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Monday, February 09, 2015

Bridging the Tech Gap Will Help to Bridge the Achievement Gap

Recently a child showed a movie to the class of the Lego Mindstorm robot he created and programmed.

Another child has been sharing stories of the coding contest he's engaged in at home.

Still more discuss their Minecraft creations, games, and share.

And there are those who have never had the chance to play with any of these tools. These students are unable to engage in the conversations, and they haven't developed a foundation of today's technology because of this gap.

Is this significant?

I say that this is significant for the following reasons:
  • The thinking, creation involved in Lego Mindstorms, Minecraft, and coding is the thinking of the future--children who have these skills will be able to navigate future needed skills and think with greater success.
  • It takes time to develop skill in these areas and beginning as young children in playful ways helps to develop these skills with interest and passion.
  • The divide of "haves and "have-nots" in this regard mirrors class gaps and hinders those without access from advancement.
  • Using these tools builds strong foundations in all core areas of learning since these tools help to develop logical thinking and problem solving skill as well as language and vocabulary knowledge and skill. 
  • Teachers needs to learn these tools too, and most teachers don't have access to the tools and don't take or make the time to learn the tools. 
As we think about technology and achievement gaps, what changes can we make to bridge this gap. 
  1. Move from strict tech rules that hinder tech use and exploration to protocols that invite investigation and exploration by educators and students in responsible, forward-thinking ways.
  2. Create streams of share that are facile and flexible.  Too tight and slow streams do not serve learning well. 
  3. Let students "in-the-know" tutor and teach students and teachers who haven't had a chance to use these tools.
  4. Give young students lots of time to play with new, sophisticated tech tools.
  5. Look at ways to restructure school schedules, roles, and routines to make more time for invigorated learning with high-level tech tools. 
  6. Open up app processes and use systems so that teachers and students can readily download and try out new tools.
  7. Create ready idea systems of share so that students, family members, educators, and community members can share their tech updates and ideas in facile ways.
  8. Let students bring in their own tech equipment and share that equipment with classmates and others as they learn.
  9. Weed current learning/teaching methods of outdated, uninteresting, and less worthy process, tools, and systems.
  10. Design learning collaboratively with and for students using a process that's inclusive, deep, and standards-based. 
Students with means and support are learning with depth and meaning outside of school all the time. Students without that means and support are hindered in this regard. Making tech use more readily available and user-friendly will help to bridge the tech gap, and bridging the tech gap will also help to bridge the achievement gap.

These are some specific ideas which may help students.
  • One-to-one at all levels. Teaching students how to use their tech device and allowing them to add apps and other programs by following system-wide protocols. 
  • Greater family tech support for families who are uncomfortable or inexperienced with tech use.
  • More student-to-student coaching with respect to sophisticated tech equipment and processes.
  • Embedding tech use into deep, differentiated learning events. This is a project example shared by Dustin Carson (@dustin7carson), a member of my PLN. 
  • A tech lab that invites differentiated student exploration, investigation, creation, and learning on a regular basis.
  • Open tech lab hours for exploration and share.
  • Access to the deep learning, engaging tech that students use at home at school--tech like Minecraft, Lego Mindstorms, SCRATCH, and more.
  • Student tech leaders group made up of savvy, engaged tech users who are on the cutting edge of tech use. This group could serve to lead school-wide tech professional learning and use.
  • Game-based tech trials and use.
  • Innovation pilots for students and teachers to try out new tech in more open, less restricted ways with small groups of students.
  • Multiple tools including BYOD. 

Note Two:
I believe the ideas relayed here apply to all worthy learning events including learning in nature, the arts, music, and more. Rich learning environments with the best tools and deep learning projects will result in engaged, empowered, well educated students.