The Technology Competency Challenge
Touching Lives Through Technology (TLTT) is a non-profit organization that provides laptop computers, broadband access, and training for at-risk youth, homeless people, disabled people and senior citizens. Their mission is to help the disadvantaged in Hawaii and the Pacific Region become technologically aware and competent (computer literate). To increase online learning opportunities afforded by the Internet and help the disadvantaged master technology, TLTT introduced The Technology Competency Challenge.
The goal of the challenge is to create and grow an online community of inquiry where people question, reason, connect, deliberate, challenge, and develop problem-solving techniques to help the disadvantaged become more technologically literate and competent, and better-equipped for the 21st Century. Wikipedia provides a useful metaphor for a community of inquiry.
The Buddhist parable of the ‘blind men and the elephant’ offers a colorful way to make sense of the notion of the community of inquiry. The tale finds many blind men fumbling about an elephant, each trying to discover what it is they are touching. They are fixated in disagreement. One finds the elephant’s leg and believes it a tree. Another finds its trunk and believes it a rope. Yet another finds its side and believes it a wall. The insight is that we are all trapped inside our limited experience and cannot know the truth. If the blind men only cooperated, forming a community whose goal is inquiry into the strange multifaceted object, they may begin to overcome the problematic situation and discover the true nature of the object of their respective opinions. By sharing their experiences in a democratic and participatory manner they could arrive at a more comprehensive truth than their impoverished perspectives allow, isolated from each other. They would show each other why one found the elephant to be like a rope and the other a tree. They would go further, using other ways to collect evidence (e.g., smell the animal, listen to its sounds). Together they would try to reconcile their conflicting conclusions. The blind men would never see the elephant, but they would no longer be trapped in their own limited perspectives. In short, they would be more likely to resolve the problematic situation, that object is no object at all, it is an elephant. But resolution is never final; even their consensus could be in error. All findings are provisional and subject to revision.
The Challenge consists of teams of community college students who work together to create and build an online community of inquiry to help the disadvantage become technologically aware and competent. The eight-week challenge mirrors the 21st-century workplace where students work in collaborative teams and use technology to tackle real-world technology issues. The challenge begins with the big idea of providing online community service followed by the essential question: how do you create an online community of inquiry to help the disadvantaged master technology?