The Widening Technology Gap Between Districts?

So, February 6 is Digital Learning Day.  That sounds like a great idea for educators.  However, it raises an important question:  what about the gap between the haves and the have nots?  I have noticed, on various social media sites, that there is a distinct difference between my district’s finances, along with the families’ abilities to fund technology within those districts and other, neighboring districts.

Often, I see suggestions for the newest iPad apps to use in your classroom to support learning.  Our district can’t afford to purchase iPads for the students.  Then, I see suggestions for “if you only have one iPad in your classroom”.  That ignores the fact that many districts don’t have wifi available.

I also hear suggestions for groups of students to use the several computers I have in my classroom to access the internet.  What if there is only one computer – a teacher computer that students are not allowed to use?

Next comes the suggestions to use the computer lab (apparently some buildings have multiple labs for their classes to use).  Our building has one lab for 4 grades to share (400 students using one lab!) and that one had a water main break over Christmas and we’re still waiting for the insurance to help us purchase new computers for it.

Of course, many will tell me that the school district could purchase a laptop cart, iPods for the students to use, the list goes on and on.  While I appreciate the well meaning ideas, our district and our students can’t use them.

Finally, there’s the idea of writing grants.  Unfortunately, most corporate grants are for towns which include a storefront for that business.  What if your town is made up of small hometown businesses without corporate grants?

Here’s what I deal with on a daily basis:

one computer in my classroom – hooked up to a projector and interactive whiteboard.  (The projector is dying and there are no plans to replace it)

my own personal iPad, but no wifi and no plans to put it in the building

A VERY old iPod nano that used to belong to my daughter (10 years or so – the old silver rectangular version – Apple employees were shocked when I brought it in for some work to be done)

An oldish iPod touch – also abandoned by my daughter when she bought her own iPhone

one computer lab, used to teach computer class (not every year, though – it depends on where we need to place teachers and school board members’ whims)

Students whose families can’t afford smartphones and tablets and all the other electronic wonders of the 21st century

households which have no internet access, or only dial up (yes, dial up!)  Here in rural America, not everyone has access to multiple high speed internet providers

My worry is that teachers in these other districts can’t seem to conceive of a school which has such limited technology.  It’s hard for them to believe we could have this sort of limited internet access, when we are only 30 minutes from the state capitol.

When our country has some students working with iPods, iPhones, iPads, laptops, wifi, etc and others who aren’t even able to open a Google page, what will the future bring?  Is it okay for us to continue merrily on our way, leaving a large portion of our students in the dust, assuming they will “catch up” some day?

When will these students catch up?  How will this happen?  How are they to compete for jobs with technology savvy students from other districts?  How are they to succeed in college, in an ever advancing digital society?

What are we doing to these hard working students and families?  Are we dooming them to a life of minimum wage jobs?  Are we creating a new class of people who can never hope to achieve the American dream?

It’s a question worth asking.

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