Sunday, April 13, 2014

Digital Inequality

I found this week's artifact on digital inequality very interesting.  The digital divide is a concept that I teach to my grade 10 social studies classes.  Like most, we focus on the unequal access to technology between the developed world and the developing world.  In class we discuss the concerns of having some parts of the world well connected to the Internet and having others poorly connected but the conversation usually ends there.   I found it enlightening to consider new dimensions of this concept of a "divide" and to put it into the context of my own workplace.

I learned a great deal about technology  access and use in my school by having staff and students complete a survey using Google forms.  I learned that 97% of staff and students have access to computers and the Internet at home.  This is much higher than the Canadian average of 80.3% and can be attributed to the urban nature of our community and the affluence oil and gas extraction has brought to Alberta. The two students who don't have access live in rural areas outside of town which confirms the urban/rural nature of the digital divide many of the readings mentioned.  I was very surprised to learn that 97% of my students have their own wireless mobile device.  I had always known that many of my students had these devices but I had no idea it was so high. Students also indicated that they would like to use their devices more often in their classes.

It was interesting to learn about my staff's thoughts on technology use in their classes.  100% of the 20 staff that responded to my survey think that educational technology tools are beneficial for students however many are hesitant to use them because they either don't know which tools work the best or who to ask for assistance.  I'm not sure why, but I had anticipated a more negative attitude towards technology but from what most of my colleagues responded, they are willing to learn they just need some help doing so. I found this to be encouraging.  There were however some staff who indicated that technology was more of a distraction than a benefit but they certainly were not in the majority.

There were three inequalities that I found in my research:

1.  There is unequal use of technology among classes in my school. Some students are allowed to access our technological resources and some don't.

2.  There is a knowledge gap among our community.  Some staff are very knowledgeable about technology use and some are not.  The same can be found with our students.

3.  There is a divide between what  our students want in terms of technology and what some teachers are able to offer.

One conclusion I made from all of this is that if we can do a better job of teaching staff on the use of technology and the benefits of it's use, we can potentially bridge the other digital divides found in our school.

Below you will find my presentation. To access my speaker notes, select the options icon at the bottom of the presentation screen.