In the past two days, I’ve received a few comments and emails from readers about different articles that all point to the same problem: frustration over lack of money to take advantage of all these transformational tech tools that we write about here.
In response to The Most Anticipated Tech Tools of Back to School, reader Noi Schoch writes:
“All this tech is great! IF you have the cash for it! Most schools can’t afford it, and most can’t afford the staff development to train everyone how to use it and keep up with the newest uses for it.”
In reference to the article Math and Science: Out of the Classroom, Into the World, which describes why new technology makes this an exciting time to be a student, reader “mjamerson” says:
“This really sounds like a wonderful expansion of educational possibilities. But there is a potential downside. This new technology will depend on two things: teacher ability and access. As we know, in poor communities there are less seasoned teachers and less access, both at school and at home. So as much as I love the idea of using technology to widen the educational experience, this seems to widen the technology/educational opportunity divide at the same time. It makes me wonder; How many people will be left behind?”
And yesterday, I received an email from Shelley Tingle, with the subject head “Where do I start?”:
“I’m a parent of an 8th grader, 4th grader and 2nd grader. I’m also a research civil engineer at the Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi. My junior high student goes to a school with virtually no technology! Vicksburg is an odd society since it is home to many engineers and scientists but also has an extremely high level of poverty with the majority of the students on reduced or free lunches. See our district’s report card.
My passion is for these children to get connected to math and science which will help in educating our low-income children out of poverty with many job opportunities in their hometown. Where do I begin to get technology into the hands of these students? We do not even have Smartboards in the classrooms. What would be your priority list? How do we go about getting the funds for pay for the technology?”
And this is just from the past couple of days. Since the launch of MindShift almost a year ago, I’ve received more notes and comments than I can count asking this pressing question. And I’m not sure how to answer it.
As I wrote in a recent article “For At-Risk Youth, is Learning Digital Media a Luxury?” the issue is one of priority for school administrators, those in positions of power. If educators can reach out to disenfranchised kids by engaging them with tactics like using their mobiles phones and Facebook for learning in class, and by learning about topics that interest them and have direct relevance in their lives, dropout rates and truancies might actually drop. We might see kids more interested in school, regardless of their economic standing. What makes this a more urgent issue is that the “digital divide” or “participation gap”—whatever term you like—will grow even more if low-income students aren’t taught how to use important tech tools they’ll need to survive outside school.
But is there a way to circumvent the system with sites like Donors Choose? Can teachers find sources to fund their own, individual classroom projects, and if so, is that the right way? Can parents help lead the movement in their individual communities? I’d love to hear from those who’ve been successful.