February 3, 2015 by nsakas1
This weeks readings cover a wide variety of topics relating to both use of the web for historical purposes as well as issues relating to copyright. The readings that peaked my interest the most came from the Rosenzweig, Clio Wired text. The chapters titles, Rewiring the History and Social Studies Classroom, Should Historical Scholarship Be Free, and Brave New World or Blind Alley all touched on the subject of access to online resources. What I took from these readings was that there is certainly an array of possibilities the web offers, however if you have no access to these resources they have no use or benefit.
Some people may deny that inequalities still exist in our society. Taking a closer look at our education system would quickly work to dispel those myths. It is easy to see the disparities by looking at public schools in more affluent areas compared to those in impoverished neighborhoods. For students in poorly funded public schools providing safe classroom space, quality educators, and textbooks are challenging enough much less providing students with internet access. However, schools in the affluent areas are more than likely able to provide well funded computer labs. Rosezweig makes this argument in his chapter entitled Brave New World or Blind Alley. On page 165 he discusses the benefits of the web as being able to connect students in Florida with those in Buenos Aires. He also says, ” To be sure, a private high school in a wealthy suburb such as Grosse Pointe, Michigan, is much more likely than a public high school in south Chicago to have functioning Internet access and computers capable of displaying Web pages.” Rosenzweig offers a precaution for the inequalities by stating, “We need to remain vigilant lest the Web reinforce the gap between information haves and have-nots.”
Starting on page 96 RosenZweig discusses the advantages of using technology in the history classroom. Rather than relying on memorization and regurgitation, which has proven ineffective, Rosenzweig advocates for learning through online resources. This returns us to the problem of access. If online resources are truly the benefit Rosezweig advocates for, than those who do not have access do not achieve an equal educational opportunity.
Rosenzweig makes this debate slightly messier when he raises the question in his chapter Should Historical Scholarship Be Free. Most of us here at Georgia State University do not have to confront this issue very much in that our institution provides a plethora of online databases for our use as student.While these sources are not free, these databases are available through our tuition at the University. Some Universities do not provide these valuable databases that many of us have and continue to use in our research. This is where the question becomes relevant. Should historical scholarship be free, thereby giving those who do not have access the same opportunities as other researchers? The other side of the coin, according to Rosenzweig, is that if these resources are available for free, than many of these resources would loose the funding that allows them to stay in business. This issue is difficult to provide a clear cut answer to, and I certainly do not claim to have one of my own.
So is there a solution for digital haves and have-nots? Rosenzweig highlights a practice where fees for online databases are waved for community colleges in high risk areas so that student have the same research opportunities as larger institutions. Computer donations and fund raising have helped in some areas. However, inequalities exist in our society, and regardless of how the internet is marketed as a medium for connecting all people, those without access to computers. will continue to fall by the wayside, while the more affluent will continue to reap the benefits of the digital age. Some of you might have seen this commercial during the super bowl, but it made me reflect on these readings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cw4jmKQs0E