Saturday, March 19, 2011

Digital Divisions and Lack of Provisions

I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to attend the CUE Conference for educators in Palm Springs.  This conference focuses on technology in education, including all forms of mobile media, devices, computers, Smart Boards, and much more.  I learned many new things from this experience.  I can’t say that I have a plethora of new ideas and strategies to use in my classroom on Monday, but I do have a new perspective on what I DON’T HAVE!  I also have a new respect for myself as an educator because I am insuring that my students are competitive and successful academically, socially, and morally.  Now, I just have to determine how I will insure they can compete in a technologically driven society that is not going to forgive them for not being prepared to master the digital world!

Digital divisions and lack of provisions will keep otherwise brilliant and highly capable children from accessing equal opportunities for success.  In one session I attended, the instructor shared a program with teachers that required daily use of a Smart Board.  We have a Smart Board in our technology lab, but the students attend the lab for 40 minutes per week which is equivalent to 1600 minutes per year, equaling about 27 hours!  In short, my students will have used a Smart Board for one and 1/8 days in the course of a full school year!  Wow!!!  Is that sufficient time in comparison to those who have access to a Smart Board 5 hours per day, 5 days per week?  That equals 25 hours per week; 2 hours short of what my students will get in a school year! Those students will have Smart Board education 1,000 hours per year compared to mine who will have 27 hours in a year!  And that was just my first workshop…proving the digital division is wider than I thought!

Another session I attended opened my eyes to the real lack of provisions for many students.  This session was interesting and useful to me as an educator.  It showed me how my students can use Voice Threading as a means for sharing their work online.  I instantly thought of how my students could read their poetry, show their artwork, and really be proud of their writing if they could use Voice Threading.  Well, here is my next dilemma.  There is a free program to use, but of course it limits the amount of actual voice threading that can be uploaded.  Why would I want to use the free program and not be able to have all my students’ voices heard?  That’s not going to happen.  Will there be money in our school’s budget to purchase the full program?  Of course not! We don’t have the money in next year’s budget to purchase our nurse, psychologist, or counselor for a sufficient block of time.  Oh well, I guess I will utilize the free program for now and possibly the children can work in groups and read group poetry as opposed to individual poems.  The divide is wide!

Later, I attended a highly interactive and exciting workshop on Higher-Order Thinking.  My first thought was that I would get differentiation strategies for my gifted students.  Well, I was way off base!  The presenter used a Smart Board and “clickers,” a device that the audience members use to respond to the presenter’s prompts or questions.  Oh my, isn’t that what Oprah’s audience members used on a show where Dr. Oz asked health questions and the audience responded with these “clickers?”  At that point, I was really angry sitting in this session with a “clicker” that my students and I have never even seen before!  When the presenter asked a geometry question and everyone clicked in their responses, the data was shown on his Smart Board!  How impressive, amazing, and engaging, all the things that make learning exciting and memorable!  Maybe my students can use old-fashioned, hand-held white boards, write their answers, and hold up the boards!  Then, all I have to do is count and record all 25 responses without losing my students’ attention! Right!!

Lastly, the session that I was most anticipating and cost the most to attend, was called iBootcamp.  This three-hour workshop focused on ways to use an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad in the classroom.  In the beginning I was a little befuddled because who can assume that our students have all these “i’s” to use at school?? I felt a little better after the second hour because I was able to use my iPod Touch (purchased through Donors Choose).  The only problem was that my iPod Touch was not the “newer generation” so the picture-taking capabilities were not there.  My iPod Touch has no camera because they were not made at the time when mine was donated!  Nevertheless, I was engaged because at least I learned some useful applications.  I was told that my students can use the single iPod Touch for Story Robe, an application that gives them the platform for writing a story, adding pictures, and recording it.  Hopefully, somehow I can get a microphone to go with the “old generation” iPod Touch so my students can record their stories.   It was also in this session that the audience was asked, “Who has an iPad; who has a Mac Book Pro; who has an iPod Touch; who has an iPhone?” The presenter needed to determine the needs and the abilities of his audience.  Well, I was not the only one who didn’t have an iPhone or iPad, but I was the only one who had not yet used any “apps” with my students.  I have never been one to act like I know if I don’t or act like I have something that I don’t have so I figured why start now. Go ahead and keep that one and only hand raised so that you can LEARN!!  Aside from being looked at by the lady next to me like I was this poor little under-privileged teacher when I told her that my school did not have the resources to utilize the “apps” the presenter was sharing, I walked away from that session feeling more amazing and awesome than ever!

I am amazing and awesome because just like Mary McLeod Bethune who started a school with $0.25 or Marva Collins who taught the lowest achieving students to master Shakespeare and believe in their God-given gifts, I too am making a lasting impact on my students with or without 21st century technology in my classroom.  The digital divisions and lack of provisions cannot be rectified overnight, but if we all spread the word and demand our voices are heard, maybe we can at least “click” our ways into success, and someday add a few more hours to our Smart Board experiences.

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