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RE: [xmca] Thoughts on Digital Technologies and Poverty

So, what does this say about New Literacy Studies, which are driven by the premise that digital multimodality is the new and future wave that we must follow?
I've come to regard myself as an "old literacies" researcher because I'm more interested in hands-on literacies including painting, dance, etc. accomplished without a digital component. But that emphasis leaves me in the dust of the new wave of digital literacy pioneers.

From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of mike cole
Sent: Friday, December 31, 2010 11:55 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity
Cc: Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition Internal List
Subject: [xmca] Thoughts on Digital Technologies and Poverty

A quiet evening in a warm dry home sure is a nice place from which to look
forward, backward, and around on a New Year's eve. For a variety of reasons,
I wrote down the following thoughts. Bail at any time!  :-)

Thoughts About Digital Technology and Poverty

The other day I spoke with a friend, the son of a former college, who is now
a professor in a technologically sophisticated field at a major American
university. We were talking about an iphone application related to
education. He thought that the iphone could revolutionize education,
"pushing knowledge out to everyone." I commented that the young people in
the housing project where I work did not generally own i-phones. Sure some
of them texted and all coveted mp3 players, but on the cheapest versions of
the requisite technologies. My friend dismissed my concerns about reliance
on educational practices that excluded a large part of the population on the
basis of class, and hence, ethnicity. It was a new idea for him. Can't
afford an iphone? Really?

The following morning I met a colleague who volunteers to work with staff at
the housing project to provide additional resources for the families who
live there. Christmas is a special time for charities. All is good cheer.
The kids get to "shop with a cop" and the parents get some help as well. My
colleague and a few co-workers organize "Secret Santas" from our university,
arranging for those of us with money to provide Christmas presents for
"needy families." Kind of like the NY Times holiday fund raising drive.

A few days before Christmas, the Santa's helpers delivered the goods: food,
clothing, bedding, toys for the kids, Avon kits for the mom's. Something for
everyone. At the apartment where I was a Secret Santa (having comfortably
donated my money and presents in place of my time and presence) things did
not go as planned. Santa's helpers knew that the family wanted a bed for two
of the children. So they planned to deliver a bunkbed. But when they
arrived, they found that there was no furniture in the house at all, except
two sofas, taken out of the dumpster by other tenants who had been forced to
leave the project because they could no longer afford to pay the subsidized

The dad was home, and so was his almost-grown son. They are both looking for
work. They are attending classes at a local job-training center. So far, no
luck.  They could still pay the rent on the apartment. And the kids could
get by on the meals they could provide. But when the unemployment checks
stop coming, as they soon will, it seems like they may be the next tenants
to move out. Out to where? God only knows.

"You know," my colleague mused after she and her coworkers had recruited
more Santas Helpers to round up the needed furniture and food, "those people
really have it hard. They are looking for work, but there is no work
anywhere in that neighborhood, not for miles around. And they don't have
cars. Even if they find a job, how will they get there in a town like this?
They are very discouraged. I would be too. I sure feel lucky to have a
steady job here."

When I arrived home with this story, my wife, shook her head and replied,
"You don't know even where to begin."

I started to think about the impact of new severe cuts in family services
that California is facing and the disastrous level of unemployment which is
unlikely to come down any time soon for these people. Then the conversation
with my high tech professorial friend came to mind. No, you don't know where
to beign, I replied, But wherever you start, I don't think it should be with
the educational potential of i-phones.
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