Sample Memorandum

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Sample Memorandum

  1. 1. Computown Public School System Memo To: Members of the Computown School Board From: Tony Presley CC: Public School Administrators Date: 24-Feb-2009 Re: Recommendations for Bridging the Digital Divide A Recommendation for Bridging the Digital Divide Within the Computown Public School System Defining and exploring the effects of the “Digital Divide” In one sense, the “digital divide” (later here-in referred to as “the divide”) can be summarized as the gap existing between those that have access to technology based resources such as computers and internet service. Furthermore, our summary of the divide may include the ability to utilize such technology based resources and the efforts made (or not made) to increase this ability. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that 98 percent of schools and 77 percent of instructional rooms have computers and internet access. However, many classrooms and important educational products are not connected, making these educators deprived of excellent internet-based resources (International Society for Technology in Education, 2006). As you can see from Table 1 on the following page, the divide is quite real and perhaps larger than you may have expected. In “bridging” this divide, we must first recognize the need and then labor to find means of overcoming the division between those who are “in the know” in regards to technology and its applications and those who are not. With this perspective and approach we can overcome the horrible effects of the divide, namely in our case students being left behind and in general societal disadvantages as we proceed into the technological age. “Bridging” the Divide Following are three recommendations I would like to respectively propose to the school board members in an effort to overcome the divide within our very own school district. First I would recommend a focus on building an adequate infrastructure of hardware and networking (or internet connecting) systems as kind of a foundation in which to build our improvements 1
  2. 2. upon. There are a variety of organizations that promote either free or inexpensive methods of building such an infrastructure. Table 1 (Horrigan, 2007) CATEGORY PERCENTAGE Percentage of Americans who are deep users of the participatory Web and mobile 8 applications Percentage of Americans who are heavy, pragmatic tech adopters – they use gadgets 23 to keep up with social networks or be productive at work Americans who rely on mobile devices for voice, texting, or entertainment 10 Amount who use information gadgets, but find it a hassle 10 Percentage of Americans who only occasionally use modern gadgetry and many others 49 bristle at electronic connectivity Table 1 above shows a snapshot representation of the Digital Divide existing in America. “Bridging” the Divide (cont’d)” The Digital Equity Toolkit is a most useful resource that compiles a listing of these resources. Below is a partial listing from the Toolkit (International Society for Technology in Education, 2006). Among the free or inexpensive hardware resources are …  The Digital Equity Service Center of The National Institute for Community Innovations: This non-profit offers deeply discounted computers, peripherals and accessories for low-income students and their families and educators. They also offer instructional and professional development resources. Check them out at www.digitalequity.org.  The Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) Program provides Microsoft Windows Operating Systems to PC refurbishers for the purpose of getting re- vitalized PCs into the classrooms. This process also helps in waste reduction as the computers are placed back into useful circulation. This program can be investigated at www.techsoup.org/mar/.  Computers for Learning is a governmental program that places excess computers and equipment into schools and non-profits after they have shown need. Please see http://www.computers.fed.gov/school/user.asp for more information. In regards to free or low cost internet accessibility the Toolkit provides a fair amount of detail on the federal E-Rate program. The basic methodology consists of disadvantaged schools  Page 2
  3. 3. and/or libraries showing need through an application process and, upon approval, accepting bids from various contractors to upgrade their technology resources. The program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), a private, non- profit corporation and can save the school or library up to 90 percent on their internet and phone communication expenses. Even though this process can be somewhat tiresome, I have in the past personally seen the effectiveness of this program. The school I was associated with received federal funds to upgrade their main server, received fiber-optic communication lines, and a broad-band internet connection at a drastically reduced cost. The upgrades allowed many new educational opportunities for the students including online college course offerings for our high school and G.E.D. graduates. More information on this program can be found at http://www.fcc.gov/learnnet . My second recommendation for your consideration would be the taking advantage of all the free web-based educational resources and tools available on the internet in working towards our goal of bridging the divide that exists within our school system. These resources are numerous. Therefore, I will share only a few in order to establish a pattern of utilization that we can build upon throughout the bridging process. Again gleaning from the Digital Equity Toolkit, we can begin this phase by putting into place free e-mail account usage. Free e-mail accounts can be found from such providers as …  Yahoo! – mail.yahoo.com  Lycos – mail.lycos.com  Gmail (Google’s free e-mail communication offering) which is now utilized by many educational institutions at the higher-education level – mail.google.com .  Window’s Live - http://home.live.com  Inbox - http://www.inbox.com/ . The last two services above (Window’s Live & Inbox) are tools I have personally researched and utilized quite heavily. They have added functionality in that they additionally provide free online storage, image hosting, PC back-up, and collaboration functionality which can be most beneficial for students and faculty alike. Any of the services listed above should boost the efficiency of communications for our administrators, faculty, and students. Also within my second recommendation for bridging our divide, I would mention free web- hosting and online course management tools. Free web-hosting could facilitate online locations for instructors to post class discussion threads, assignment instructions, classroom policies and procedures, grading rubrics, etc. FreeWebspace.net located at http://www.freewebspace.net/ provides a listing of service providers. Classroom management tools are also an effective utilization of online technology for academic instructors in regards to tracking student progress and organizing assessments. Many of the classroom management sites also allow access to students and parents so they can monitor the student’s progress as well. Engrade is a service I can personally attest to for effectiveness. It is located at http://www.engrade.com/ and highly recommended. Before leaving this section of recommendations aimed at bridging our divide, I would just briefly mention two other free, web-based type tools that can provide additional classroom efficiency. One is online test generators that can be stored and retrieved for later use;  Page 3
  4. 4. another is resources that provide worksheets or worksheet generators for producing class exercises. With the two points of infrastructure development and free web-based tools utilization being made in regards to closing the gap of our divide, we now can proceed to my third recommendation (which seems to naturally follow) and that is enabling those within our school district (administrators, teachers, students, and even parents) to utilize and make effective this new technology to the end of providing a much broader spectrum of academic resources available to our students and system as a whole. We can not stop there, however, because once they are enabled, we must ensure that all involved in our technology goals continue to learn and develop by thorough systems of maintenance and continuing education. The structure I would suggest for this is one of hierarchy where select leaders within our district (mainly administrators and teachers) would be chosen to disciple others, passing the latest technology news and trends throughout our system. Surprisingly enough there are many agencies in existence which can provide education and support through e- mail correspondence, lists services, and discussion forums among other methods. One such service is The CoSN K-12 Open Technologies Leadership Initiative who helps educators and technologists with the planning, evaluation, decision-making, and implementation processes associated with adopting open technologies in K-12 education (http://www.k12opentech.org). Other organizations and agencies can be accessed to provide the most valuable support and mentoring needed in developing technology programs. In conclusion, I would like to summarize my proposed plan for bridging the gap of the “digital divide” currently existing in our district and encourage our body of school board members to most sincerely consider the doors of opportunity the adopting of such measures would open for our system as a whole including administrators, teachers, parents, and most importantly our students. As outlined, my first suggestion was to develop a solid infrastructure of hardware and networking devices including broad-band based internet accessibility. Secondly, we should utilize the low cost and even free web- based resources this infrastructure would open to us, and lastly put a system in place to enable the usefulness of such technologies including training, mentoring, continuing education and agency based support. I have developed a website intended to supplement the purposes of this proposal, providing additional information and links to utilize in our goal of implementing technology based resources. This site can be accessed here. I strongly encourage our school board members to view and explore these additional resources and take a most decisive stand in promoting and enabling our technological growth to the benefit of our students. Works Cited Horrigan, J. B. (2007, May 7). A Typology of Information and Communication for Users. Retrieved February 23, 2009, from PEW / Internet: http://www.pewinternet.org/ International Society for Technology in Education. (2006). Digital Equity Toolkit. Retrieved February 23, 2009, from International Society for Technology in Education: http://www.iste.org/  Page 4

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