As a kindergarten teacher, I understand that students learn best when their educational experiences are meaningful. To be meaningful, experiences might relate to their own lives, real life, or their interests. In EDTECH 501, we have completed a group assignment addressing digital inequality. This assignment is meaningful to me because I have seen digital inequality in my community.
Although I have discussed this topic with parents, teachers, and administrators, I had not given the topic the attention it deserves. For me, digital inequality was about families not having access to high speed internet. We still have families in our community who can only afford/have access to dial-up services. High-speed access has not reached rural communities, other than satellite service (which is very expensive). Thus, many families go without internet access because it is too expensive or bothersome due to the lack of speed.
Given the problems with internet access, some families do not purchase a computer. On average, 20% of my classroom families do not own a computer (given the last 3 years of school). They may have internet access on their phone to check classrooms websites for announcements and receive emails. Families without internet access at home via computer or phone service averages 15% per school year. I know this number is much less than it was ten years ago when I started teaching. However, our district provides information that is only available online, or by request. Some families will go without information because of digital inequality.
Being an educator, I feel that my responsibility in the area of technology is to integrate technology in a way that shows how beneficial it can be. If students are educated in a school district that creates effective digital media experiences, students will realize the benefit to accessing these resources. They will also have experiences that will help them utilize these resources in the future. This allows for better usage of digital media when the opportunities to access these medias is given. The way I see it, I am a kindergarten teacher that is educating future employees, parents, and community members on how to utilize and access digital media. I am also giving students the courage to go forward when using technology; we do not need to give up when we do not understand something new.
The digital inequality assignment also provided me with an educational experience that meets standards. The AECT standards that are integrated within EDTECH 501 are addressed. Standard 3 addresses the area of utilization. When addressing digital inequality, we are able to address how we all use digital media and why others may not. Looking at society and its’ trends, we were able to define and provide alternatives on how to better utilize digital media in our communities. Looking at current policies that need attention helped us meet this AECT standard.
Another standard addressed in this assignment was standard 4: management. In our digital inequality assignment, we needed to look at how to better manage funds in the area of technology. We ranked areas that need more attention than others; computer access verses internet access, etc. Although we are not truly allocating funds for our state, we do make decisions that affect those around us; public schools, communities, businesses, etc. I will be able to relate this experience with decisions I make as a teacher and member of our school districts technology committee.
When our digital inequality assignment was given, I immediately related it to my community. Some families cannot afford or do not have access to the internet. Without the internet, why would they purchase a computer? Yes, their child could work on presentations or assignments, but they are also given time do this during school hours (remember I am at an elementary school). Families need affordable internet access, computer purchasing assistance, and information on how to use these items effectively. I am thankful for this experience as it has opened my eyes to the expansive problem that is digital inequality. It has also given me ideas on how I can help improve this situation for those around me.