No device should ever be hailed as the silver bullet in “saving” education — nor should it be completely shunned — but when it comes to the possibility of bridging the digital divide between low-income and high-income students, devices may play a pivotal role.
Access to the Internet connects kids to all kinds of information — and for low-income students especially, that access has the power to change their social structure by allowing them to become empowered and engaged, said Michael Mills, a professor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Arkansas during a SXSWEdu session last week.
“For minorities and for low-income students who have these devices, it might be their only way to access the Internet, to get information about their own health, access to social media,” he said. “And they’re using that as the agent to change their social structure.”
“The Internet is about empowerment. If we take away this access because we think certain people aren’t going to use it right, we’re no better than governments who take away voting rights from minorities.”
Yet it’s those very students who are deprived of the right to use their own devices in schools, according to a recent Pew report showing that access to devices is noticeably different between higher and lower income schools: 52% of teachers of upper and upper-middle income students say their students use cell phones to look up information in class, compared with 35% of teachers of the lowest income students. And when it comes to blocking sites, 49% of teachers of students living in low-income households say their school’s use of Internet filters has a major impact on their teaching, compared with 24% of those who teach better off students who say that. In the same vein, 33% of teachers of lower income students say their school’s rules about classroom cell phone use by students have a major impact on their teaching, compared with 15% of those who teach students from the highest income households.
Why is this the case? It all comes down to expectations, Mills said, that could also be related to blatant racism.
“We have some significant issues with race relations, and the core of what it comes down to is that Continue reading