Conquering the Digital Divide in Abaco

January 15, 2010

During the semester break, 16 students in the Rollins College Conference Course (RCC) "Conquering the Digital Divide," spent a week putting theory into practice through service-learning experiences in the Abaco Islands (Bahamas).

Rollins faculty, staff and students partnered with the Every Child Counts (ECC) School and Friends of the Environment in projects that made a sustainable and meaningful impact on the lives of hundreds of children and teachers in Abaco. Coordinators of the field study included Director of Technology Support Carrie Schultz, Manager of Classroom & Instructional Technology Ed Huffman and Associate Professor of Education Scott Hewit. Additional staff volunteered their time to help with the project.

The ECC School provides an alternative education for children with learning, developmental or physical disabilities (regardless of financial, family or social restraints), helping students become a productive, successful and independent citizens of the Island. Many of the children enrolled at ECC come from economically underserved communities in the Bahamas, some traveling over an hour by boat to get to school every day.  At ECC, Rollins students spent their time teaching children how to repair computers, utilize software to enhance learning in reading and math, and use video equipment to facilitate class discussion. Rollins students created lesson plans and taught two hours of class each day helping ECC teachers bridge the gap by integrating learning goals with computer technology. Each year ECC receives donated computers, many which do not work. Rollins students worked with ECC children in teaching them how to both use and repair these computers, providing the young students with usable skills for the future.

abacoIn order to prepare academically for the opportunities and challenges of the project, Rollins students enrolled in this RCC course spent the fall semester learning about the connections between age, race, and class in relation to access to technology—digital divide. Students engaged in readings, seminars, and local projects in Orlando and Winter Park with both children and senior citizens that brought to life key issues surrounding the topic. Students worked closely with Fern Creek, Winter Park Towers and Quest, providing both skills and training to users and a plan for sustainable education and technology to the community organizations and teachers.

While in Abaco, Rollins participants also worked with Friends of the Environment, an organization committed to restoring the national and marine environment of the Bahamas in the face of widespread development and growth. Students participated in a number of activities on the coast removing non-native species.

This is the second time that Rollins has offered a community engagement field study in Abaco. Since Fall 2008 more than 45 students, two faculty, and six staff have been involved with ECC and Friends of the Environment.

Read the feature in The Abaconian about Rollins' efforts.

About the Rollins College Conference:

The Rollins College Conference (RCC), required of all entering first-year students, is an innovative academic program that teams faculty with a small group of students to explore a topic of mutual interest through reading, writing and discussion. Over the course of the semester, the faculty member serves as the student's advisor and two upper-class students serve as peer mentors to assist the new students with coursework and adjusting to college life.  Launched in 1994, RCC is aimed at enhancing student retention by making students feel a part of the Rollins College community.  

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