Thursday, February 28, 2008

Closing the Digital Gap

The New York Times column, Lesson Plans, posts articles written by classroom teachers. In an example of one column, a first grade teacher reports on her classroom experiences using computers. Read her column, Closing the Digital Gap in the Classroom, and post your comments. Here is the needed link:

The article also has a link to a report called Digital Opportunity. Click on the embedded link to read the report.

Don’t forget to return and post your comments here.


Melissa Jordan said...

This was quite an interesting article. Even though the author is first grade and I teach college I can relate. When I started my job I needed to up to date on a variety of software programs and when asked where I learn them, I was told to just explore and there would be some occasional lunch n learns on the topic which were quite beneficial. Unlike the article's author I have a fantastic IT department that is always helping and I am priveliged to have programs that I like and share them with others. However, even at the college level, I have students who don't have a computer or an email account, other than the school provided one which they choose not to use. However, as the article states computers are quite expensive and cannot be a requirement. My place of employment had a contract with dell in which the students are givena discount, one excellent way in which we can increase the number of computers in the classrooms and in the homes. However, no matter the discount, there are times in which it comes down to food on the table or a computer and I completely understand the decisions. I do agree with the article when she states that we are getting further and further away from handwriting and I am sure by the time my baby who is not even born yet goes to school, there will be no handwriting classes in school. I also work at a hospital and the hospitals are already getting away from handwritten information, probably due to the poor handwriting and the possibility of transmission errors. As a result medicines are ordered on the computer and now doctors are equipped with large palm like devices to write notes which are printed for them and placed in the patient's chart. If it is happening already, it will only be a matter of time before it trickles into the school systems.

Debbie said...

Rather than the change coming from oustide sources, this gap needs to be closed from the inside working of a school. I have had the priviledge of working with a highly skilled library media specialist who is in school for the expressed purpose of getting teachers and students involved with today's technologies. This role is a critical one in schools...even with the resources available, if someone is not there round-the-clock to monitor how students use the technology, it will go to waste.

It was disheartening to hear that students have to wait as long as two hours to get on a computer with internet...again, the solution seems to be internal. How about college- or partent-volunteers staffing a school's computer lab...what if library media centers were open longer than school hours? Instead of looking ouside our schools for the answers, let's use what we have to its fullest potential and see if the gap can be closed that way.

mary beth said...

I agree with the teacher in this article...I was at the library recently, 10:00 am on a weekday, and every computer was being used. I can only imagine how difficult it is when school is out, nights and weekends. Today the public schools in my town have more computers than the local is too bad that students can't access these computer labs at night and on the weekends. When you think about it, it is a waste for all these school computers to be locked up at 4:00pm on a weekday and all weekend long...schools that are lucky enough to have the resources need to consider how to make them more available to the students who need them in the future. This will also mean paying someone to staff computer labs when school is not in session, which costs money. Maybe if they were to analyze the costs associated with this they would find it to be cheaper to have a computer lending library and allow students to borrow a computer overnight or over the weekend...maybe that is in our near future. If I could regulate the high technology industry, I would put fewer resources into the development of new technologies and invest more resources to bring the general public up to speed on the existing technology. I wonder if there is something that the government could do to "incent" these companies to change their priorities; if not, maybe our government could "incent" more people to become educators to the masses, such as with grant money. Maybe there is a business opportunity here that we teachers are missing...a "geek-squad" of educators who offer private computer lessons. At some point American businesses may even bankroll this kind of educational effort in order to continue to staff their businesses with skilled employees over time...otherwise where are companies going to find people with these skills??

gayle said...

I can make a connection! This situation sounds familiar! I am trying my best to close the digital gap, with my students at least. I allow my students to work on the computers every day. They use the computers during readers workshop. We are stuck on I really need to search out other programs to use with my students. That is one of the reasons I am taking this class.

Students learn more when they are engaged. Computer programs are engaging for first graders. Therefore, I believe computers are a must, especially for my students. I feel obligated to give my students the opportunity to use computers on a daily basis.

I am very interested in using Kid Works in my classroom. It sounds like a program that would help my struggling or lazy writers. Has anyone heard of the software? Judy do you have the software program suggested in the article? I would like to preview it before purchasing it.

Judy said...

Gayle, as a first-grade teacher, you need to look into KidPix. The options for curriculum integration are limited only bythe imagination of the teacher.

barbara jarosz said...

I also agree with the author of this article. We need to bring students into the 21st century by incorporating more technology into our lessons. I think it is wonderful that this teacher has taken such an active role in getting her 1st graders familiar with computers and new software. This is a skill that will be essential for these students who will be entering the workforce during a highly technological era.

Her story makes me think about the lack of quality, specialized professional development. She needed specific training on what software programs she could use with her young students and how to close the digital gap. Even after contacting her adminstrators and the IT department, she was still unable to obtain the professional development that she needed to do this. Teachers need access to quality workshops that will enable them to develop the skills necessary to close the digital gap. Learning new technology from a manual is quite impossible!

This made me think about the use of Smartboards in my building. Only a handful of us math teachers were fortunate enough to attend a workshop on how to use them, leaving several faculty members behind from other disciplines. I have shown the board to several of my colleagues and given them a crash course on how to use them, but they would benefit much more from a structured workshop on them. Districts need to make professional development days available for teachers who want to improve their technological skills. The benefits are endless. My students are thoroughly engaged when I use new technology in the classroom. I am also better able to meet their diverse learning needs (such as kinesthetic learners who need to get out of their seat and move around in class). It is only when districts value the goal of closing the digital gap by providing quality training to educators will this goal ever be realized.

Sharon Kirby said...

This teacher is inspirational! It's such an important goal and it really is a prevelent problem in our schools today. There need to be more programs available to students to receive computers. I know that Big Brother Big Sister does collect used computers and give them to participants of the program. More needs to be done. Forget about catching buy a new cell phone and within the month its already an old model! Students should be given the opporutnity to learn computer skills because if we don't we will be creating second class education...seriously! How could those students ever compete in that part od our work force? We want to open our students world, not close it. It's a shame that schools don't see technology education at lower level as important. Children are sponges! They take everything in...and love every minute of it. We need to catch them early.

tina miller said...

Closing the digital gap is one of my big concerns. One of the things I liked about Powerpoint was the ability to include links to online and possibly print them out for students who did not have access. I know my frustration with using different libraries and software incompatability and I worked in technology so I know how frustrated students could be. We tend to say go to the library or stay after school and use the resources there but think about how it might make students feel compared to their peers or the cost of printing out papers or just not being able to do myspace. Something to think about.

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