Probably nobody denies that the use of technological tools such as blogs, portfolios, videos, social media groups, and even apps has allowed a more dynamic classroom experience. Evidently incorporating this methods permits a more flexible class interaction that can include the projection on any of these platforms but also the creation of a network and a sharing experience beyond the physical space and the time slot assigned for the course. As a Spanish and Latin American Literature and Culture instructor I have created course blogs that had proved to be successful in terms of having my class activities, texts, images and videos available on the web at all times. Moreover, the students have the opportunity to share, reflect and comment on the content we are working on. They can also add links to sites they think would expand the conversations and therefore add a different focus to any of the topics in discussion. As an example recently an experimental dance film from a Latina performer was the source of debate inside and outside of the classroom. The video posted in the course blog allowed my students and me but also family members and coworkers of the students to engage in discussions about what belongs to a Spanish class and what we consider culture and language. Can we think of performance as part of a language class? Are the daily activities perform in the film part of what is considered Latino culture? How we relate or not to experimental artistic manifestations? Are they alienating? And if so, why? Those were some questions the video arose.
Aside from the positive results a blog or an internet site can have as an educational mean, I think that as educators we should not think of the Internet as an open and always available source. We should not take for granted that the students have access to devices or the Internet. The formally call “digital divide” is very real. In our society there is a big gap between demographics and regions that have contact to online information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access. Usually race, ethnic and class categories play a big part on the divide. Directly and indirectly I have discussed this issues with my students at Medgar Evers College and LaGuardia Community College. Frequently they express their concerns over this subject and they have changed the way I think of the Internet as an educational tool.
Without a doubt closing the digital divide has to be a priority of our educational environments. It is a complex issue with no easy solutions that merits more discussion in higher Ed institutions and the media. We have to be loud and fight for truly open access. While I have continued to use to some extent these online resources, I believe that we should not require or base our evaluation in the interaction with these platforms. Blogs and whatnot are for now just helpful supplements. Hard copies of our class material and presence (in a complex sense) are needed and more so essential to the learning experience.