The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recognizes libraries as places where services and technology are available to all. To that end, they have put money into libraries in both America and developing countries around the world. One of the specific targets they chose was Chile. In the early part of the 2000s, the Gates provided nearly ten million dollars to buttress the Chilean BiblioRedes project, an intiative to bring internet and technology access to Chileans through the country’s 368 public libraries. Only one in three Chileans, at that time, had internet access.
A specific beneficiary of this project was the rural Tolten Public Library. By 2012, the indigenous Mapuche people had been given a leg up through the project. Through “[l]ibrary programs and patron interaction with library staff…[c]ommunity members have successfully launched their own tourism, agricultural, and craft businesses.”
Images from Biblioteca Gabriela Mistral Tolten
While technology can advance a group like the Mapuche, who are disenfranchised in so many ways, in western culture, we need to recognize that here in the west, we have our own problems including technology in education. This is not to say that we should shun it; instead, it needs to be included judiciously. One of our senior managers for the district once said in a meeting regarding technology that “every one of us now has a super computer in our pockets,” and he held up his iPhone.
In some ways, this is true: the processing power of my phone is far more powerful than my last desktop computer. However, this “super computer” also has massive limitations: it is terrible tool with which to “write”; it is a terrible tool with which to produce or format a document; looking at images is limited (detail or the whole image is always sacrificed). As a research tool, it is fine; but if it is so good for that, why do our students in the LLC always choose a desktop computer over their own device? (And our desktops are not that great!) When we have research projects in the library, we always allow students to use their own computers or devices. But they don’t.
But there is a bigger problem with the BYOD idea: not all of our students have devices. Sure, most have cell phones, but not all have smartphones. This makes asking students to bring their own device unfair for some. And this is another layer of problems on top of their inadequacy for certain tasks.
Ultimately, we need to allow students the choice and opportunity to work with the device they want to work with, while providing choices and opportunities for those without a device.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Press Releases. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2016. http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Media-Center/Press-Releases Accessed 30 Oct. 2016.
Turner, Joel. “Empowering Disenfranchised Communities: A Look at the Tolten Library, Chile.” Beyond Access. beyondaccess.net 2016. Web. Accessed 30 Oct. 1016.