Schools Need to Front the Change

Last week, a study (pdf) and a survey (pdf) got me thinking about education’s role in emerging technology.

The Study:
A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users
from the Pew Internet & American Life Project

Addressing people’s assets, actions, attitudes towards information and communications technology (ICT), this study sorts American adults into three distinct groups (and subgroups) with the following results:

Elite Tech Users (31%)
Middle-of-the-road Tech User (20%)
Few Tech Assets (49%)

The most alarming aspect of the study is that a very large group of Americans (49%) are not accessing or participating in modern digital life (or minimally so). At least in adults, this is stark evidence of a digital divide in America.

The Survey
Smoking, Drugs and Obesity Top Public’s List of Health Problems for Children from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health

As a relatively new health concern, internet safety (26%) beat out school violence (24%), sexually transmitted infections (24%) and abuse and neglect (22%) – taking 7th place as among the top 10 concerns.

From the study:
“Recently, state and federal legislators appear to have responded to public concerns about Internet safety for children, considering new legislation and issuing consumer alerts.” As teachers, we have seen these actions again and again, where valuable websites are routinely blocked.

What Schools Can Do

It seems to me that our schools should be on the front line of both of these concerns to effect positive change. As we are concerned about the future of all American students, then we should supply access and training for proper ICT use.

  1. Fair Access. To address the digital divide so that our emerging workforce is digitally literate, schools need to provide fair and consistent access to new technology. This access needs to be reflected in equivalent hardware, software and availability no matter the location or socioeconomic status of the school.
  1. Teach Safe and Proper Use of ICT. Like any tool, ICT can be a wondrous instrument, but it can also be abused as well. Instead of shielding kids from what could be harmful, we must teach and model to them safe and proper use of ICT.

[Originally seen on TechCrunch: The Growing Digital Divide and TechCrunch: Internet More Dangerous than…]



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