For 25 years IDRA has been working with schools to provide all children the best education possible. This effort has led the organization to research alternative and best pedagogical practices that ensure all children are included in the education process. IDRA has also investigated fundamental content areas that constitute the basis for an education that aligns what children are learning in the classroom with the reality of the world. It is in this way that IDRA has come to regard technology as a fundamental aspect of any educational curriculum that strives to prepare children for the great challenges of the 21st century.
Many schools have made significant progress in responding to the increasing needs of the technological revolution. They have acquired new equipment – televisions, VCRs, satellite dishes and computers. Some have provided training to their teachers. The most advanced have even developed curricular activities to integrate these technological tools into the regular curriculum.
IDRA’s concern is that this continuum of preparedness is predictably defined through specific types of schools. That is, the wealthier, the more urban, the more ethnically Anglo a school’s population, the more likely it will be advanced technologically. Concerns about this technological divide have surfaced with numbing regularity from different quarters, including the media. (See for example, “Internet Contains a Racial Divide on Access and Use, Study Shows,” published on April 4, 1998, in the Wall Street Journal.)
IDRA’s vision is that all schools receive the resources they need to prepare all their children. These resources include equipment and access to resources such as the Internet, teacher training and school reforms that allow the development and implementation of curricula that align school teaching and behavior with individual and societal needs. It is natural that some schools will fare better than others regardless. But such performance should not correlate with level of wealth, geographic location, or ethnic or gender distribution. The existence of such correlation reflects the intrinsic injustice in the current education systems; such correlation is what makes IDRA necessary.
Throughout its 25 years, IDRA has embarked on many projects to ameliorate the technological divide between rich and poor, mainstream and minority, boys and girls. Below are four examples.
- In the Engineering, Science and Math Increases Job Aspirations project, IDRA demonstrated how schools can change their pedagogy to empower girls with the understanding that they too are endowed with the capacity to pursue technological-driven careers, which have heavy emphasis in mathematics, science and engineering.
- Through the IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, low-income, minority students at risk of dropping out of school connect through video conferences with similar students across the country and across the world to share experiences, while also improving their literacy level and self-esteem (see article Students Meet Peers Via Video Conference). This program creates an environment in schools that re-integrates these students and gives them glimpses of possibilities for themselves.
- Through IDRA training and ongoing assistance, teams of educators have hands-on opportunities to access educational resources via the Internet. For example, as part of the STAR Center, IDRA has crated the Excellence and Equity through Technology Network (EETNet) to help educators bring the wonders of technology – the Internet in particular – into the classroom. IDRA has also facilitated forums for educators and parents through statewide interactive video conferences.
- Through the San Antonio Literacy Network (SALNET), IDRA helped increase literacy levels among low-income adults with the use of computer technology.
IDRA is committed to the goal that every child in the United States will have equal access to the educational experiences mediated by technology and that every school will promote the use of technology to further the social, emotional and academic growth of every child.
Comments and questions may be sent to IDRA via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©1998, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]