By Teachers, For Teachers
There is no denying that we now live in a digital world, and unfortunately there are still some students who lack access to technology outside of the classroom. In fact, many teachers cite lack of digital access as a minor to major issue in their classroom. This problem is more common then you may think. Research has found that one prevalent problem in some of today’s schools is some students not having home access to high-speed Internet. Some are even calling it the great “Digital divide” among low-income and medium- to high-income families. So, what teaching strategies can you use to minimize the effects of unequal home access to technology, while still maximizing the classroom use of it? Here are five teaching strategies to help you provide equal learning in a digital world.
Don’t assume that all of your students have access to digital technology or high-speed Internet. If you plan on using an app to connect with students and parents, or want your students to complete assignments solely online, then you need to take a few things into account. First, some families may only have a monthly data plan, which means if they use up all of their data in the beginning of the month, then they do not have digital access at the end of the month. Second, students with less-educated parents tend to not get involved in their child’s education, or they help them out less in school. It’s wise to take a student survey in the beginning of the school to year to find out what each students’ digital availability is, and how much their families are involved in their education. This way you can plan your lessons and activities accordingly.
Once you have your student survey results back, then you will have a better idea of your students’ access to technology at home. Now you can find a consistent time to allow students digital access both before and after school. You can also find other ways that students can access technology outside of the classroom, such as the public library, community center, or even a bookstore. Provide students (and their parents) with this useful information, so they are aware of the public locations to Internet access.
Teachers spend much of their time differentiating their lessons to ensure that they are reaching all of the learners in their classroom. Now, when wanting to provide equal learning in a digital world, we need to start thinking about differentiating based on digital access at home. Before you assign your students an online lesson, you must be mindful of how you will accommodate for the students without home access to technology. Think about how important the piece of technology is to your lesson and how much class time you will need to give students to complete the assignment.
One may think that just because a student is able to post a photo on Instagram or create a 20-second Snapchat video, that he will be able to navigate his way through a PowerPoint presentation without a problem. Not every student is familiar with the basics of digital literacy, so you will have to teach him. Start with the basics like web browsing, then move toward the more difficult tasks like PowerPoint presentations and word processing. Make sure that you spend the time teaching him all aspects of the Internet to ensure that all students will be on the same page regardless of the access they have at home to technology.
One potential answer to the great digital divide may be in seeking out more digital resources. Get the ball rolling by starting a conversation in your school district as well as within your local community. Go online to Donorschoose.org and ask for donations. Many teachers have found that seeking out digital donations can be an effective method to providing equal learning to all students. The more resources they have in the classroom, the more opportunities their students will have to use them outside of the classroom.
Unfortunately, students who lack the means of digital access are usually the ones who need it the most. All that we can do as teachers is to try our best to create an equal digital learning environment. By being aware of our students’ digital availability, providing plenty of extra time with technology, and teaching our students the basic of digital literacy, we can help to eliminate the great digital divide.
How do you use teaching strategies to provide equal learning to your students in this world of unequal digital access? Please share your thoughts and comments below. We would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.