Reflections on teaching in a digital world

The digital divide is often considered to be between the first and third world, or between remote and urban communities, such as that shown in the infographic below. However, as a city teacher, it is far more likely that I will be confronted with the impact of the socio-economic urban digital divide. This divide mainly influences students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and those who have parents or carers with minimal education or limited technological literacy: McLaren and Zappala found “education level to be the key driver of Internet access, followed in importance only by income level” (2002, p. vii). Therefore, I will need to be conscious that children within my class may lack home internet access, and therefore may have difficulty completing homework tasks, and a limited ability to participate in any online class social groupings (Sharma, 2014, para 7).

Digital Divide

It has become clear to me that teachers have a vital role in supporting these students in developing digital literacy, to avoid entrenching the disadvantage of previous generations. Providing access to a variety of technologies at school is the first step. However, I was distressed to learn that the government recently repealed federal funding for the “Digital Education Revolution” school laptop program (Bita & Chilcott, 2013). This prompted some schools to move to “bring your own device” schemes: an outcome that would appear to disadvantage those who most need assistance (Bita & Chilcott, 2013).

Illustration: Eric Lobbecke

(Lobbecke, 2011)

 

This raises the question of what I can do, as a teacher, to avoid compounding and entrenching disadvantage. After some thought, I made this list as a starting point. I am sure that my ongoing education and eventual practical experience will provide further insight.

I must endeavor to:

  • Meet the children where they are, and not expect every student to have a uniform level of digital capability.
  • Be prepared to provide considerable extra effort and conscious scaffolding to grow their technological confidence.
  • Be cognisant of my students’ digital access when setting homework and assignment tasks.
  • Consider scheduling sufficient computer time within the school day and leaving offline tasks for outside school hours.
  • Suggest and possibly support the school administration in developing a laptop loan program or similar, to technologically disadvantaged students.
  • Actively advocate for sufficient government funding and support school fundraising efforts.

 


 

References

Bita, N. & Chilcott, T. (2013, 18 May). Students lose right to free laptop as Federal Government scraps Digital Education Revolution. The Courier-Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/students-lose-right-to-free-laptop-as-federal-government-scraps-digital-education-revolution/story-e6frg6n6-1226645686232

Lobbecke, E. (2011, 22 September). Advance Australia Wired [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/access-to-the-internet-is-a-human-right/

McLaren, J. & Zappala, G. (2002). The new economy revisited: an initial analysis of the digital divide among financially disadvantaged families. Retrieved from http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDAQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.orfeusresearch.com.au%2Fweb_images%2FBackground_Paper_5_TSF.pdf&ei=jotlU6LOEcWnlQXi8ID4CA&usg=AFQjCNE2o5os4hghnvIU8hehLVo9A1Bc5A&sig2=cIkCsTV_4T_XTnnCO4HCzQ

Sharma, M. (2014, 26 February). Digital divide still an issue for low income earners. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/digital-divide-still-an-issue-for-low-income-earners-20140226-33i7l.html

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