for a family of four). If this trend continues, we should assume that a large portion of our nation’s children will have limited access to broadband and computers and will use a smart device for their internet access. What are the implications for education as teachers and schools move to more digital practices in their institutions?
Limited access to the internet or other resources is what we often call the “Digital Divide;” it often impacts students who are low-income, especially those in rural areas. There is no quick fix to addressing accessibility and broadband internet access is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity. What can educators do on an individual level to support students who are on the other side of the digital divide?
While on an individual level, teachers can be aware that many students in their classrooms do not have access to high speed internet or computers at home. They can also promote device agnostic tools (tools like G-Suite for Education can be installed on any device with near full-capability). Another potential option is that they can allow students to use class time and school resources to work on robust, digital assignments. However, teachers often feel powerless to help students when the problems facing students in the digital divide are so complex and need to be resolved at a macro-level.
There are a few attempts to address the digital divide. The e-rate program, which help to subsidize high speed internet in both urban and rural areas, has had a dramatic impact on bringing broad-band access to low-income as well as rural areas. However, even with this subsidy, students often have limited access at home. As the internet has become the primary repository of learning and knowledge, how can we ensure that all of our children have access?
PEW Research has published an interactive infographic that highlights changing governmental priorities over the last 13 years. Viewers can sort priorities based on year, political affiliation, age, and gender (as well as look at the content overall). This is a great visualization of data for students and scholars of history and civics. Check out the free infographic and its resources here.
The PEW Research center has recently published a new interactive map that highlights global indicators drawn from their database. Examine how the world’s opinion of President Barack Obama has changed over his presidency or the world’s opinion of China. The interactive map allows you to examine broad longitudinal data in depth and easily. Additionally, the visual data provides an easy way to comprehend the data.
This tool is entirely free and can help students and teachers alike explore complex topics. Check out the interactive map here.
In spite of popular believe, the results of a new PEW Survey indicate that digital tools improve student writing skills as well as social interactions. Of the AP and NWP (National Writing Project) teachers surveyed:
96% agree (including 52% who strongly agree) that digital technologies “allow students to share their work with a wider and more varied audience”
79% agree (23% strongly agree) that these tools “encourage greater collaboration among students”
78% agree (26% strongly agree) that digital technologies “encourage student creativity and personal expression”
While educators express a concern that students are more likely to take short-cuts in their writing or have spelling & grammatical errors, they feel more confident that these tools make it easier for them to help students shape and develop and their writing skills.
The findings of this survey are especially pertinent and relevant as critics of social media and technology often express concern about its potential impact on student writing and social skills.