The Silicon Gap: A New Divider for Struggling Students to Fall Prey to (by Guest Blogger Kyle Gunderson)

 micropcWe are all well aware of the ever-increasing chasm between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in this country, especially when it comes to education, but with technology becoming more of a requirement for education and life in general that gap may start growing at breakneck and shocking speeds. Libraries and charmingly anachronistic hardback books will always be a means to educating one’s self but a computer and a solid internet connection are making research and education a far-sight easier than scrolling through card catalogs and studying appendixes with the hope of finding information pertinent to research. There is no way of getting around it anymore, if you want your child to have the best education possible then they simply must have access to a computer and an internet connection and we are seeing now that dial-up is not going to cut it anymore.

The article below from USA today highlights a few key factors to this changing educational environment that all of us may not have yet had to consider. My entire public school career occurred when having a computer in the home along with an internet connection was only just becoming a common thing and I know I certainly don’t have all the skills or patience necessary to attack a research paper au naturel; so how can we expect that any of the youth traversing their way through our current education system could do it any better than someone like me? More importantly, as the article points out, technology is opening all sorts of news doors to teaching our kids in an effective and engaging way. It is not just Mario Teaches Typing, Math Munchers, or The Oregon Trail anymore, some teachers, like those in the article, are utilizing tech to its extremes by having students watch the lesson plan at home and do the practical work in class where the teacher can help them at any step of the way. This new method of teaching has the potential to revolutionize the education of struggling students who simply don’t have someone at home available, willing, or able to give them this kind of vital help with their work.

The simple fact remains though that a large portion of Americans don’t have a broadband internet connection and thus could not effectively stream these videos and further a sizable portion don’t have an internet connection or computer at all. We can’t simply leave these kids in the dust, they are the ones that need our help more than ever. Luckily there are a few options that are cropping up only recently in the field of ultra-cheap computers designed to be used for nothing but the needs of a student. So far we have seen the Raspberry Pi and Cotton Candy and a few other tiny linux-based PCs priced under $100 and now there is a new competitor in the mix, the MK802 micro-PC, priced at just $74 dollars with free shipping (not that shocking considering it is the size of a thumb drive). These micro-PCs, from any of these brands or others, could be the answer to this rather new issue and could give a lot of kids the tools necessary to do as the fella says and ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ in the American way.

Questions:

  • What are our collective thoughts on technology in the classroom? Is there such thing as too much? If so how much is too much?
  • Are there more benefits to increasing technology in schools this article doesn’t touch on? Other new and unique innovations to the landscape of teaching and learning that simply aren’t possible without access to good and fast technology?
  • The article talks a bit about government contracts with broadband service providers, at what point, if any, is access to the internet going to be considered a human right rather than a privilege of means? And if this is the case what do we need to do to figuratively and literally lay the grid work for this access to one of the greatest educational tools ever developed?

Links:

USA Today article:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/16/internet-learning-creates-digital-divide/1925189/

Short article on micro-PCs from PC World:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/255837/tiny_74_pc_runs_linux_and_android_4_0.html

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2 thoughts on “The Silicon Gap: A New Divider for Struggling Students to Fall Prey to (by Guest Blogger Kyle Gunderson)

  1. The technology gap in schools is a every increasing problem in schools. Many kids in the school that I volunteer at have never used an iPad and don’t have a computer at home. Growing up in today’s world of expanding technology, it seems like every kid would know how to use a computer.

    I do think that technology in a classroom is a great thing for students as well as teachers. It definitely helps teachers with preparing curriculum and activities for a classroom of kids; especially when there are 50. It also helps the environment to use less paper. 🙂 I have been in classrooms where the teacher has his/her laptop out, the kids have iPods and they are also using a smart-board. I think that that is becoming the norm now.

  2. Just to add a little more information to this topic, these micro-PCs are just the actual computer and still require a monitor and an internet connection in most cases. This is still a bit of a road block as most of these PCs output a rather high resolution that can’t be processed by any regular computer monitor that anyone could pick up for $15 at Goodwill. This does not price them out of the reasonable spectrum though, these monitors hover around $150 right now but the way technology moves these days this price is shrinking every month. Outside of this schools would also be able to have computer labs of monitors and internet connections and each student could have their own PC that they can use on campus and anywhere else if they are lucky enough to have access at home, a friend’s house, or even at some libraries with newer equipment.

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