Can teachers cross the digital divide?
by Pete Carney
- The Teacher’s Perspective
Buying technology alone won’t eliminate the generational differences between teachers and students who were born in different centuries. In a recent survey of students in the UK, the #1 characteristic of a great teacher was empathy, #2 was listening. How much do you know about the students in your classroom? They don’t remember the Berlin Wall, Kurt Cobain, floppy disks with aluminum foil tabs, Sesame Street before Elmo, or New Year’s Eve in 1999. Some of your students have never used a pay phone. But some of us still carry change in our pocket…just in case. What if the car breaks down, and our family plan of cell phones doesn’t work? What if parking meters start taking coins again?
Half of the people on the planet are under the age of 30, and they have always been surrounded by a digital jungle? The students and student teachers you’re teaching today are natives to the digital world. Technology has been a part of everyday of their life. Their buzzword moniker is “digital natives.” The average teacher today is a “digital immigrant.” (Marc Prensky) As digital immigrants most teachers learned to adapt to technology during its early evolution with stacks of floppy drives and CD collections we still have. When we grew up it was still acceptable to be “not that into computers.” New research from the Pew Research Center suggests that the odds aren’t in your favor to effectively teach your digital natives without the proper tools and perspective. In fact, the statistics about your students digital habits might be surprising. One hundred text messages per day is the average for a texting girl in high school.
The good news for digital immigrants, is that we’ve grown up adapting to change. The statistics in the quiz below offer a greater awareness to the changing world that surrounds education, and will hopefully encourage many diverse styles of experimentation with new methods. After facing the statistics, this website was rebuilt to adapt to smartphones, an overlooked classroom tool that is vital to teen self-expression and information gathering.
- Teacher and Student Tools
Here are a few highlights from the Pew statistics. Teachers of the lowest income students are more than twice as likely as teachers of the highest income students (56% v. 21%) to say that their students lack of access to digital technologies is a “major challenge.” At the same time, urban teens use cell phones more for quality information than suburban or rural teens. One step every teacher, parent, and administrator can take is to find out who their digital native students are, and why “they love their cell phone.” Where would you gather information without high speed internet, cable TV, or a computer at home? Could smartphones be an under utilized link for new education strategies? In Bangladesh, millions of people are learning English through text messaging and phone calls with recorded messages. This program connected the dots between education, tools, and practical resources receiving nternational attention at a minimal price structure.
99% of AP and NWP teachers in this study agree with the notion that “the internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available,” and 65% agree that “the internet makes today’s students more self-sufficient researchers.” There are many possible conclusions to draw from statistics in the quiz below. Answer the following questions below to meet the digital natives and the digital jungle.