Edtech and Social Divide

Generally we believe that the technology will level the playing field for less privileged students. If every child had an access to internet, filled with abundant resources, child will be empowered and child’s ability of self-teaching will be fostered.

Photo from olpccanada.com

One Laptop per Child (OLPC Canada) program tries to bridge the digital divide for aboriginal youth by providing specially designed laptop and/or tablet for Aboriginal youth. They also provide professional development for teachers. I know they are working with great intention for helping, but I cannot help to wonder why can they provide ordinarily laptop or tablet? Is this special Aboriginal feature limiting and forming them into ‘Aboriginal’? What happens when students finish high school and want to get job in company or move onto post secondary schools? Furthermore, school server that provided is designed to have no internet access required. It says, ‘capabilities for communication between machines and with a local School Server without internet dependence.’ As well, ‘Teachers can create interactive off-line “webpages” to share educational content with their students.’ Does this mean these Aboriginal youth are isolated and have no full advantage of internet? Perhaps this is not really bridging the gap at all.

Photo from Mindshift

I recently read an article, Is Technology Widening Opportunity Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids? Both advantaged and low-income neighbourhood libraries are equipped with same computers. Then, observation revealed that the way children use computer differs depending on the neighbourhoods.
Advantaged children are often accompanied by adults who monitored their children closely, steering them away from games and received guidance while using the computers. They spent their screen time with written words and reading text information five times more than the children in low-income area; as well, 39% of their web search were homework related while counterparts’ 9%.
On the other, children in the poverty area manipulated the computers on their own and accompanying adults tended to sit silently or even removed themselves to other areas of library. The children tend to switch programs frequently, younger ones became discouraged and wonder away. Ones who figure out the programs tend to spend on games or entertainments. Even in schools, some evidence suggests that the computers are used for drills and practice sessions instead of creative or innovative projects.

“While technology has often been hailed as the great equalizer of educational opportunity, a growing body of evidence indicates that in many cases, tech is actually having the opposite effect: it is increasing the gap between rich and poor, between whites and minorities, and between the school-ready and the less-prepared.”

The biggest difference between the two starts from how technology was used with children; guidance and scaffolding from adults. Technology does not teach children on its own and it does not break social divide. We can use technology as tool and work toward breaking social divide. As teachers, we must not to limit students’ potentials by assuming they have limited skills. If students lack in background knowledge in technology, we teach and foster it. I hope I can provide equitable learning opportunity using technology for all students.

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