A couple of recent posts by Linda Braun and Scott McLeod have got me thinking (not always a good thing) about the concept of the ‘digital divide’ in my school/community and how that impacts my library program as well as student learning.
Typically when people discuss the issue of the ‘digital divide’ they are referring to rural vs. urban access to computers and the Internet. In Linda Braun’s post, “The Other Digital Divide,” she refers also to the ‘digital divide’ in software access (typically MSOffice products) between what is available at school (or not) and in students homes. She makes the argument that these technologies and access should be made available, not limited or eliminated, in our libraries BECAUSE they aren’t available to teens at home – this includes access to social networking sites like Facebook, to iPods/mp3 players, and to audiobooks/electronic materials!
Scott McLeod‘s post asks “would you send your child to school with a laptop from home?“ His concern seems to be would the child feel awkward if they were the only one with a laptop? Which is a high probability in my school! Comments on the post are mixed and bring up interesting points. The ones that caught my attention:
- laptops are/can be a distraction and detract from student participation in class
- puts the responsibility and care of the technology on the student/parents instead on the school for up keep and reduces tech cost to the school
- concerns for damage/theft/liability
- teacher buy-in and training on how to integrate the tech in the classroom
- educating students in the appropriate use of the tech during school
- if it’s just one more thing in a kids backpack it’s just another burden – however, if all of his/her textbooks were on it instead of hardcopy – how cool would that be!
- wireless access? server security issues?
While most of the comments seem to bring up more concerns than positives, I have to say I lean on the side of why not let them bring them to school? Of course the point is pretty much irrelevant in regards to my school, since we are a very rural and low socio-economic community – desktop computers and dial-up are are the norms. I would be more interested in our district/schools developing policies/guidelines for using cell phones in the classroom – as I believe that the vast majority of our students have those mini computing devices instead! Add iPods & MP3s in the mix and now we’re talkin’! Unfortunately, all personal electronics are verboten.
Still what I take away from these discussions are that I need to push for technology, no transformative access for my students. I need to look into the possibilities of iPods/MP3 players and downloadable materials, audiobooks/Playaways, relevant software, online access or cloud computing alternatives, filter overrides/unblocking of resources, etc. be made available in our school library. Maybe I’m out of touch with my students and their needs. Maybe it’s time for me to run a student tech and interest survey?! Shoot, I should have done this last month before Teen Tech Week! *sigh*
Photo Credit: “Laptop” by laRuth on Flickr