When one first hears the words "digital divide" you think of accessibility to computers, but this just barely skims the surface of what the divide is. Data shows the gap narrowing for access to computers for all students. The ratio of studnets per computer has gotten smaller, ranging from 3.0 to 6.5 with a US average of 4.9. We need to look at how those computers are used. In many of your poorer schools, the technology is used minimally for skill practice and simple word processing while at more affluent schools they are designing webpages and multimedia presentations. There also seems to be a divide in gender. Intentional or not, many girls are encouraged to remain in classes that are not as strong in computer science as the classes of their male counterparts. Special needs students, ELL students and low achieving students all need to be considered when planning technology use. Students are still being put on computers mostly for review and practice of skills, instead of more challenging uses such as web page creation or design. I think the largest gap is between high achieving and low achieving students. Many have a preconcieved notion that pow achieving students can't "do" and so are not given the opportunity to strive for a higher goal. They are given review work because that is all they can handle. We need to change our mindset and set high standards with the expectation that all can reach them. Technology can open up avenues of learning that will help many thrive and grow in many directions and build on undeveloped talents.
Technology programs fail for three main reasons - 1)inappropriate leadership 2) moving too fast and 3) failure to get the right people on board. The moving too fast is one we have seen lots of. Keeping up with the Jones. Some new technology comes out and we have to have it, so it is purchased and minimal training is given then it is expected to be used. New tools are great but proper and continual training needs to be built in. When we teach, we don't expect every student to understand at the same time or in the same way. The same holds true for teachers. we need time to explore the technology and ask questions. Time is needed to build a working knowledge of the technology and then to apply it to what we want to accomplish. The second in order of relevance is inappropriate leadership. Inappropriate can be too little or too much. The best design would be for a principal as leader to identify issues for decision making and then lead the discussion amongst all stakeholders (parents, students, teachers, businesses and community members) to drive the process forward for the good of all. This touches on the last aspect of getting the right people on board. The community as a whole is invested in the education of our future leaders and we need them to see what we are aiming for and why.
My school does not have a technology plan that I am aware of, however I do think there is one for the school system. Research was done through pilot school in the county to see if IWBs would be beneficial for instruction. My school was one of the pilot schools and we all felt that the IWBs enhanced our instruction and provided more use of the internet and other technology resources as a whole. I also got to serve on a committee that created flipcharts that would address county standards in math across elementary school grade levels.
I think a plan is necessary for technology use and loved Lempke's quote that
“There should be no technology plan, only a school improvement plan that has technology as an important component in it.” This seems to ring true if we believe that technology is to enhance our instruction and learning and not be seen as a separate component. The goal is to know where we want to go, why do we want to go there, and how will we know when we get there. We need to realize where we are compared to where we want to be and start the building blocks to get us there.