One of my biggest concerns about teaching in the digital age outside of student safety and privacy, is the inequality in access to resources, both inside and outside of schools. Due to budget cuts in Regina Public Schools, all guidance counsellors are required to teach 2 courses a year. This semester I have what is called Transitions Social Studies. These are students that struggle in mainstream programming, whether it be due to attendance, knowledge gaps, or anxiety about being in a classroom.
Working with these students for the past month, it has brought an awareness to me that not all youth have smartphones, tablets, data plans or reliable wifi connections or even care about using technology. I am finding it difficult to incorporate tech use into my class, because they are not able to bring in any technology to use (and my school has a limited amount). Technology still creates a divide in society in that of those that have and do not have it. As educators we must know our students and we cannot assume that everyone has their own technology to use in the classroom, nor can we assume that all students know proper basic skills. Some students I am working with, do not know how to search websites, keyboard shortcuts (copy and paste), the difference between search engines, how to bookmark webpages or even have email address.
There is still a divide in our society, and to assume that all youth know, understand and crave technology, is not accurate. It sets students up for failure and creates a feeling of inadequacy and can push students away.
Working with students who are not knowledgeable with tech can create opportunities to build capacity and cover the objective “to educate children to succeed in a rapidly changing world and an uncertain future”, but we are still limited by time and covering curriculum. Within a social studies class, there is only so much extra time that I can help to build students confidence and skills with technology.
In Archambault, L., & Larson, J. (2015), they discuss how the excitement of online education and resources is greater than the amount of training educators have “of conveying knowledge over time and space, especially to young students who have yet to develop their own method and discipline for learning” (p. 2). So really, if we do not first instruct students on digital citizenship skills, then having them learn and conduct work in an online environment will be difficult for them to succeed. But before we can instruct digital citizenship to students, educators must first be be confident in what we are doing.
I think this article resonates with me because I often hear how “wouldn’t it be great if there was online courses for students who have trouble attending school regularly”, but now that I am working with these students, I understand that they would most likely have even less success enrolled in an online course because some lack the skills necessary to succeed. I view these skills as being a self-advocate, motivated, organized, outgoing, creative and adaptive, and possess the technology confidence required to follow the process. These are in addition to the skills necessary to be successful in a classroom with a teacher who can see and support the students. Obtaining these skills does also not even consider making sure that the student has the technology infrastructure in place to complete the assignments.
There is no doubt that there is a need to educate children to succeed in a rapidly changing world, but educating all students is not possible because of socioeconomic barriers. Schools cannot be expected to be the sole providers to teach technology and provide necessary skills. As long as there is a technology divide in society, there will always be a split in terms of technology readiness skills.
I know this is a little off the mark for the posted question, but it’s where my brain went to.
Archambault, L., & Larson, J. (2015). Pioneering the Digital Age of Instruction: Learning From and About K-12 Online Teachers. Journal of Online Learning Research, 1.1, 49-83.