5a. Promote equitable access

Reflection

In American schools, 21% of students aged 12-18 report being bullied. Adolescents can be extraordinarily cruel towards each other. All too often the basis for bullying is the ways in which some students are different than others. For this reason, I feel strongly that teachers cannot further those differences by calling attention to the digital divide.

Source: PewResearch.org "Digital divide persists even as lower-income Americans make gains in tech adoption"

A Pew Research report published in May of 2019 shows that the digital divide is still very much an issue for Americans. The term digital divide refers to those with access to digital devices and the internet and those who do not.

Since substandard 5A asks coaches to model and promote strategies for achieving equitable access to digital tools and resources, I thought it was important to first consider the divide that exists. Not all students may be comfortable speaking out about their lack of access to digital tools. It is the job of coaches and teachers to be proactive and prudent about identifying the divide within their school.

The Pew report , written by Monica Anderson and Madhumitha Kumar, reveals several trends that educators should be aware of.

  • While the use of multiple devices and broadband internet is fairly ubiquitous in households with incomes of $100,000 or more, that is not the case for those households earning $30,000 or less. 3 in 10 adults don’t own a smartphone. 4 in 10 adults don’t have access to broadband internet. Nearly as many also do not have a computer or laptop. Over 6 in 10 don’t own a tablet.

  • An increased number of people are “smartphone dependent” — meaning the only source of internet they have is through their smartphone. In 2013, 12% of Americans fell into this category. In 2019, that number grew to 26%.

  • The digital divide naturally trickles down to children in these households. The report also discusses the ‘homework divide’ where 35% of lower-income households with school-age children lack access to broadband internet.

Unlike so many factors of inequality in students, educators actually can bridge the gap by using technology effectively in schools. According to Jones and Bridges, students’ access to technology in school can compensate for lack of access to technology within the home: “…the power of access in the hands of motivated learners may make up for a lot of disadvantages” (2016). Another exciting component of technology use in schools with students at a disadvantage is the potential for a ripple effect to family members. Students can take the technological knowledge gained in school and pass that along to parents and siblings without access at home.

Sources:

Anderson, M. and Kumar, M. (2019). Digital divide persists even as lower-income Americans make gains in tech adoption. [online] Pew Research Center. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/07/digital-divide-persists-even-as-lower-income-americans-make-gains-in-tech-adoption/ [Accessed 12 May 2019].

Marshall Jones and Rebecca Bridges, “Equity, Access, and the Digital Divide in Learning Technologies: Historical Antecedents, Current Issues, and Future Trends,” in The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology, 327-47

Evidence: Considering Digital Diversity and Equity

In the early courses of the Digital Education Leadership MEd program, we utilized Coggle in order to process the foundational information necessary to approaching the use of technology in education. In reflecting on my portfolio project, I revisited those early mind maps created in Coggle. The following mind map was made to reflect on the highlights of two fascinating sources related to digital diversity and equity. The first was the Bridge & Jones article I discussed in the prior section. The second was by Robbin Chapman entitled “Diversity and Inclusion in the Learning Enterprise: Implications for Learning Technologies.”

Note: When hovering on the Coggle below, your cursor will become a hand which can be used to click and drag the mind map for viewing purposes.

Evidence: Supporting Equitable Access in a Title 1 School

Having taught at a Title 1 school, I discovered that for many students, technology ownership is not a reality. Teachers cannot assume that all students have access to a smartphone, laptop, tablet, printer, or other devices that may be ubiquitous to us.

A strategy I used to address the digital divide (or at least attempt to) was to start the school year with a survey. One of the questions asked students if they had access to technology at home and if so, to what devices. The first year I gave this survey I thought I did a great thing. But I soon discovered that I had many students without access to technology. Those who did have a device in their home may not necessarily be able to use it regularly–something I didn’t consider when creating my survey.

For instance, there might be three students in a household sharing a single computer. Obviously, that is not enough of a resource for everyone to get their assignments completed. In other cases, a student had the technology but they had very limited or no access to Wi-Fi. Not everyone can afford unlimited data for their smartphones, so that didn’t work as a solution either.

At my school, the vast majority of students did not have reliable and consistent access to technology. Therefore I was forced to consider my homework assignments and whether it was absolutely essential that they be digital. This is where consideration of the SAMR framework came into play. If a paper assignment is merely being substituted for digital one, there’s no reason you can’t give students the option to do it on paper.

This gets a little bit more tricky when you’re doing projects where technology is augmenting, modifying, or redesigning the task. For those type of assignments, I needed to find a creative solution. What I ended up doing was opening up my classroom after school for students who needed to use technology (and it didn’t even need to be at for my class).

Another resource that I utilized was the community learning center which offered several dozen computers and Chromebooks for the public to use. While not all schools are lucky enough to have such a place within walking distance, we did. The school developed a partnership over time with this community resource. Students were allowed to open an account on their own with fewer rules in place than they would with the traditional library card. Students had access to technology and could use it to complete projects for school as needed.

Something else for teachers in the same position to consider is creating a list of local shops that offer free Wi-Fi. It would probably be a good idea to talk to students about purchasing a drink or something small at the location in order to not create a problem but this can be a creative solution.

Ultimately it’s essential for teachers to understand the community in which they teach and the unique advantages and disadvantages that exist.

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