March Think-About

It’s been almost a month since I last posted. I know there are only about two of you reading this blog right now, so I should apologize to just you.

What’s concerning me today is what I see… or rather DON’T see… happening in classrooms. There are great educators out there doing great things in their classrooms. We’re having truly meaningful discussions about the tools we use to facilitate communication and gather information. BUT– of course there is a “but”– I don’t think we’re incorporating our discussion topics into the classroom practices. In simpler terms, we’re not changing the way we teach to accommodate what students need to learn.

One example: I still see many teachers use computers as a reward and not an everyday necessity with kids. I hear, “If you finish your classroom assignment, you can then work on the computer.” The students in these types of classrooms don’t see the computer as a tool; they see it as an object where games are played.

Funny, but I’m guessing they don’t view computers at home the same as they do at school…

… which brings me to yet ANOTHER point. In many of my in-services we discuss the Digital Divide, or at least the topics that people associate with the term. Let me set this up–

  • Some teachers have explained to me that they can’t use “technology” in their assignments, because not all students have access to computers at home.
  • Many of these same teachers use computers or other technologies as rewards in the classroom for those students who either finish classwork early or who have done well on particular assignments. In essence, the computer has become an enrichment tool– or on the worst level, a distractor– so that the teacher has time to work with the students who need more help finishing classwork, mastering a topic, etc.
  • When we study which students have computer/internet access at home, we also find that these tend to be the students who finish their classwork on time and are understanding the concepts. It’s not a direct correlation, but the odds are better than average that those who “have” continue to get more time with technology than those who “don’t have.”

By continuing to use classroom technologies as games or rewards, we’re not helping the kids who need help most. If a child has limited or no computer/internet access at home, he or she should be able to learn those digital skills at school. Isn’t that the most natural conclusion? Or are we assuming that these same students need more important skills before focusing on digital literacy? Couldn’t we do both at the same time?

Digital Divide links you might read:

The Digital Divide Network

Digital Divide on Edutopia

Bridge the Digital Divide

Many of the articles and information you’ll find in the above links will focus mainly around the “access” issue. However, it’s not just about limited access. I can donate computers to schools, homes, etc.; but if I don’t provide the “how” and the “why,” those tools aren’t going to help bridge any gap.  Digital literacy skills don’t simply appear on their own. They must be taught.  More on this in my next post…

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