I’ve been rolling around a question in my head for about the last six months. The basic question is: Is there a difference between how students and educators define technology? Really, what does a student consider technology? A computer? Probably not, they been using computers their entire life. The Internet? Once again it’s been there for them for most of their lives. Cell phones? I-Pods? I-Phones? When we express our desire to integrate technology into their classroom experiences are we talking our technology or theirs? Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear what students thought about our attempts to integrate technology?
I just finished reading a very interesting report entitled The Digital Divide: The Widening Gap Between Internet Savvy Students and their Schools. This report looks at the student side of Educational Technology. It attempts to hear the student’s voices about whether or not we are effectively utilizing the internet in schools. The report asks the students if they are using internet in schools, if not, why not? It also looks for the students to provide examples of effective integration of technology, and, in their minds, poor integration of technology.
The report finds that as expected our students are heavy users of the Internet. They regularly use it to complete homework assignments, collaborate on school work, research, communicate with peers, and gain access to information that is not readily available to them in school. The disconnect is that almost all of their use occurs outside of the school day. Why you ask? The students tell us it is due to a variety of reasons. First of all, access at school can is beset by barriers, such as slow computers, slow Internet, or stringent filters and firewalls. They also see teachers that don’t feel comfortable using the Internet, or don’t understand how to effectively use it in their classroom. Often the Internet assignments they get are boring and don’t leverage the power of the Internet.
The clear implication is that the students feel comfortable online, and want to use the Internet in their classrooms. They understand the benefits it can bring to education and are discouraged when their use is limited or blocked. In many cases their only chance to utilize the vast array of online resources is to wait until they get home. And clearly those students without computers at home are put further behind their peers that have access.
Reports such as this one make it clear that schools need to continue to grow their technology resources and expertise. We are not meeting the needs of the students in this area, and they know it.