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Digital Inequality and Presenting Through VoiceThread

February 28, 2012

These past three weeks involved our first major group project in the MET program.

We initially spent time reviewing readings about the topic of Digital Inequality.  While some of the statistics were older than I would have liked to use, I really appreciated reading through the DiMaggio article, and feel that it is a foundational article in the issues of digital divide and digital inequality.

The digital divide was originally understood to be a bright divide between the haves and have nots. It depended entirely upon whether an individual had technology and access to the internet or not. However, this understanding has evolved to become a more nuanced concept of digital inequality. It involves five factors of equipment, autonomy, social support, skills, and purpose. Rather than a clear bifurcated divide, these factors must be combined and considered when determining where an individual falls on this spectrum.

I was struck in the readings by how libraries and librarians can help mitigate many effects of digital inequality.  Indeed, most public libraries already provide public computers with access to the internet, while librarians offer information literacy skills training to help learners search, access, understand and evaluate information. Unfortunately, these skills and resources were not mentioned in many of the digital inequality readings.  The outdated stereotype of librarians seem to hinder societal and IT understandings of what librarians can offer.  I discuss this in more detail in an entry on my personal blog.

I enjoyed the group project of ranking the seven options provided in our digital inequality scenario.  After evaluating each option, we proposed an alternate solution based on combining the strengths of many of the separate options with community involvement.

One of my concerns with an online degree program was group projects, but my concerns were rendered moot. Our group worked well together and created a very impressive presentation.  We first ranked the seven options through a spreadsheet on Google Docs.  One member of our group then ran a formula that sorted the options based on the rankings; the sort order would change if we changed our individual rank.  I had never seen this before, and I used MSExcel all the time in my work for budgets and analysis reports.  I will have to research this feature further. I have used Google Docs with my workstudy students for various projects, and I remained very impressed with the collaborative features.

We then moved our presentation to VoiceThread.  I was initially skeptical of this software program because it did not feel very intuitive when reviewing the video tutorials. However, once I figured it out for myself, I saw the potential for group collaboration and presentations.  I particularly liked the flexibility in types of comments allowed.  Depending on the slides, we offered comments through webcam, audio only, or text.  I also enjoyed seeing another members slide which was annotated during his narration. I have already discussed this tool with our Faculty Services, and I may co-present about this program with a member of our IT staff.

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