Saturday, May 18, 2013

Monday Public Meetings on Digital Divide at West Potomac

The economic inequality that currently exists between groups in terms of access to, use of and knowledge of information and communication technology is often referred to as The Digital Divide.

Last year, I was disturbed to learn that Fairfax County Public Schools had chosen to roll out "electronic textbooks" without ensuring that every child had the ability to use them.  I first discovered they were being used when my children were at home using them.

"Electronic textbooks" are a new tool in education.  They are also actually more than just books.  They are actually online learning system that have homework problems with real time corrections.  They have extra help videos and extra homework problems.

The only problem is that in order to use them you must have both a computer and a broadband connection.  From knocking doors on U.S. 1, I am very aware that many of the 44th District's residents do not have a computer or enough computers and broadband connections due to income restraints. 

I strongly believe that no public school should use a tool that is not equally available to all children in the system, and that family income should not be a barrier to any child's learning potential.

While researching this process, I discovered that both Henrico County Public Schools and Albemarle County Public Schools provide computers to every child in their system from 7th grade and up.  Also, Cox Communications has just launched a program called "Internet Essentials" that provides $10/mo. broadband and $150 refurbished laptops to families that qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.  However, few people know it exists yet.  More information is here:

Therefore, I introduced legislation prohibiting any school system from using an "electronic textbook" program unless they can show every child in their system has a computer in their home and a broadband connection. 

My legislation was referred to the Virginia Broadband Advisory Council and the Joint Commission on Technology and Science where it is currently being studied.

However, Fairfax County has begun public hearings to take information as to how they can best close The Digital Divide in Fairfax County.  The first meeting in Mt. Vernon:

FCPS Digital Learning Public Hearing
Monday, May 20, 2013
West Potomac High School
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
If you cannot attend, you can provide input here:

1 comment:

  1. Sponsor legislation that makes it imperative to provide EQUAL non-electronic materials.

    I already KNOW the electronic textbook is more than that. Therefore, "equal" would be more than a paper textbook.

    Define it. Identify it. Educate Virginians what it means, and why your position is right (it is).