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NY Times Promotes Lies About African Americans And Technology

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I was in the middle of my Sunday ritual of reading the tech sections of various publications when I came across a story on the New York Times website that discussed the level of effectiveness of classroom software as a means to improve leaning opportunities for youth across the company.

I agree that this topic needs to be discussed but it needs to be discussed from a viewpoint that takes the children’s needs into effect instead of just looking at the issue based on dollars and cents and a skewed perspective on percentages. If you read this article, you would believe that these software programs offer moderate improvement at best, and are not cost efficient in most cases. The point that this article does not discuss is that these programs are looking to fill the gap of the lack of skill reinforcement that is not available in most public schools, and how most of those schools are mostly comprised of people of color. Articles like this that just lay out data points in a casual way do more to continue people’s misconceptions about how technology can improve and supplement learning to the benefit of students, especially students in areas with low resources. What was even more disturbing than the myopic approach the writer used to communicate issues, were the images that were used.

When I was first presented with the article this was the image I was presented with:

Now the first question I ask is what does this image convey to you? Some of you would say confusion, lack of understanding or an overall inability to utilize and understand the technology. Now imagine what the image would convey to some teenage African Americans who are on the fence about whether to take the leap to become computer literate. The image is a grave contrast to the image I found that they used on an earlier story.

What’s even more interesting is the story that image was used for painted a more dire picture that the article I found. Its title was “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores,” but imagery of these children ( not people of color) is upbeat and full of promise. Why the difference? We could spend months trying to get an explanation but regardless of that reason the result is no less damaging.What the writers of these pieces may or may not realize is that even though these  programs may not have ideal results, they are doing some things that are core to solving some key issues that contribute to the digital divide.

These programs help students develop a real comfort level with using computers and the internet. By using the software the kids develop  an understanding the repetitive learning is key to skill development.  This will also give the students the urge to want to have computer and internet access at home, which is key to adoption.

What most people don’t realize is that the biggest roadblock in closing the digital divide is not cost but digital literacy. Many African Americans and Hispanics see digital literacy as an impossible goal for them mainly because they don’t see the value in it for them. Stories and images like these only help to continue to discourage people against making the effort to adopt technology. We need more examples of minorities utilizing and succeeding with technology to change the perception that technology is not “for us”  Let me know what you think of how the two images were used below in the comments .

You can follow Navarrow Wright on twitter @navarrowwright

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