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Thoughts on the "Middle Class" Digital Divide
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Thoughts on the "Middle Class" Digital Divide


Lightening Talk slides. Presentation given at the 2012 Online Northwest conference.

Lightening Talk slides. Presentation given at the 2012 Online Northwest conference.

Published in Education , Technology
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  • Introduction: “Hi, my name is Rick Stoddart. I am going to share some thoughts about what I am calling the middle class digital divide”.
  • This talk is inspired by 2011 L-NET Virtual Reference conference held in The Dalles. Jessamyn C. West as the keynote and wrote this great book called Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide. She inscribed my book: “To Rick – Thanks for helping close the digital divide”. This inspired me to think a little bit more deeply about how the digital divide may impact my life and my work.
  • So what is the digital divide…
  • “Middle class” (or secondary divide): Has access (or partial access), economic means (or partial means), knowledge (or partial understanding) to be able to interact with digital devices and resources. But may have trouble using and empowering their lives with them?
  • So what does the digital device landscape look like? In particular, I was interested in smart-phone and e-reading devices since that is focus of many library workshops and mobile efforts.Adult Smartphone ownership – 35% http://www.govtech.com/newsletters/Question-of-the-Day-for-071211.html?elq=e7b8145e553241d1acb90f678e0c3f4aAdult E-reader Ownership 38% (Pew) http://technolog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/22/10210671-holidays-push-tablets-e-readers-into-1-of-every-4-hands-now-pew
  • General numbers and depending on how you look at it pretty good. But if you break it down by device, age group, or even location you may get wildly different results. For example38% - http://technolog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/22/10210671-holidays-push-tablets-e-readers-into-1-of-every-4-hands-now-pewWhile 36 percent of people from families with household incomes greater than $75,000 have a mobile reading device, this figure drops to only 8 percent of those from low-income households.
  • http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/study-nearly-80-percent-of-college-students-cant-figure-out-qr-codes/81% out of a study of 500 college students at 24 campuses. http://www.archrival.com/ideas/13/qr-codes-go-to-college
  • Oregon Librarian Technology Ownership Survey: Source: Survey Monkey survey:
  • We have some economic means and access to technology. We are the middle class!
  • Money equals digital devices right? So let’s give everyone a raise. That way we all will have smartphones and ipads!
  • Who cares if you own a device. All these people with or without devices but we should be concerned if they can actually use them to empower themselves for better and more meaningful learning opportunities, better jobs, better quality of life.
  • An empowerment gap. We often just scrape the surface of what digital technology can offer. We need to work beyond this.
  • http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/study-nearly-80-percent-of-college-students-cant-figure-out-qr-codes/Example of now being able to demonstrate how to use technology.
  • That idea of knowing vs. doing. Demonstrating. Using something.
  • We see these mini-gaps every day in the library.
  • I am highlighting this, because this also a work-place skill. If you can’t figure out how to manipulate printing, what other digital skills might one be lacking.
  • One thing libraries can do is to assess their populations. Those technology questions we often don’t pay attention to, those are perhaps an indicator of the digital divide challenges your patrons are facing.
  • Often the solution is to throw a workshop at it. That is just one necessary piece of the puzzle. If we really want to make a difference in our patrons lives, perhaps we should roll up our sleeves.
  • Share what you know. Don’t sit on the knowledge you have gained today. Empower your fellow co-workers. Empower your patrons. Doing so will help build bridges to solve this “middle class” digital divide.


  • 2. What is the Digital Divide?• Economic• Usability• Empowerment – Jessamyn C. West
  • 3. Hidden Gaps(Smart-phones) Middle Class?
  • 4. Digital Device Ownership Under 40% of adults in the U.S. own Under a smartphone 40% or e-reader. Source: Pew
  • 5. Hidden Gaps (e-readers) Only 8% of 8% low-incomehouseholds own an e-reader. Source: Pew
  • 6. HiddenPeaks (smartphones) One study Found 81%of college students 81% own a smartphone. Source: Archrival
  • 7. From OLAListserv Survey Over 50% of Oregonlibrarians/library Over staff own a smartphone or e-reader. 50%
  • 8. Hidden Gaps(Smart-phones) we ARE the “Middle Class”
  • 9. Hidden Gaps Librarian Divide(Smart-phones) Solved! Give everyone a Raise!
  • 10. Ownership vs.Empowerment
  • 11. Hidden Gaps Our(Smart-phones) technology befuddles us
  • 12. College Students (QR Codes)One study found only 21% 21% of college students could figure out a QR code. Source: Archrival
  • 13. Hidden Gaps KNOW(Smart-phones) vs. DO
  • 14. Knowing vs. Doing• Email attachments• Print double sided• Print PowerPoint handouts• Recover logins or passwords• Understand conceptually how to evaluate information sources but fail to demonstrates in work
  • 15. Hidden Gaps Print(Smart-phones) double sided
  • 16. Assess your population Technology Reference Questions Directional
  • 17. Hidden Gaps(Smart-phones) Throw a workshop at the problem
  • 18. Roll up our sleeves• Advocate for, support, and integrate Technology standards• Support your school librarian• Practice critical info literacy in your community• Share your knowledge• Create opportunities for others
  • 19. Hidden Gaps(Smart-phones)What’s great about ONW 2012!