Friday, September 11, 2009

Tech Integration -- Expanded definition of digital divide

In a review of embedded curriculum and the potential for student success, Patrick Higgins at Chalkdust101 identifies the apparent failure of his (and many) schools with regards to technology integration.
"In our district, every teacher from grades six through twelve has a laptop . . . Our teachers are very wired, but our kids don’t have the same access. . ."
He gives credit to a job candidate in an interview for enlightening him,
"the next big hurdle for schools [is] to put the power to learn back into the hands of students."
In pursuit of this goal, he concludes his post,
"We have to start tipping the scales in favor of the question “what could they do if they had…” and go from there."
I am lucky to work in a district that has spent generously on computers, software and peripheral equipment. I get to work one-on-one and with large groups of students, collaborating with teachers to embed this technology into individual lessons and the curriculum. When I graduate (this spring) and accept a job in another district I will assuredly look back at this experience as, "the good old days."

As well equipped as we are, I cannot help thinking about the opportunities that we miss: lessons we could improve, social networking or blogging opportunities that are unavailable to us, and classes that can't (equipment not available) or won't (technophobe teacher) take advantage of the available technology. As a parent and citizen, it saddens me that there can be so much variation in the level of technology available from teacher to teacher, school to school and district to district.

I understand that funding varies and even understand that local environments are different but once they graduate, the vast majority of these young adults will be vying for the same opportunities without regard for background or level of technology integration in their high schools. Whose responsibility is it to prepare these students, if not ours? It may be a long and winding road but it is one that is definitely worth traveling.

Luckily, as time passes, lower cost hardware solutions are constantly being developed from the newly popular NetBooks to the SmartVine virtual monitors that allow up to 11 users to share a single computer. There are many, many very stable FREE software solutions available and constantly being developed (Audacity, GoogleEarth, Camtasia, and many more). While these solutions may not be acceptable in many districts, we should celebrate each success and improve upon each failure. Hopefully true technology integration will continue to grow across our country, continent, and world.

As we proceed, in addition to students, teachers, and administrators, we need to build relationships and with our network administrators. I have seen too many articles and blogs recently discussing the failed marriage of educational tech integration and the network administrators or IT departments. Among them, Higgins wrote on the subject in August drawing from a related article with a suggested solution by Jim Moulton in his Future of Education blog. Tech & Learning magazine published a brief article on the topic, focused primarily on the positive, in their September print and online issues.

I certainly don't have the answers but know that whether in a school with 20 computers or one with hundreds, until every student has access in all schools to computers, software, web based information and appropriate web utilities, our journey will not be complete. I'm so glad to be back at school! Sorry to take on such a loaded topic so early in the year . . . .

2 comments:

Patrick Higgins said...

Greg,

Thanks for the mentions here. Your situation sounds much like ours here: we've spent generously to equip our buildings with technology so that the types of learning we would like to see happening can happen. The obstacles are similar wherever you go, and what I am finding is that before you can move anyone to change, you have to a fair amount of listening first. And when I say listening, I mean listening to "what" is being said, rather than "how" it's being said.

For me that distinction is paramount. There are no teachers who, if you asked them directly, would say that they would like to harm kids or not help them reach their potential. But we all have varying opinions of how to get them there. Getting everyone on the same bus has little to do with technology, and more to do with figuring out how students learn, how to match our teaching to that learning, and what tools we need to do that.

Great post, and best of luck!

Greg said...

Thank you Patrick for your insightful thoughts and for your positive encouragement.