A&M, high school students research technology use

Joint project looks for causes underlying 'digital divide' in Lower Rio Grande Valley

A&M University Relations

Unequal access to information technology is a pressing issue for minority populations and this summer students from Texas A&M University, teamed with high school honor students, to explore this "digital divide" in the colonias of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Colonias are the small rural, underdeveloped communities that exist along the American side of the Texas-Mexico border. In Texas alone, there are more than 1,500 colonias, with nearly 500,000 residents.

The summer program, which is a joint venture between Texas A&M's Colonias Program, (which is housed in the College of Architecture's Center for Housing and Urban Development), the College of Liberal Arts, and the Mercedes Independent School District, gave undergraduates the chance to conduct community-based research and share their findings with community leaders.

Texas A&M's Department of Communication and the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research in the College of Liberal Arts also sponsored the program.

The collaborative research/teaching program enabled participants to learn how language, culture, gender, age, education, economics and physical access play a role in the use of information technology, said Marlynn May, director of community-based research and teaching at the Center for Housing and Urban Development. Antonio La Pastina, assistant professor in the Department of Communication, will co-direct the program with Armando Martinez a faculty member in the Department of Social Studies, Mercedes ISD.

Students conducted community-based research on topics related to information technology relevant to the communities in which they live, May said. They conducted interviews, focus groups, family histories and observations at technology access points, and with policy makers, technology experts, non-profit organizations, educators and health care professionals. An added learning opportunity for students, he added, was the fact that they lived with colonias families during the summer program.

Participating students received three credit hours for Communication 460 and three credit hours for Communication 489. For more information on the program, contact Marlynn May at (979)458-1328 or via email: marlynn@tamu.edu, or Antonio La Pastina at (979)862-6608 or via email: alapastina@neo.tamu.edu.

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