Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mining the Data - The digital divide among schools

As I've discussed in a previous blog, when it comes to the induction of the digital era, so does the digital divide. I had the opportunity to look at two different schools, one that used the hands on approach with outdoor classrooms while the middle school prided itself to use a great deal of technology. Both schools seemed to thrive meeting the needs of their students; however in completely different ways!

Things that were done well by both school was digital equity. Both schools offered technology resources. The middle school seemed to do this much more than the elementary school. There were definitely more technology gaps in the elementary school than the middle school. This may be due to lack of available resources, but it also may do to lack of confidence of technology usage by the educators as well. Based on my observations the middle school definitely showed signs that students have equal access to technology with a variety of computer labs, mobile laptop labs, and other technology devices to check out for home usage (including iPod touches!). The elementary school only had 15 computers + teacher computers. However, in the short amount of time, I realized the elementary school seemed to have more meaningful technology instruction. This was due in part to the parent volunteers that came into help the teacher. Many of the middle school teachers had larger classes making it difficult to provide the one on one attention that some students needed. In addition, there were a few teachers that didn't seem confident to use technology.

The middle school (school #1) takes pride in bridging the gap in digital divide by creating professional development opportunities for teachers to learn the different types of technological uses that can enhance the students' learning experiences. However, during my observations, I came across a teacher that doesn't seem to know a great deal of technological uses or feel confident to use it as often in the classroom. The second school (elementary school) did a great job of keeping all the teachers educated on newer tools/resources. This may be due to the size of the school. The elementary school only had three teachers and only fourth grade students. (It was a magnet school that uses outdoor classrooms as its main mission). Since the middle school has over forty teachers, there may be some lack of communication, especially with new advances such as technology resources. A way to solve this problem can be offering more professional development opportunities. I know the middle school has creating its own technology team. By having the technology team create free classes for teachers, this may help.
On a side note, the middle school seems to working on digital equity by encouraging teachers to attend ISTE conferences and other classes offered on technology resources. The elementary school has not done this because of lacking of funding. However, there are many opportunities by joining ISTE or researching online. The key is to give these teachers that opportunity with time and guidelines from someone that does know new information.

Throughout my observations, I realized how important it is to stay educated on new strategies and techniques. I know it can be difficult to do, especially when you don't know where to look. I personally feel that the middle school demonstrated a great way to create digital equity by creating a committee that is responsible to learn information and teach others. This can be a great thing for other schools to do the same!

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