work fine in mozilla firebird.

Similarly, the moodle HotPot module uses code created in hot pot 6 with only the slightest modification by the module, and it works in ie/mozilla/firebird

Maybe a possibility would be to be able to import HotPot files to moodle quizzes, as a future idea; isn't HotPot moving towards XML which should provide a format that moodle can import? It's definitely easier to create missing words exercise in HotPot than moodle

Andy D

 
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Picture of Bob Boufford
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Ger,

Could you expand on what you mean by "a fork with a Moodle Lite for less expensive machines"? Are you referring to the Moodle server or how a Moodle course rendered by a browser such as WAP-capable PDA/smartphone browsers or iTV/WebTV browsers?

Cheers,

Bob

 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Digital Divide?
 
I am not a technician... so I quote maybe out of tune...

...Martin is saying that several Moduls take very much memory: This can be on the clients-side and on the server-side:
  • I install all the moduls I can get my hands on and my sysadmin gave up this battle: our 8Mb limit is far far much higher now.. but our server is also bigger. So tuning on the server-side can help: ...but you need only one server, so spend all the money you save on licences on your server.
  • Second part is the bandwidth between you and the users: I remember a course crash of one of our teacher/students in Africa: someone cut the one and only telephone cable in that areae, so for months no course.. Martin cannot solve that problem., But another healthy action for the bandwith should be the downsizing of the pictures, the sounds, not using video etc.. and referring to free tools that support that
  • Third is the question: how old and small can the client-pc be for a user, when Moodle is downsized. because you need many of these client pc's, this is where the focus should be.


What I mean is that if the technical guys look at the performance of Moodle, there must be a way to tune it for low budgets all over the world. (Poor man's theme also?)
 
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Picture of Bob Boufford
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Ger,

I think I know what you are asking. It's a similar issue that has been brought up on occaision with WebCT (and I imagine Blackboard and other CMSs) of being able to do a good portion of a course "offline". For example, in WebCT Campus Edition, which I am most familiar with, a student can "compile" pages in a content module  then download or print out the compiled file for later offline viewing. WebCT has a similar compile feature for discussions and mail. When I travelled weekly, I would often compile all the mail and discussion messages from my courses, read them "offline" while 33,000 feet in the air and write replies in a text editor. Once I got back online, I would cut-n-paste the replies into the messages.

But, the WebCT compile feature is still limited to being able to have a "local image" of course content and activities that could be done offline and then synchronized with the server at a later time in the same manner many of us do email or when working with our Plam or PocketPC PDAs.

Some thoughts to ponder...

cheers,

bob

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Digital Divide?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
Adding modules adds to the server load but has no effect on clients.

OK, well, maybe having more blocks in your courses will slow down the page rendering but that's about it.
 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Digital Divide?
 

As I said, as non expert, I sing sometimes out of tune in the technical choir.blush

I think it is a nice idea to create Moodle connections for low and/or expensive (package) bandwith like PDAs. Then areas with limited bandwith can jump that wagon?

(I saw in the past the Nuke people using a special page with https://my.avantgo.com/home/)

Are you thinking in that direction?

 
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Picture of Bob Boufford
Re: Digital Divide? Moodle Lite
 

Ger,

You are basically referring to the older client-server model that still exist today mostly with email and some applications like PDAs where a connection is made to the server, data is uploaded/downloaded (synchronized), the connection is broken and data is managed through a local client application. One of the driving forces behind e-learning was being able to get away from the client-server model where the student had to install a local application (First Class, Lotus Learning Space) and use the more ubiquitous web browser.

Of course, there is the issue of "capturing" content for offline viewing. While easy to do with static web sites, it becomes very difficult with dynamic web sites where content is generated "on the fly". Given most e-learning systems are dynamic web systems, we run into this challenge of providing content and activities "off-line". Current directions continue to be "connected to the Internet" with access through a web browser instead of a local client application.

So, what are some ways of providing content and activities to those with limited or expensive connectivity, that is, what can be done to narrow the digital divide?

One option that I think you are referring to as "Moodle Lite", would be a version of Moodle running on a local system. Since Moodle is basically a dynamic data-driven web site, we would need to have an Apache/PHP/mySQL system running on a local machine, much in the same manner some of us have Moodle running on a notebook computer or even USB flash drive for "offline" course development.

We know from other discussions about putting Moodle on a USB key drive, that a ready to run Moodle/MiniXAMPP distribution is about 80 to 100 mb. Even when zipped, 28mb is too big for online distribution (11 minutes per megabyte on 28.8k connetion). But, we can easily distribute a full self-running Moodle on CD with or without an operating sytem. To handle data with a read-only CD, we could borrow a technique from many games that run from a CD but write player data to the local drive. "Moodle on an XBox!" cool

The missing piece is developing the synchronization module like the Palm HotSync (and the Avantgo conduit), to synchronize course materials and activities between the server-based Moodle and the local system Moodle (Moodle Lite). There also needs to be modification of Moodle so instructors can "flag" which components can be downloaded (course content, discussions and mail) and which components must stay on the server (quizzes, gradebook).

A second option is to take advantage of other related applications that currently support offline activities. Over the years working with another CMS, one of the most often requested option I have seen is to be able to efficiently work offline with ansynchronous communications tools. Being able to read content, do activities and take quizzes offline are a distant second. Unfortunately, Moodle, like most of the other CMSs, only offers limited one-way communication outside of Moodle.

Mail and discussions can be sent to an external email address through the subscription feature but there is no way to allow "offline replies" to be sent back into Moodle when later connected (synchronized). The only alternative is the kludgely method of  composing replies in a text editor then copy-n-paste once reconnected. What is needed is the ability to use existing email or news reader applications to grab mail and discussion postings from Moodle, allow for "work offline" then upload new messages and replies when reconnected. If this can be accomplished, it also opens up the opportunity to use PDAs more extensively (another occasionally requested feature.)

So, I hope this answers you question about possible directions for a "Moodle Lite" to serve those on the wrong side of the divide with limited, slow or very expensive connectivity.

Cheers,

Bob

 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Digital Divide? Moodle Lite
 

In the past we used Lotus Notes with the Domino server and a set of fill-in forms on top of that (teletop, yes). With that system it was possible to install a local server on your laptop and I did that for demo reasons in areas where people did not have a good web-connection, like on a ship from the Dutch Marine. Strange enough I was and still am the only one who did this: the connectivity in The Netherlands is very high, yes. (O yes, you synch only the courses that you need.)

I prefer your idea of an installed Moodle on a CD. I have Linux on a CD: it creates a ram-disc and uses that for write/read. Switch the computer off and it is gone.

Must be possible to do the same with Moodle.

  • Send the student a CD by good old mail
  • Create during  startup a ramdisc
  • let the student then synchronise his courses
  • (video and other big files also delivered from that CD, but that is often material you prepare before the start of a course, not during..) 
  • let the student store his homework on that ramdisc
  • let the student prepare forum contributions offline
  • automatic synch with the server before the program closes and cleans the ramdisc..

Is it possible to create a ramdisc that is only accessible by that CD?

 
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Picture of elearning edu
Re: Digital Divide?
 

hi Ger,

Your concept of moodle in a CD is worth experimenting.  I am familiar with the webtycho period of elearning.  The learnere are expected to use the client programme to get connected to the server.  My approach to translate your idea into a moodle pack in CD will be:

Use Knoppix derivative Morphix bootable CD

Remaster the Morphix to remove many RAM hungry software packs irrelevant to moodle use.

Remastered Morphix will have

Latest moodle

Apache, MySQL and PHP

Server main module

Necessary mini modules

The desk top moodle pack in a bootable CD will serve both as a server as well as desktop.

In case there is a need to istall the entire module package in a local server it is a mere hard disk install.

With the help of Konqueror/Mozilla fire fox remote internet based moodle may be accessed

CD will have other opensource software such as open office etc for the teachers and students for document generation.

Such a moodle will not be a moodle lite but full module with flexibility.

Will it be workable?  What are the bottlnecks one should trouble shoot for successful implementation?

 
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Picture of Sebastian Rahtz
Re: Digital Divide?
 
At the UK open source advisory service, we have created a
Knoppix derivative with Moodle fully working. It is described at
the OSS Watch site and is downloadable from here
If you try this, please regard it as experimental, and report any issues back to me!
 
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Picture of A. Chavan
Re: Digital Divide?
 
The LAMPPIX project looks interesting.

"This allows you to burn your PHP based web projects onto a CD and give them away. Your user then only has to insert the CD and reboot."


Also see Linux-EduCD.

"Linux-EduCD is polish distro based on Knoppix 3.3, for shool- and home-desks. The default environment is KDE. It includes a wide range of educational, office and multimedia software. New version (3.0.2) has configurated LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) and Moodle (e-learning system)"


I haven't tried them out.
 
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Picture of David Le Blanc
Re: Digital Divide?
 

This looks quite interesting Chavan. I cannot read the Polish site Linux-EduCD so I am unsure how it works. However, the LAMPPIX sofware might solve a problem I have been working on for quite sometime. I have some students who are unable to stay online for long periods of time to work on their courses in Moodle. Moodle currently doesn't have any off-line reading/compiler features. It might be possible to package an entire course with the moodle enviroment on a CD for these learners to use off-line. thoughtful

Of course, learners would still need to log on to contribute to discussions, communicate with others or to access Web resources. Certainly, this could alleviate some of the online time that is now necessary for simple access to course content. 

 
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Picture of Mark Burnet
Re: Digital Divide?
 

A distribution CD with several browsers options fro Mac and PC alnong with open source based Off-line activitives might solve your band width problems.

 
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Picture of Bob Boufford
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Hi,

>>Elearning requires animation, multimedia and streaming audio and video.  Content developers go for the latest and demand the user to have some pre requisites which are beyond their control.  For moodle digital divide is not people/hardware but the browser.  The solution?

I will have to disagree with you that "e-learning requires multimedia" in the same manner as "learning requires multimedia" and "face to face learning requires multimedia". This concept further expands the digital divide not only for the financially handicapped but also many of the physically handicapped.

There are countless examples of online courses (regardless of CMS) where multimedia has been misused and abused due to an mis-understanding or lack of understanding of the impact of multimedia on learning, often to the detriment of learning due to the technial limitations of students' systems and access. ("The 100 mb Powerpoint on a dialup modem".) As a former training instructor for a major CMS, I also saw many excellent courses at institutions across North America, Australia and the UK with very dynamic active learning taking place using only the basic text/html-based tools found in any CMS or web site and absolutely no multimedia.

The solution? Teaching/training designers and instructors to understand when multimedia and the format of multimedia is appropriate and don't get caught up in providing "eye candy" that is basically "empty calories for the mind." Also, we as faculty need to make it clear to content developers when multimedia is appropriate and that alternatives must be provided for universal accessibilty.

Cheers,

Bob

 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Documentation writers
> I also saw many excellent courses at institutions
> across North America, Australia and the UK with very
> dynamic active learning taking place using only the
> basic text/html-based tools found in any CMS or web
> site and absolutely no multimedia

That is something I would like to know more about. Any chance you will expand upon this?

-- Art
 
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Picture of Bob Boufford
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Art,

My comments were from observation as I travelled around the US and Canada and occasionally in Australia and the UK while delivering CMS workshops at various institutions. I had an opportunity to see what faculty were doing in their online courses while at the institutions. Also, as a former "road warrior", I was very aware of student connectivity issues while sitting in some hotel with a lousy dialup connection.

While it's run by WebCT, the Exemplary Course Project (http://www.webct.com/exemplary) is an excellent resource that is applicable to any course management system including Moodle. As you look through the winning courses, you will find many do not have multimedia or strived to keep multimedia to a minimum due to an awareness of student access issues. As a reviewer for past ECP entries, I also saw many more of "the good, the bad and the ugly". wink

Hope this helps...

Cheers,

Bob

 
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Picture of Tom Murdock
Re: Digital Divide?
 
Bob, that's a great resource. I know I'll learn something about teaching by checking out those courses.

I also wanted to once again give credit to Art for being especially reflective at the end of the school year. (See before). Like clockwork, he's wrapping up a season with his students, but trying hard to reflect on what will work better next year. Art is a teacher's teacher.

Speaking of teaching and about viewing the classes of others, I've been straining my brain trying to figure out what keeps me from zipping up my courses and sending them to the Moodle Exchange area. Is it stage fright? Is it the messiness of them that keeps me from making them available?

If others feel the same way, I recommend one of two things. 1) More of us should bite the bullet and submit courses to the exchange, warts and all, so that we can learn from each other. We can just call them the "moodling" swap-shack. or 2) If we want to reserve the Moodle Exchange area for courses that are more polished, may I offer a web-home to completed, ragged, imperfect, zipped courses that might be perused by others?

If #2 is a good idea, let me know and I'll create a site.

It strikes me that end-of-the-year faculty meetings are always about "Boy, I wish I'd visited other classrooms during the year."  Don't we have a perfect solution to that right here?  Moodling through Moodle courses off-season...

Thanks,
Tom
 
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Picture of Alex Black
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Dear Tom

Thanks for the offer of setting up a site. I think your idea is great. I and a few others at Inter Community School in Zurich (I.C.S.) have been using Moodle on a trial basis since February. The interest has spread like wildfire. The initial trail was to be 8 students for one term then another 50 for the summer term. However the enthusiasm was unstoppable from a few teachers and then hundreds of students become involved. The courses are effectively produced without any previous experience of proper online course delivery systems (for years we have used just the usual ugly NT home directory structure drag and drop chaos). I think then these course will be a paradigm of unplanned learning by doing in a new environment. We will be doing some internal reflection but input from outside would be great.

Regards Alex

 
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Picture of Andy Diament
Re: Digital Divide?
 

I suggested an idea in http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=6935 to break courses down into a smaller unit - which could be called a courselet, containing just the activities for a specific set of learning aims (e.g. a week's worth); it could be based on the moodle backup format; this could be an ideal for the exchange of exemplar material, ease teachers into developing materials and focus on what makes good e-learning.

I really want to take it further but I've not had any time to devote to it (but my load now eases considerably as we enter the UK summer exam period).

Any ideas on how to move this forward?

Andy D

 
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Picture of Richard Treves
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Hi Andy,

Through a colleague here I heard of a Penn State (US) University project to try and deal with plagiarism see:

https://cms.psu.edu/section/content/default.asp?WCI=pgDisplay&WCU=CRSCNT&ENTRY_ID=09CB22C6BBSG000 

You study the content and must pass the online quiz to be able to start on a course.  The purpose is to try and deal with the wide diversity of skills people have for referencing and make sure everyone knows the basics before they start doing assignments.  It also helps because students cannot claim they didn't know they were plagiarising later in a course.

I think this (or something like it) would be a very valuable 'courslet' that people would want to use.  It could be used to prove the concept.

All the best

Richard 

 
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Picture of Bob Boufford
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Tom,

Seeing how other instructors have their courses, even the "warts and all" is a good way to learn and improve your own courses.

The only issue when uploading courses one should be aware of is student privacy. Privacy policies such as FERPA in the States and FOIP in Alberta make it pretty difficult to upload any courses to the Moodle Exchange unless all student information has been deleted or efforts have been made to totally eliminate any means of identifying the students with the materials or grades.

Cheers,

Bob

 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Documentation writers
> Art is a teacher's teacher.

Thanks, Tom. what a nice thing to say! I guess what we have here is a mutual admiration society.

-- Art
 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide? -- moodle exchange contribution
Group Documentation writers
Okay, Tom,

Here's a little math supplement... Warts and all. smile

http://moodle.org/mod/glossary/view.php?id=918&mode=letter&hook=A&sortkey=&sortorder=

(Thanks to Mary and her math-minions.)

-- Art

 
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Picture of Mary Kaplan
Re: Digital Divide? -- moodle exchange contribution
 

We are glad to share, and will be happy to answer any questions about the structure or purpose. And will also appreciate any comments on how to make it better! The students seem to really like the animated clip art, so I changed it as often as I could.

--Mary

 
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Picture of David Le Blanc
Re: Digital Divide?
 
I agree with you here Bob. I think that the most powerful feature of online learning is the threaded discussions tool. If this is used properly it has the power to engage since it gives the learners their voice and a forum to exchange ideas and develop identities. Much of the Flash, PowerPoint, etc., is still just a broadcast. While these can effectively communicate concepts, they are teacher/content centric. Watching and listening to presentations can help cut down on the intellectual overhead required of learners to comprehend concepts that may be too cumbersome to interpret using just text-based displays. However, presentations pale to the power of learners articulating their understanding for others and to hear the voices of others respond to their ideas and recognise their individuality.
 
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Picture of Alex Black
Re: Digital Divide?
 
I would like to say that in our use of moodle since February it is the forums that have really shown the power of moodle. We run a course called Theory of Knowledge and years of provoking discussions in class seem so much hard work for so little payback. Moodle seems to make it happen so quickly and easily for so many students. Then of course it spills over into classes, the hallways and really enters school life. I have experimented for years with Mathhew Lipman's ideas of Philosophy for Children and I was starting to think that the concept of Community of enquiry was just the occassionally lucky chemistry of the chance meeting of  some students and the right issues. Now I see it happening without too much teacher push and with Moodle it is logged and documented. I am starting to sound like an enthisiast again.

regards Alex
 
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Picture of Paul Nijbakker
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hear, Hear!

You are right on the dot. Finding the balance between the colourful frills that eat bandwidth and the deserts of scrolling text that are delivered by many teachers is a challenge. That is why we and other schools have an eLearning centre to train and assist teachers in educational web content making.

Rgrds, Paul.

 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Documentation writers
I agree that lots of the multimedia I see is just fluff. But I do often find animated tutorials very useful. I need to get better at making those.

-- Art
 
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Picture of Mark Burnet
Re: Digital Divide?
 
I'm no brain research expert, but it seems to me that while text meets the learning styles of many students, especially those that do well in traditional instruction, for many students, a lack of audio, visual, tactile and kinethetic activity creates a vacuum in perception.
 
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Picture of David Le Blanc
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Further to our conversation of what evokes ethusiasm and engagement in online learners, I came across a wonderful short article by Americ Azevedo called Computers Don't Teach -- People Teach: The Socrates Online Method

His comments about the importance of dialogue in learning environments have particular resonance. It's interesting to note what a dynamic and vibrant community thrives here at moodle.org sustained by the rich exchange of ideas and conversations. A Multi-voiced environment would seem to have more engagment factor than multi-media richness.  

 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Digital Divide?
 

An article that I embrace: The old GIGO law for computers also rules over Moodle.

Garbage IN ??? >>>>>  Garbage OUT!!!

If a teaching professor was used to lecturing with little student interaction, he will copy his preferences into Moodle: lots of resources and lessons with quizzes and homework. Moodle is not forcing him to do it in another way: so he likes it, it supports his habits. 

Also the multimedia selections of this professor will have the same lecturing spirit, so what a pleasure... "a moviepicture is word ten thousand of his words" 


Only the start of the article I do not like: Nothing wrong with the movie metaphor or
"old wine in new vessels" AS LONG AS THE WINE AND THE MOVIE WERE GOOD, for example with a high Socratic %....

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Digital Divide?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
Ger said "If a teaching professor was used to lecturing with little student interaction, he will copy his preferences into Moodle: lots of resources and lessons with quizzes and homework."

That is exactly right, Ger.  This is why I had this social constructionist tags emblazoned all over Moodle and features that try to encourage the collaborative features more ... unfortunately it seems most Moodle users only want more resources and more quizzes to replicate their old ways of doing things.

Once some of the infrastructure work going on at the moment is out the way then I'll look forward to getting back to renewing my focus on pedagogical education within Moodle.
 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Digital Divide?
 

It is a necessary shift in strategy when you enter the real world, like a traveling salesman:

  1. First have your foot behind the door (They begin to use Moodle: Art mastered this Art)
  2. Then they like it (support of bad habits: quizzes and teacher control)
  3. Then you can show them "easy nice things" like the glossary, filled by students
  4. Then you can try to seduce them to use more of these open student tools, like the Wiki, without loosing the overview as teacher (fear for change/ fear to loose control.)

So here the community enters the story: how can we exchange brilliant educational ideas about using Moodle in a free eductional way: contests? earning a golden hat and eternal fame? Best practices/Birds of the same feather on conferences?  


As I said earlier: for me Moodle became the choice over aTutor and Claroline, because I can use EVEN THE CURRENT VERSION during the complete journey from traditional classrooms in 2004 to the final dream of learning landscapes in.. in.. 2008?,  where teachers and students work together.  
(I even cannot imagine what I can do with all the things that have to come.. Please wait with version 2.0 until 2005, I can hardly handle version 1.3 while 1.4 is exploding. Joking, joking )

So Martin, many many thanks for this elegant tool. Yes elegant or KISS is for me the keyword.


P.S. I keep some new wishes: more knowledge construction tools for students, and.. and.. more.. wink

 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide?
Group Documentation writers
I can't speak in an informed way about higher education or schools in other places, but I know in my neck of the woods, many teachers feel that they MUST drill their students because of the emphasis placed on high-stakes testing.

If you have, for example, a low-ability group of middle-school students who MUST pass an end-of-year multiple-choice test, then you tend to create lots of quizzes with lots of feedback to drill them for that test. The students, the teacher, the school are all judged by the pass-rate on the test, so that's what you prepare for.

In my little town, for example, there is at least one article in the newspaper each week about how our students' test scores compare to the national and state scores, how the current scores compare with last year's scores, how this program or that program is going to help improve scores, how this or that super-teacher's students got great scores, etc.

I cannot complain too much about this, though, because my own reputation as a teacher was built on my students' outstandng scores on such tests.

This sounds like an excuse, but it's an explanation of why some teachers seem to use Moodle more for "drill and kill" than anything else. It may not be true of other places, of course. And other teachers may see the issue very differently. But I doubt that I can communicate to you how much emphasis is currently being placed on these tests.

And it is getting worse.

I blame President Bush, but I blame him for everything, so take that with a grain of salt.

-- Art
 
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Picture of Floyd Collins
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Art,
You are 100% correct in your post. But for one thing, blame President Bush, Sr not Jr for it was his policies that created the no child left behind act and it was his policies that created the testing of schools abilities to teach as well as the students achievements in learning. And yes it is getting worse and worse, when school funding is based on test scores you know we have reached the panicle in responsibilities as an educator.

 
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Picture of Joyce Smith
Re: Digital Divide? Scores ?
 
Dear Art,
Understand totally where you are coming from! I feel great when I get an H.D.! (only when I really put in the effort mind you !)
But, are 'scores' not a bit like playing football ?
Are not 'quizzes, multiple choice , t/f questions , or indeed an essay question , only the 'product' of the questioner ?
Why, oh, why, do we still have this best 'score' mentality ?
Passing exams , as any undergraduate knows(or should know) is a technique , not always anything to do with knowing your subject , but having the ability to 'regurgitate mentally of course' the salient points from the 'text' topic , with correct referencing!
Is it not perhaps preferable to have lively questioning outside of the rigid text materal to actually progress knowledge ? How can one 'score' that ??
Joyce smile
 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide? Scores ?
Group Documentation writers
Joyce,

Of course, you are correct. And, in fact, I do not know many teachers who buy into this mentality. But here is just one small example of how far this is going where I live...

In my district, based upon test scores, there are several elementary schools that have been officially annointed as "excellent," while a few others have been judged to be "deficient." Students are being moved from the so-called deficient schools to the so-called excellent ones (with parental consent), and many, many thousands of dollars are being poured into the deficient schools to help them become excellent. Principals' jobs are in danger. Teachers' careers are in flux. Communities in all the impacted areas are in an uproar. I do not knwo if you have this expression where you live, but here we say that the sh** has hit the fan.

This is happening all over our state.

And there is more. The governor has sent a bill to the legislature that would enable the parents of students at the deficient schools to send their children to private and religious schools and take their taxpayer money with them.

And it goes on and on. And this is a result of low test scores.

Trust me, most teachers around here will work pretty hard to keep their scores up. And if that means drilling, so be it. Heck, if that meant coming to work in a suit of armor and having jousting tournaments in the halls, they would do that, too.

-- Art

 
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Picture of Mary Kaplan
Re: Digital Divide? Scores ?
 

I am sure some of you think Art is exaggerating. I assure you he is not. We are a fairly score-driven people.

I keep thinking I will get the basic stuff done that will get these kids to the point where they will score well and then I will be able to do all the wonderful things that make language learning so much fun! I didn't really get there enough this year.

Maybe during this coming year...

--Mary

 
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Picture of Joyce Smith
Re: Digital Divide? Is it about technology ,or learning ?
 
Martin, I absolutley agree with you !!
Somewhere in the scheme of things , the 'plot seems to have been lost' in so many educational institutions!IMHO
"Give me video' give me audio' gimme, gimme ,gimme'!
Always, from a ‘teachers’ viewpoint !
What about the guys that want to learn ??
Any one of us could sit on a rock in a desert anywhere in the world, and tell a story to a child , that child would look up to us in wonder, listening, waiting for the conclusion of the story .Its great when that child ask a question in the middle of the ‘story’ though ! Why, because you know that child is listening?
Myabe not the best analogy for on-line learning , but ?

I passionately believe it’s the knowledge and skills that our ‘students’ (whatever we call them) gain from their experience , does that come from better functions in our software, (ok that makes the delivery and management easier) or, does it come from , as Martin reminds us, the contructivist philosophy , as opposed to the didactic philosophy of teaching ? (correct me if I am wrong here guys ) but, didactic to me means , do as I say , whereas, contructivist means , lets work together to grow our knowledge together, I learn from you, you learn from me, and together we both know a great deal more collectively than we did as individuals.
The ‘software ‘ is only a ‘tool’ to achieve those goals, still needs those human persons ,as teacher and student ,to interact and achieve the best possible outcome for the learner ( who is remember both teacher and student )

Apologies if I appear to be a little ‘stronger’ in my opinions than is my usual tenor of postings , but I feel very strongly that too much emphasis is being placed on the whiz bang ‘tech’ things , when we , as ‘teachers’ should be concentrating on using this great tool we have, ‘Moodle’ , to engage , inform, collaborate, and learn, from and with our students.
JOyce smile
 
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Me and Ray
Re: Digital Divide?
 

I would like to send any doubters my power point presentation for tomorrows lectures. My lectures are, as lectures go, thrilling, but not as thrilling, for many, as the real non-analysed life-thing.

Along came Moodle: for me a great way to subcontract the non-socially-constructive part of teaching--the draconian, forceful parts of education-- to a machine. The socially constructive parts of education I enjoy doing myself. 

Are you sure that there are so many people here that are trying to "replicate their old ways of doing things" with Moodle quizzes and resources?

It seems to me that Moodle is providing a great vector for reducing my social constructivist bent and outsourcing the **NEW** non-socially constructive parts.

Perhaps there are lots of teachers like me on this forum?  Are you there folks?
The advantages of LMS are that they provide Systematic Learning *Management*.

So, while I have no doubt that there are some participants that are wanting to replicate their "old ways of doing things," it seems to me that there are may also a great many other people that are here because they are looking for a NSC (non-socially constructive) addition to their toolbox of SC methods. 

Isn't that also a laudable thing to want to do?

Tim
(Bleeding-heart-social-constructivist)

 
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Picture of Mary Kaplan
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Tim,

Thanks for explaining for us part of what we love about moodle. Drilling is odious, but necessary in language learning. I will never forget the day one of my colleagues spoke about sitting on a curb and writing out verbs 25 times each to learn them. We have all been there, and not joyfully. I am currently using moodle to give my students a more fun way to accomplish these difficult, boring rote tasks, because I am not too fond of them myself!

I had been feeling guilty about not expanding my horizons in moodle, and I will, in time. But I must say, that what moodle so far has done for me is give me a chance to breathe a bit in class, knowing that the practice activities are available for all who care to use them. And obviously they are, given my excellent results this year! Class time is much less practice oriented, and more open-ended, and a lot more fun!

Martin, give us some time--we've only been moodling in my class for 6 months! We promise, we'll get there! But even the drill is a precious gift. We don't have to hate that part of our jobs now! We have given it to "the machine". And he/she's really good at it!

--Mary

 
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Me and Ray
Re: Digital Divide?
 

More than a year late, but yes, Mary Kaplan, I agree with your post above entirely. (I came accross your reply because I was searching for something else).

Moodle gives us the opportunity to make our classes socially constructive.
The socially constructive bit is the most enjoyable, effective and thus rewarding part of education, both for the educator and the educated.

But the non-socially constructive part has a place.

I agree with the following entirely.

But even the drill is a precious gift. We don't have to hate that part of our jobs now! We have given it to "the machine". And he/she's really good at it!

The problem is, I think, that in an open source project, it is unlikely that one is going to find programmers that wish to undertake, to be the outsourcer of, the 'nasty bit of education.'  Who wants to stay up late pawing over code to that is designed to force students to drill? No fun at all. Such a programmer would be perhaps
0) A sadist! (Though it may appear that way, I don't think that is me).
1) Paid to do what they are doing, and paid well (Hence we need to think of ways of getting educators to group together and pay)
2) An educator themselves and thus able to enjoy the classroom too (Hence, the more of us educators that can code the better)
3) Part of a team of educators and programmers and thus able to participate in the whole process. I think that perhaps Gustav and his team are an example of this sort of symbiosis, and I am especially grateful for their work.

Cheers,

Tim

 
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Picture of Samuel Cochran
Re: Digital Divide?
 
Actually I am a programmer who would be more than willing.

I became a programmer at the age of 7. Computers fascinate me as I have a very exploratory and logical mind. I recently graduated from high school (last year) and from Year 9 to Year 12 (Australian system) I wanted to rewrite the school's internet/intranet face. It was unbelievingly frustrating to see ineffective use of what could be an invaluable tool. I even rewrote it once on my home system just to show them what could be done. They said "That's nice" gave me a pat on the head and told me no.

And people wonder why IT people dislike managment. There were a few issues with my being a student, yes, but they wouldn't even consider outsourcing.

Meanwhile, because of my experience I now want to be part of a project that will make that tool that will be used. Perhaps I'll even revisit my school and get them to adopt Moodle. I know lots of people [staff members] at the school still (I was almost half-staff half-student at my school, and even got employed there several times for short periods).

Admittedly I have applied for a job here in Perth to work with Martin on Moodle, but I've been working with one of those staff members who has since left the college to develop this sort of thing, and I probably would have revisited it down the track anyway.

So there's another situation for you.
 
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Picture of David Le Blanc
Re: Digital Divide?
 
Paul,

I would be interested in learning more about your experiences with the eLearning centres  for teachers that you mentioned in your local context. Here in British Columbia, there are a few programs starting up for this purpose but there isn't an eLearning Centre that I am aware of. At Simon Fraser University where I attend they have had a Summer Institute for the past few years that attracts a worldwide audience.
 
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Picture of Ondrej Masek
Re: Digital Divide?
 
Whenever such a discussion on technology appears my father tells me the story of coloured TV broadcasting and the discussion we had about it in Czech Rep. (I heard it lots of times and now eve You won't spared) There was an idea of starting broadcasting in colour, but some said: "You want to broadcast in colour, yet there is no one who has a colour TV". The others said: "Well, they will not buy one, until there will be something in colour to watch."

This is exactly the same - at least here. There are lots of types of cheap and free internet access. And you do not need to have it at home. You can access free internet in schools/libraries - some libraries even gained more readers since they have been coming in first just for the internet. There has also been an interesting side effect - it keeps children off the streets - which probably is the highest priority.
 
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Art Lader
Re: Digital Divide or Bad Attitude
Group Documentation writers
The color TV story is a good one, Ondrej. It seems that people intuitively resist change. And it's surely wise not to embrace every new idea; a little healthy skepticism is probably a good thing.

But I think that I often run into what amounts to a bad attitude, plain and simple. I have come to the conclusion that there are many wonderful people in the world, but there are also a lot of people who spend their lives finding fault and criticizing, but offering no ideas of their own, contributing nothing but doom and gloom.

My attitude is simple: Thank God for the dreamers and innovators and do-ers. The more time I spend with them, the happier I am and the more I accomplish and the more O have to offer my students, my colleagues, my family and my community.

The nay-sayers are welcome to come over to our side when they feel like it. There is plenty of optimism and creative energy to go around.

(Okay, I am a little testy today, I admit it. )

-- Art
 
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Picture of Amy MacDonald
Re: Digital Divide?
 

Hi Art.  This is Amy MacDonald, we met at the Moodle Moot a few weeks back at GDA.  I recently posted my concerns about lack of computer access and someone sent me this thread that you started.

One way I try to bridge the gap among the kids who do not have computer access at home is to expand on my due dates/deadlines for various things.  I might give an extra few days for a homework assignment, allowing kids to get to our Moodle site at the library during lunch, breaks etc.

 
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