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I’ve finally settled down to read David Warlick’s book, Classroom Blogging, after using it for reference purposes for several months now. This quote really caught my eye, and forced me to seriously reflect on the long-term mission of both KIPP and Teach for America. It also made me wish I was a better writer so I could effectively put all my reactions into a nice, organized, well-written post, rather than the rambling you are about to read. If only I had begun blogging in 8th grade…

“Facts are a mouse-click away, and our students can click it faster than we can.”

Two main thoughts come to mind.

1) We talk, read and think frequently about the achievement gap in our schools and with our students. It begins when our students often come in as 5th graders significantly behind grade level, and continues into high school where statistically many students from our communities have a lower chance of attending the college of their choice.

If the ability of students to teach themselves, using all the tools available online (ie developing your own personal learning network), is becoming commonplace in areas where students are able to click the mouse at a much faster rate (in homes where computers and the Internet are as common as televisions), then are we not actually widening the achievement gap by not giving our students that opportunity in our schools?

If we know that many of our students do not have the tools at home, and we do not give them the opportunity to learn those same skills at school, then not only are we stealing their knowledge of the most basic computer skills, but we’re also stealing from them the ability to continue their learning independently using online resources to teach themselves and expand their learning network. So while students in more well-resourced communities leave school to head home and spend much of their evening online expanding their personal learning networks, our students are falling even more behind, instead of beginning to close the gap through their hard work at school.

2) Are we as teachers also contributing to a widening achievement gap by not being tech-savvy ourselves? I frequently question this in my own classroom. There have been days when I introduce a new Web 2.0 skill and several of my students are already familiar with it. This gets to the root of what I believe David is suggesting with his comment. It pushes me to think about what role we (as educators) are playing in actually widening the achievement gap if we are resisting to learn the very skills our students so desperately need to even run at the heels of higher performing schools, let alone actually catch up.

How scary to think about all the hard work we put into our unit plans, daily materials, decorating our classrooms, and designing vocab chants, and that it could actually be undone by the omittance of computers and technology in our classrooms. We sometimes forget that it’s not just about being able to use a mouse and keyboard (although that is definitely a prerequisite that many of our students have never been taught, as I learned rather quickly on my first day of teaching last year), but it’s about being able to navigate the plethora of information that is now available with just the click of the mouse, IF you know how to find it and use it.

Where are those skills being taught now? How are our kids being taught to continue to teach themselves, outside of school so they stop falling behind?


One Comment

  1. There’s no doubt that giving students the opportunity to use technology that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to is a critical component of preparing students for both the real world and higher education.

    That said, I think you may be overstating technology’s role as a cause of the achievement gap. If we are to examine factors in the home that hold students back, I would venture their not having supportive homes that reinforce the value of learning itself is a more likely culprit than not having access to technology. Supportive homes that value learning and haing access to technology may highly correlate – I don’t know. They certainly did for me, but before computers became a part of my life I loved books and remember the teachers that challenged me and demonstrated a passion for their subjects. This, along with parents who reinforce how fun it could be to learn from an early age, is what inspired me to learn more about what they were so excited about.

    The technology I did have access to as a child (my Apple IIc, Commodore 64, Nintendo, and eventually my 386) were used more for playing games than seeking knowledge (I think these games taught me a great deal in other ways, but I digress). I don’t know many 8th graders any more, but I suspect the same is true today for kids who go home and get on the internet.

    I agree that the more time kids spend using technology (and having it integrated into their curricula) the better off they’ll be. I may be off base but I would argue they’re better off as much for the technical proficiency that they will need in an increasingly wired world (which only comes with lots of time/exposure), rather than because it teaches them to use the internet to continue the learning process.

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