Got Technology?

by Guest Contributor on March 24, 2013

Hispanic Broadband Computer AccessImagine a classroom with no computers, no internet access, or the ability for teachers to show video clips or other educational materials. Recently, the Pew Internet & American Life Project interviewed around 2,500 middle and high school teachers teaching in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands between March 7 and April 23, 2012. Around 1,750 of the teachers were advanced placement (AP) high school teachers, while the remaining 700 were teachers from the National Writing Project (NWP). The survey findings were complemented by online and in-person focus groups with middle and high school teachers and students from grades 9-12 between November 2011 – February 2012.

The overall conclusion of the survey: digital technology has become a central component to our educational system and professionalization. Another assessment of the survey: there is a technology disparity between lower and higher income students and school districts. This difference can be a central factor in the success of our students based upon their learning styles and needs.

When asked about the impact of the internet and digital tools, the teachers said the following:

  • 92% of these teachers say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching.
  • 69% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to share ideas with other teachers.
  • 67% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents and 57% say it has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students.

Other important conclusions from the survey:

  • Teachers of low income students, however, are much less likely than teachers of the highest income students to use tablet computers (37% v. 56%) or e-readers (41% v. 55%) in their classrooms and assignments.
  • Just 15% of AP and NWP teachers whose students are from upper income households say their school is “behind the curve” in effectively using digital tools in the learning process; 39% who teach students from low income households describe their school as “behind the curve.”
  • Teachers of the lowest income students are more than twice as likely as teachers of the highest income students (56% v. 21%) to say that students’ lack of access to digital technologies is a “major challenge” to incorporating more digital tools into their teaching.

The survey findings obviously point to the growing technology disparity between lower and higher income students. However, we must ask ourselves this question, “What digital technologies do students have to enhance their educational experience once they get home?” Based on the survey, 71% of the teachers thought their low-income students had technology including software, broadband access, and equipment when they got home. While the survey provides some insights into the lack of access to technology, it is based on the perceptions of teachers about their students. Another survey of the low-income parents and students themselves would prove beneficial and more accurate.

According to the National Broadband Map (NBM) More than 99.9 percent of Americans have access to some form of broadband with download speed in excess of 3 Mbps. Perhaps the teachers in the survey are confusing access with adoption and use. The stats on actual adoption paint a different picture:

  • Only 40% of low income Americans (households earning less than $20,000/year) have actually adopted broadband.
  • Hispanics have a broadband adoption rate that is 16 percentage points lower than the national average.
  • African Americans are closer to the national average, although they are still 6 points behind the average.
  • Americans with less than a high school diploma are far less likely to have a broadband Internet connection than other Americans, with only 24 percent of this group having broadband.

But then what do we do with this knowledge?  Hopefully, ask the right follow-up questions…

Continue reading on Politic365.

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