January 29, 2013

Community Ambassador hopes to help eliminate the “Digital Divide”

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Imani Carr, Community Ambassador at Salt and Light in north Champaign

Imani Carr, Community Ambassador at Salt and Light in north Champaign

By Imani Carr/For CU-CitizenAccess.org

CU-CitizenAccess worked with faculty from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science to secure a grant from the state that offers skills training to help participants secure jobs. The money was used to place community ambassadors in public computer labs to offer computer literacy training and workshops to underserved populations from the Urbana Free Library, Salt and Light Food Pantry and Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park as well as a public computer lab in East St. Louis. 

We’ve asked our local computer ambassadors to blog about their experiences.

Hello!  My name is Imani Carr.  As a long-time resident of Champaign, Illinois, I have lived in several different neighborhoods (we moved a lot), and I have attended Garden Hills Elementary, Edison Junior High, and Centennial and Central high schools.  In the battle between Central and Centennial, I have to say my allegiance has been split in times past, but as a graduate of Central, I bleed maroon and grey.  Go Maroons!!  Now, as a wife and mother of four, I have children who attend school in the Unit 4 school district (Garden Hills and Franklin), and my 8th grader, who loves blue and white, is pushing for Centennial.  I have a feeling my allegiance is going to again be tested.  Does anyone feel sorry for me?

School rivalries aside, I recently attended a parent/teacher conference for my 8th grader, and while there, I was also able to observe technology tools available to students in the classroom.  Okay, so things like film projectors, T.V.s, computers, calculators and the sort are not altogether foreign, but how many of you know what an interactive whiteboard is?  How about a digital projector or hand-held student response system?  Confused yet?  Like many other parents, I was intrigued; however, there were some who were confused.  Since I am studying to be an Elementary School teacher, none of what I saw was a surprise to me, but that was not the case for all.

For many, the experience opened their eyes to how far we have come with regards to technology in the classroom and overall, but for me, there was a realization of the significant separation between those who do and do not know how to use technology; those who are and are not intimidated by technology; and of those who have and do not have consistent access to it.  Is anyone else as concerned as I that this inequality, better known as the “digital divide”, could potentially have a negative impact within our community and beyond?  Perhaps it is due to the fact there is little understanding of how technology is a tool meant to enhance life, not detract from it.  Thankfully, this is something that can be changed.  There are resources available that can help lessen this divide and, with a concerted effort from people like you and me, perhaps eliminate it altogether.  Interested yet?

Along with two other wonderful ladies, I was recently named one of the Community Ambassadors in the Champaign-Urbana area. I’m working at Salt and Light in north Champaign. Our purpose?  To provide free computer lab services at labs in the area where we can work hand-in-hand with the community to do just what I mentioned above – lessen and eventually help eliminate that “digital divide”. We will be sharing with you our experiences on a regular basis and would love to hear from you as well.  Join us on our blog and see what difference we can make!