I love technology. Usually, I am early in adopting new forms as they are introduced. So of course, when I think about technology in schools, my first thought is “YES! That would be wonderful!” Then, after a little more reflection, I start to think about the vast number of youth in the United States whose families cannot afford many new technologies. Often in today’s society, both parents work a job, sometimes two, just to make ends meet. So how could they possible afford the technology that schools would require at home in order for students to successfully embrace more ICTs in their daily learning lives?
The articles for class this week really supported my blog thoughts for music education on September 12. I do agree with utilizing ICTs in the schools and teaching the students through interactive communication. However, reflecting on the economics of information and digital inequality that we discussed in class a couple weeks ago, I wanted to take a closer look at the numbers to see if ICTs are really advantageous for schools. According to this short article with visual maps, (July 2015) income, education, race, and residence location all contribute toward the barriers to access. US Digital Inequality
The Council of Economic Advisers Brief in July 2015 demonstrates a definite association between home internet use and median income in 2013.
In addition to an income divide, geography also contributes to the digital inequality. Since income affects where people live, the geographic divide is especially evident in rural areas or large cities. In Western rural areas, no access may be due to lack of infrastructure, but in the South, areas such as tribal lands cannot monetarily support home internet use (Council, 2015). In urban cities, the income divide is reflected in the home use of the internet, as seen in the Council of Economic Advisers chart.
The same locations that reflect limited home internet use also house the schools that struggle with financial support, usually in the poorest sections of a city. The Greenlining Institute (2009) noted that digital inequality creates additional social inequality, which results in a perpetual cycle of inequality for low-income families. So how would ICTs in the school benefit these students?
Not only is it important to offer access to computers and internet use within the schools, but also in the local public libraries. Grants and other forms of funding are extremely important to these institutions in order to build the needed infrastructure. However, as schools integrate ICTs, a vital consideration is compatibility with mobile phone technology. The Greenlining Institute notes that cell phones are increasingly important devices for employment opportunities – both for job searches and to be accessible for employers (2009). Likewise smartphones could fill a gap for students, especially in high school, by giving them tools to access technology.
If students do not learn technological skills in school, they remain disadvantaged as they enter the work force. Thus, when schools consider integration of ICTs in their lesson plans, teachers should consider the best means for their students to access the information and implement the technology accordingly. Look for appropriate funding within the school system. Check with the local libraries for accessibility by the students. Find out if smartphone access is prevalent within the student body. If these conditions can be verified, ICTs in schools would be of benefit to all students. Accessibility is key to learning new technologies and breaking the cycle of inequality.
Council of Economic Advisers. (2015). Mapping the digital divide. Council of Economic Advisers Issue Brief, July 2015. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/wh_digital_divide_issue_brief.pdf.
The Greenlining Institute. ( 2009). Digital inequality: Information poverty in the information age. The Greenlining Institute: A Multiethnic Public Policy Research and Advocacy Institute. Retrieved from http://greenlining.org/issues/telecommunications-technology/2009/digital-inequality/.