Thursday, April 24, 2008

Digital Ghettos

The Digital Divide is not a large chasm separating the "haves" and "have nots." The notion that we can simply fill this chasm with resources and make a bridge is a failure in metaphor.

Technologically, lower-income and middle-income students live in separate worlds. It is less of a chasm and more of a massive wall - perhaps an invisible wall; one so deceptively invisible that low income children can believe they are participating in the Digital Age when they sign up for a myspace account.

The reality is that low-income students often inhabit digital ghettos that prevent them from accessing, analyzing and applying the resources needed to thrive in a global economy. Yet, what are the walls that prevent integration? Technology segregation is not as simple as the former "whites only" signs that were once posted all over the Deep South.

Ghetto Walls:

1. Lack of Access - Although many schools have new technology, the students do not have access to these media because teachers rarely integrate technology into lessons. In many schools, the issue is a simple re-organization of computers. For others, it is switching from proprietary software to open source and freeware. Still, for others, the issue of access is not accessing the technology, but accessing the professional development. They don't know where to go to learn more.

2. Lack of Motivation - Some teachers and students do not want to use technology. It can seem like a fiery, mysterious box. It can feel too complicated and foreign. For some, it can seem like a waste of time in the greater battle of "student achievement." As one teacher in my school put it, "Why should we use computers if we will be tested with paper and pencil?"

3. Lack of Self-Efficacy - Many teachers and students believe that they can't learn computers. They have few opportunities to use it and so they never try. Past experiences taught them that it's too hard and so now they avoid trying rather than being embaressed or dissapointed.

4. Beliefs - For some teachers, it's an issue of a paradigm shift (segregation to integration). For others, it's a matter of seeing the connection between educational theory and the available technology.

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