Back To CourseEducational Psychology: Help and Review
9 chapters | 331 lessons
Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.
A teacher stands at the blackboard, chalk in hand, while students sit at their desks, shuffling papers and taking notes with their yellow #2 pencils. You might imagine this scene in a classroom fifty years ago, but this is what a typical classroom still looks like in many schools in America today. In other classrooms, however, students sit with laptops, tablets, or myriad other devices, completing interactive tasks online. Their blackboard has been replaced with an interactive whiteboard that serves as a blackboard, projector, and computer all in one. It is the differences between the traditional classroom and the high-tech, modern classroom that represent the digital divide in America.
As teachers, we know that great inequalities exist between school districts, within school districts, and sometimes even within schools themselves. Rarely is there technological equality across an entire population. Typically, there are students who are digitally adept, who have devices and Internet access at home. These students, known as digital natives, have grown up surrounded by technology and have already acquired a basic level of technological proficiency. In other cases, you may have students whose only exposure to technology is at school, and many students probably fall somewhere in between.
The digital divide refers to the inequality in access to technology that exists between communities due to regional and demographic differences, particularly socio-economic groups. One of our goals as teachers is to help bridge the digital divide so that students can acquire the technological skills they will need to be successful as adults. While some students are considered digital natives, having grown up immersed in technology, other students, for a variety of reasons, have not reached this level of technological skill.
The first step in bridging the digital divide in our class is to get technology into the hands of students. Start by assessing what technology you have at your disposal. The chart below provides an outline to help you assess the technology that might be available.
Inventory the Technology Available
Quite possibly, there are items that you may not have considered because you don't always use them in your classroom (or perhaps, they are items that have been around forever). Before you try to bridge the digital divide, you will need to thoroughly assess what technology your school has to offer, even if you share it with your colleagues.
If you lack technology at your school, you may want to consider using BYOD - Bring Your Own Device. In this model, students bring in a device from home (a laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) to use during classroom instruction. One benefit of BYOD is that students will have devices in class that they should already know how to use. However, there are also definite drawbacks. Depending on the socio-economic breakdown of your class, you may have students who don't have a device to bring. Another issue you will encounter is that the variety of devices will make it more challenging to ensure that the websites or applications you are using work correctly on all devices.
Before you decide to use BYOD, there are a few other things you will need to consider, especially in cases where your school district does not already have a policy in place regarding BYOD. First, you want to make sure that your school will even allow students to bring their own devices to class. Next, you will also need to consider whether or not students will be able to connect to the Internet on your school campus. If so, you should make sure you have mastered the connection procedures since it is unlikely there will be just an 'open' network available.
Finally, if you do have Internet access on your campus, another issue you will need to consider is what safety precautions exist to protect students while they are online at school. You will want to make sure that a filtering device is in place to prevent students from wandering too far afield on the Internet superhighway.
Once you get devices into the hands of your students, you will need to evaluate how adept your students are at navigating the technology you want to use in the lesson. Anytime you are designing a lesson for your students that incorporates technology, you will need to evaluate the learning outcomes against the skills the students will need to be successful.
The Technological Balancing Act
In evaluating your lesson, you may discover that you will have to teach students new skills in order for them to successfully use the technology and master the content. However, you need to strike a balance - especially if you are a core content teacher. Sometimes you may be too ambitious, and the necessary technological skills will outweigh the content you are trying teach.
Before you design your lesson, consider your population and inventory the skills they have, and what skills they will need for the lesson. If there are several skills to master that are unrelated to the content, that should be a red flag. Try to redesign the lesson and strike a balance between content and technology.
At this point you have made progress; you have technology in the students' hands, and you have evaluated whether or not it is appropriate for your lessons.
Now, how will you share your technology-based lessons with your students? Don't assume that this will be the easiest part - in fact, it can be the most challenging. Your impulse may be just to email it to your students. As easy as email seems it can be unreliable, and it may be confusing to students, especially if they are not digital natives.
A simple strategy to share technology-based lessons with students is through a website. There are numerous free, or nearly free, tools that allow you to design websites for your students. This method allows you to organize those tools so that students can easily return to them time and time again. If you feel like your students have a reasonable level of technological skill, you might choose to use a free virtual classroom such as Edmodo. Virtual classrooms provide you with a variety of tools to share technology-based assignments, as well as a method to assess students online.
Students need to be taught how to access the information, so you will need a format that they can follow from day one. Don't assume your students know how to navigate the Internet and the tools or websites you are sharing with them. Some students will be digital natives while others are not. Whatever sharing method you decide to use, you will need to explicitly teach your students how to navigate it so that they can come back over and over again.
Even if your students have a good foundation of technology skills coming into the classroom, don't assume that the same is true for their parents. Particularly if you teach students who do not have Internet access at home, parents may not have the skills they need to support their children in developing these 21st-century skills. In educating your students, you may also need to reach out and educate their parents as well.
For example, many parents may be unaware that several companies offer low-cost Internet to certain socio-economic groups. You may need to research the options available in your area and send that information out to parents. Many school districts offer 1:1 computing (allotting enough devices (laptops, tablets, etc.) so that each student can have their own device to use in the classroom), and these districts often have options available for parents to 'lease' a computer for home use as well. Better yet, you could offer 'technology workshops' for parents, bringing them into your classroom and teaching them about the tools their children are using at school.
Scaffolding Technology in the Classroom
Using technology in the classroom is a complex machine that requires all the gears to work together to accomplish the learning goals. First, you have to have technological resources to put in the hands of your students. Once this is accomplished, you have to find appropriate ways to integrate that technology into your learning goals and scaffold learning so that the students can use the technology effectively. Finally, it is critical that parents are involved. They need to be trained with the technology you will use in the classroom so that they can, in turn, support their children at home. Each gear is a critical component of learning, but by implementing the right strategies it is possible to incorporate technology in the classroom and overcome the digital divide.
Strategies for Bridging the Digital Divide
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Back To CourseEducational Psychology: Help and Review
9 chapters | 331 lessons