How to Overcome the “Vidgital” Divide

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By Alan D. Greenberg

The digital divide is slowly fading away.

For decades, policy makers have worked to mitigate the impact of the digital divide – the idea that access to the Internet and connected devices varies by income, socioeconomics, race, age, and geography.

U.S. federal government grants are getting broadband to more rural schools, and rural electric cooperatives building out Internet networks where traditional telecom providers have neglected users. Combined, the initiatives (along with the simple passage of time) are giving more and more individuals – and educational institutions – an equal shot at using the web to learn, shop and generally take part in digital society.

This is what happens with technology adoption: something comes along and then people have to figure out how to ensure that it gets deployed everywhere. It took a good while with indoor plumbing, electrification and telephony. We are now in the process of conquering broadband inequality. And while we can still point to pockets of society without Internet access, the digital divide in the United States is shrinking by the day.

So, now is as good as time as any to think about what happens in the world of education in a post-digital divide era. Schools have broadband, colleges and universities have a ton of broadband (on their own and by participating in the Internet2 high-speed consortium), and everybody in education is getting wired.

Now what? As the digital divides grows smaller in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to start thinking about the disparity in access to video tools and services – what I call the “Vidgital Divide.” In affluent institutions and school districts, we see video technology adoption trends that are poised once again to separate the “haves” from the “have nots.”

Among some school groups, for instance, YouTube and TeacherTube are continuing to grow in usage. Because of the sheer amount of user-generated content available, pricey content management solutions that feature single-sign on and policy management will grow in importance.  Schools know they need to provide safe and secure locations for educator and learner content, which means spending the bucks to provide managed tools.

Additionally, more schools are planning implementation of new types of video production and sharing tools in the classroom.   I’ve talked here before about learner-generated video – the idea that students might use their own video tools to contribute to the classroom experience.  These are early days, but it’s happening.

So what’s an individual or a school to do when it sees others moving faster and getting all the acclaim for incorporating video in creative ways that help education?  I suggest that you join the video party. Here are a few tips for individual instructors:

  • Figure out how to incorporate video into the classroom by flipping it: recording your classroom talks before the class, having students review those talks, then discussing in the classroom. Flipping the classroom has been around as a trend for a while, but many educators have yet to make the leap.
  • Think about your pedagogy.  Where can you draw upon video resources to better reinforce how you teach and what you wish to communicate to your learners.  And where can you incorporate learner-generated video into classroom tasks?
  • Look to your kids!  Enlist some video-savvy kids to kick around ideas for making video more prevalent in the classroom.
  • Talk to IT / Learning Technologies groups!  If there are any issues on your campus regarding sufficient bandwidth and how to get the tools into your learners’ hands, IT and Technology support are the ones to help you.  Odds are pretty good they would be happy to research which tools are most likely to be successful – and they’ll appreciate the forewarning that you plan on using the network for video delivery.

Administrators also must start paying attention to keeping pace in an era of video differentiation. Here are some issues that are relevant for those crafting an institution’s over-arching video strategy:

  • Consider what you can do to intelligently embrace video as a means of instruction and how to integrate it into the fabric of the institution.
  • Seek other applications, such as digital signage and campus communications. We are aware of many schools that now offer morning announcements via streaming video, and it’s increasingly common for sports events and even graduation ceremonies to be broadcast via streaming video.  When done right, digital signage and campus communications can make your school shine.
  • Promote video beyond the basic media classes.  Yes, those classes attract the future filmmakers of the world, those who really want to dig down into media.  But a policy that encourages video use across the board on a campus can go a long way to making visual literacy a core capability for your learners.  Being able to think critically about video and use it at the same time is a lot like what we all got as kids with reading and writing.  It’s a skill set, a language, a tool, and we know there is no going back on this type of content.

Visual literacy should be the goal – and if reached, the vidgital divide that exists today in various ways between one learner and another, one classroom and another, one campus and another – over time will dissipate.  This will be a multi-year process but is certain to occur.  Taking steps like these may help your campus become not just one of the cool schools – but a high performer.

Alan D. Greenberg is a Senior Analyst and Partner with Wainhouse Research and can be reached at


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