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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: December 13, 2004
Latest Update: December 13, 2004

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In about the sixth week of this last semester we got transform_dom, our Yahoo discussion group up and running. It was hectic, because we had to change for the lyris listserv program at the university because there was no way for us to archive messages with that, and we discovered that we needed to archive messages. Also Yahoo afforded us the opportunity to let the public access and read the messages. I left it so that only members could write messaes, but that was because I didn't have time to figure out how to change it. We'll talk about whether we want to let outsiders send messages when we finalize our report for this semester.

Meanwhile, transform_dom afforded us just what we needed. We were able to talk and plan gallery exhibits across classes, and to chart our progress, without having to set aside time we didn't have for meetings. We're an urban commuter college, where the traffic is horrendous, and meetings become more difficult with every passing day. Yahoo's technology permitted us to make technology work for us. Because we had only half a semester left, some problems had to be left for the end of semester discussions.

One of those problems was the disadvantage to people who do not have ready access to computers. I checked for numbers with hteAsk Jeeves search engine: What percentage of American household have computers? We make the unstated assumption that EVERYONE has some access to a computer. That fails to take into consideration many older people, poor people, people without major connections to modernization, and many people who use computers at work, but have no access at home. Access is expensive, not free and available to all. The full government report is at Americans in the Information Age Falling Through the Net.

Lenora Robinson made a special effort to come to my office two or three times. But we didn't get around to this until the projects for the exhibit were well under way, and each time something happened to prevent our time together with my school computer. Teachers like me will say impatiently, "Well, labs are available on campus." Well, yes. They are. If you know how to use them, don't mind all the ones that aren't working, know enough to work with the minimal instructions lab assistants offer, and don't mind the guy next to you downloading porn and playing games. If I'm honest, I'd have to admit, I'd hate having to rely on such settings, especially if I were no longer a teen ager, and felt like I didn't quite belong in this crowd. And it's sometimes hard to concentrate with all that going on.

I don't have a ready answer to this yet. But most of us do have telephones. All of us are on campus some of the time. Why couldn't we set up a work group in which there was a drop off place for those who needed to send a message to leave it, and volunteers could pick the message up and send it? And make copies of responses and take them back to the drop off spot? We've got 9 months before the next set of Transforming Dominant Discourse Courses. Let's see if we can work out something creative that doesn't blame the person who doesn't have expensive equipment available. Sometimes our expensive machines break down, too. Remember my e-mail problems all semester.

Technology is good. But technology is only the handmaiden to learning. We must never allow it to become a barrier to learning. I would appreciate if all of us could consider ways that we could actively help in alleviating this problem. I think having transpan up for those who are more comfortable speaking Spanish is one solution. But some of those who speak Spanish also lack access to the Internet. We need to plan for that. Some of us need to do what Renee Decter did, participate on Transpan, even if our Spanish isn't perfect. We'll learn. And it is a token of respect to those whose first language is Spanish.



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