The Digital Divide: Live With It

1/31/2014 12:00:00 AM

gaplogos-2The term “digital divide” is often used to describe the inequity in regards to access and ability with technology. It’s a thing for sure. What I’m talking about here is the divide that digital brings in relation to our existing model of education.

For years I’ve been hearing districts talk about “closing the achievement gap.” A worthy goal I suppose, depending on what you mean by achievement. But besides that, the desire for more equity is admirable but in some cases unrealistic and perhaps misguided to a degree. Certainly, we must recognize, support and empower all students and we will pay particular attention to those with them most hurdles and challenges.

But here’s the problem. We’ve introduced technology. Technology, when used effectively is an accelerated. As well it opens doors and provides resources, people and software that fundamentally puts the learner in the drivers seat. No longer do they need schools to learn. Teachers have to take on fundamentally different roles. What exactly those roles are is somewhat debatable, but knowledge provider and controlling the learning isn’t top on that list. The power and reality of digital is that it blows the lids off of learning. No more can we tell kids not to read ahead to the next chapter. We can’t be surprised when students have more knowledge about content that we might. We shouldn’t be shocked when students want to take their learning to places we didn’t anticipate or imagine. In most cases, we applaud this. This is essentially the promise and potential of digital. But when we bring our antiquated lens of scale and equity to the table, that often means putting kids in manageable containers where we can monitor and track progress and brag about how we’re closing the gap.

And what happens when the gap increases? Not because we’re doing a lousy job but because the ceiling of excellence and opportunity has been lifted? The focus and emphasis with always be on the low spectrum. I fear that in order to make ourselves seem more equitable we’ll either at best ignore and at worst confine opportunities for outstanding work for fear it makes others look bad. Our current grading system perpetuates this notion. 100% is the best you can do. No one can go beyond that. One effort that’s been made is to eliminate zeros. (I really don’t want that debated here but just want to use it as an example of closing the gap. I’ve written my thoughts on that topic before.) Now we’ve close the gap by 50%. Whoopee! Our next move is to focus on the low end to get them up. Of course, all the time this usually means common assessments, easy to measure tasks/assignments/tests all in effort to see the little bars on the spreadsheet move up. Meanwhile the students who actually might be engaged and ready to do more are ignored since they’re already good.

Digital doesn’t play this game well. Books are containers, limiting the amount of information and ideas to the pages in the book. Grades, subjects and time have been the containers in schools. The web has no end.

Let’s stop worry about achievement gaps and realize that digital will increase the divide. Not because it’s providing less opportunity at the bottom but because it’s blown the ceiling. We have to live with that. It’s certainly messing and unsettling, but we have to face it.

cross-posted at http://ideasandthoughts.org/

Dean Shareski is a Digital Learning Consultant with the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, SK, Canada, specializing in the use of technology in the classroom. He lectures for the University of Regina and is the Community Manager of the Canadian DEN or Discovery Educators Network


comments powered by Disqus
Photo GalleriesView All Galleries >
Acer C720-2844 Chromebook

(www.acer.com) The Acer C720-2844 Chromebook model delivers speedy performance, a quick boot time of seven seconds, and a matte anti-glare display tha...

Britannica ImageQuest

(www.britannica.com) Britannica Digital Learning has upgraded ImageQuest, a resource for schools and libraries that provides nearly three million rig...

ClassFlow

(www.classflow.com) Promethean has released ClassFlow, a free, all-in-one, cloud-based teaching tool that lets teachers create and deliver interactive...

Adobe Voice

(www.adobe.com) Adobe has released Adobe Voice, an animated video app for the iPad that lets users create and share video stories. The app incorporate...

DeskBoard

(www.boxlight.com) The BOXLIGHT DeskBoard mobile cart adjusts both height and tilt for the P8 ultra short throw interactive projector on a white surfa...

Core 36M

(www.bretford.com) Bretford has introduced Core 36M, a 36-unit charging cart that is optimized for Chromebooks but which also supports most tablets, l...

Edmentum Sensei

(www.edmentum.com) Edmentum Sensei is a mobile optimized solution that helps administrators visualize and track overall school, teacher, and student p...

HMH Player

(www.hmhco.com) HMH has released HMH Player, a new native app for iOS and Google Chrome that streamlines the learning experience for improved digital ...

Juice Power System

(www.bretford.com) Bretford has unveiled an easy-to-use modular power system with exchangeable power components. The Juice Power System uses unique &#...

LightSail

(www.lightsailed.com) LightSail Education has announced a literacy accelerator that combines books with in-text embedded assessments and real-time dat...

myON

(www.myon.com) myON has expanded its digital library to include a set of literacy tools to further personalize the reading experience for students whi...

Nervanix Clarity

(www.nervanix.com) Nervanix has released Clarity, an application that monitors student attention levels as they study and guides them to revisit conce...

MathBall

(www.robotslab.com) RobotsLAB has introduced MathBall, a smart sensor basketball and tablet system that offers curricula in algebra, pre-calculus, phy...

MobileAsset.EDU

(www.waspbarcode.com) Wasp Barcode’s MobileAsset.EDU solutions include everything administrators need to account for their assets, from software...

OpenEd Assessment Creation Tool

(www.opened.io) OpenEd has announced a free tool that lets teachers easily create assessments with the question types required by Common Core standard...

Panasonic TH-80LFB70U

(www.panasonic.com) Panasonic’s TH-80LFB70U interactive LED display features high-speed, multi-touch, interactive capabilities to promote partic...

penveu interactive display system

(www.penveu.com) The penveu interactive display system is a handheld device that turns projectors and large screen displays into interactive whiteboar...

PresentationPro

(www.califone.com) Califone has updated its PresentationPro speaker. The PA310 readily connects with computers, LCD projectors, mobile devices, intera...

PowerSync+ Mobile Companion App

(www.bretford.com) Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. has announced the availability of the companion app for its PowerSync+ enabled charge and sync produc...

PureCharge Carts and Stations for iPad

(www.bretford.com) Bretford Manufacturing, Inc. has debuted the PureCharge family of iPad and iPad mini charging carts and stations. By offering pre-i...

ProQuest Research Companion

(www.proquest.com) ProQuest’s new information literacy product, Research Companion, offers videos that guide users through the research process,...

Sphere2 & Class Send Student Engagement Software Platform

(www.averusa.com) AVer Information has developed a Student Engagement platform, providing teachers and students with the tools to transmit document ca...

TabChargeCT2

(www.averusa.com) AVer has released the TabChargeCT2 charge cart solution, which can hold up to 40 Chromebooks, iPads, Android or Windows tablets, lap...

VoiceLift with Instant Alert and Emergency Video Monitoring

(www.extron.com) The Instant Alert function of the Extron VoiceLift Microphone, combined with a PoleVault, WallVault, or PlenumVault classroom AV sys...

SMART Board 6065

(www.smarttech.com) The SMART Board 6065 is an ultra HD, 4K interactive flat panel that offers collaborative capabilities while ensuring lessons run s...

Gaggle Unity Partner Program

(www.gaggle.net) The new Gaggle Unity Partner Program provides free data integration services for all educational technology vendors. Through the Gagg...

Waterford Early Learning, Reading, Math & Science

(www.waterford.org) Waterford Early Learning Cloud can be used at home or to supplement lessons in classrooms. It can also be used for individual adap...

NetSupport School

(www.netsupportschool.com) The latest version of NetSupport School allows teachers to monitor and collaborate with any mix of technology. An enhanced ...

Camtasia

(www.techsmith.com/camtasia) TechSmith’s Camtasia gives teachers the tools to record lessons, create videos, and engage their audiences. Educato...

Panasonic 3E

(www.panasonic.com) Intel has teamed up with Panasonic to announce the Panasonic 3E, which uses the Intel Education 2-in-1 reference design. Designed ...

Tweets