Although I have read this 75 pages white paper before, there is so much to absorb that I am reading it again, the Executive Summary just doesn't tell the whole story. This was published in 2006, over seven years ago, and in technology time that is about an eon ;) However, I am struck by the relevance to today's topics, how well they were predictive, but also I don't think even they could have seen the massive changes in the last few years. I do think that their observations on participatory culture have stood the test of time:
With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others
With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices
Where members believe that their contributions matter
Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created)
In answer to your question of "What could we promote?" We might consider some kind of game where out students come to the realization that not everyone has equal access to the technology, social media, gaming, etc., and what are the implications for our society and culture as a whole for the future.
In discussing that some would argue that these skills and social connections are all learned by people on their own, they do address that there is a need for policy and pedagogy interventions in several areas. (see page 3) I would argue that the most important is the one concerning:
“The Participatory Gap [emphasis mine] – The unequal access to opportunities, experiences, skills and knowledge that will prepare youths for full participation in the world of tomorrow ,“ [comment: Which arrived yesterday – we are like the Red Queen, we must run as fast as we can to stay in the same place]
That is what I am struggling with now, lack of funding, easy for the MacArthur Foundation to tell us we need that, even with assets of $5 billion, and awarding grants of $200 million a year, the "trickle down" theory doesn't reach all of us nor does it reach the millions that are not involved in an educational system that may benefit from those grants. My high school had a dropout rate of 50-70% back in the 1950s, and that same rate is still in effect in 2012.
We are leaving a large amount of our population behind at a time when this idea of participation is so critical whether you are in an educational system or not. I don't have an answer and, "Yes," I am stating the obvious.
When I was in private industry with my own company and in control, I could "Throw money at a problem, if it would solve it." Public education in the USA is not in a position to do that
I have students in my community college that don't have even a basic cell phone let alone a smart device, I am not saying I have to look to the "lowest technological denominator" to deliver content, but I can't provide the content delivery I want due to financial constraints. How would I grade a student who didn't have the finances to have say, a smart phone, with full internet access, to do geolocation or other Augmented Reality projects. Would I tell them they have to buy one to be competitive in the class, knowing they can't? What about meeting ADA requirements for someone who can't leave their home due to a medical condition and I want to have them travel? What about students with no car that I need to have go to a place with no bus service?
It would be nice if the college would buy a smart phone or iPad for all my students to have and pay the monthly charges for the semester and let them have the device after the semester is over with continuation of monthly charges for as long as the are enrolled at the college. Any leads on a grant to do that? And lets go for the whole enchilada as we say in the Southwest, lets add a rental car and full insurance, oh wait illegal immigrants are in my classes but they are denied a driver's license. I am preaching to the choir here, but someone has to mention the elephant in the room [ah I do love those sayings]
One of the most innovative projects I have ever seen on providing technology was about five years ago CU STEM project for American Indian Students who were sophomores in high school (my granddaughter qualified) were taken to CU for a week, housed, and trained and shown the benefits of the college and science and engineering departments. They built a computer from scratch for themselves in the lab, loaded it with software and then could take it home and keep it as long as they continued with "Cs" or better in those high school classes. That decreased the participatory gap for at least those 24 students.
I guess what I am saying is that sometimes I get discouraged because I am part of that "Participatory Gap" when it comes to the technology to deliver the content in the manner I would like, using all the technology and social media available. I think sometimes we seriously overestimate the amount of technology, access and technology skills our students have.
So lets look at that "elephant in the room" the digital divide, this does have some older statistics, but it does make the point. The Digital Divide
The Digital Divide is a subject I hold to be a very big problem in a day and age where very low cost/ no cost tech for students should be given. The school I started with this year is a small independent school with high access to technology at school and at home. In contrast, the school I taught at for the past 7 years was an independent urban middle school in Providence RI that served students from 3 urban districts. 97% of the school was considered low income (read free school lunch) the other 3% were on reduced priced lunch (although I never saw a student have to pay for lunch). Some students here and there had good cellphones (although none had a data plan but could use school wifi), once in awhile an iPod, ereader, or even more rarely a laptop. The school technology was a little better but not much even though we constantly fundraised and wrote grants. For example, an apple rep came to the school and stated that some of the computers we were still using were displayed in the apple museum. We were able to teach basic tech skills like Office programs, web literacy, and using Audacity (I obtained an excellent field recorder from a grant which was excellent for them to record interviews etc) and other free applications like 21classes for blogging. We did what we could with what we had. Things like Flipping a classroom, video production (the computers were way too slow and we only owned 1 video camera and 3 flip cameras which I obtained from grants), and any major tech projects were out of the question. So, if their highschools are in the same boat, will these students be prepared for the tech they encounter in college or the workforce?
On a side note: The state is switching over to the common core this coming year. The year after they will be testing using the PARCC which is totally online. Schools are now scrambling to make sure they have enough up to date tech for students to be able to take the test. There are 3 parts to the test a fall pretest, a midyear retest, and the final actual test. The first two parts are available for a fee which means that districts that can afford to can pretest their students to know where they are at the beginning of the year, see how they are doing before the final test, then take the final free test. Districts that cannot afford to do this are forced to take the final test with no knowledge of the students will do on the actual test beforehand. I find this to be another side of the low income effects of education.