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Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

A Whole New Digital World

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By Helen Hadani, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, most parents worried about how much time their young children were spending on screens and how often they were engaging with digital technology. With many schools shifting to remote learning and most afterschool activities canceled, children’s technology time has increased by leaps and bounds. So, what are parents to do? 

Instead of swimming against the current, try embracing a different perspective of the digital world and seeing the potential of technology to strengthen skills that we know young children need—creativity, collaboration, motivation and persistence. A recent paper from the Bay Area Discovery Museum titled Tech Time with Purpose offers a new way for parents to examine the myriad of digital games and programs out there for children. The paper uses the museum’s CREATE Framework, which stands for child-directed, risk-friendly, exploratory, active, time for imagination and exchange of ideas, as a guide to the digital world for young children.  

Child-directed learning leverages your children’s natural curiosity about the world around them and allows them to explore (i.e., get into everything) with minimal adult involvement. View technology as a way for your children to express their creativity by painting using a tablet (that way, they don’t get paint on your kitchen table), building a world in Minecraft or recording a story on a smartphone. 

As a parent, it is hard to watch your children struggle or even failbut exposing your children to risk-friendly environments encourages them to try new things and builds confidence. Digital games allow children to take risks without serious consequences. For example, apps like FlummoxVision or PeppyPals Sammy Helps Out provide an opportunity for children to practice social interactions without the stress of trying those skills out in public.  

From a young age, children conduct experiments and engage in exploratory play to learn more about the world around them. Children as young as preschool age can practice basic coding skills in a playful way using coding programs like ScratchJr or drawing a path to direct Ozobots.  

Technology gets a bad rap for being a sedentary activity, but certain digital technologies can encourage children to be physically active. Try digital games like Dance Dance Revolution or Pokémon GO to get your children up and moving.  

 Children can spend countless hours pretending to be superheroes or turning cardboard boxes into spaceships or castles. Certain digital technologies can take time for imagination to whole new levels by promoting creative exploration and original thinking. Children can bring their ideas to life in makerspaces by using digital fabrication tools like 3D printers and laser cutters to build a 3D model of an airplane or rocket.  

While technology has a reputation for isolating people, some digital technologies provide opportunities for children to exchange ideas with others and provide a new outlet to express themselves. For example, in a time when visiting friends and family members is difficult because of the pandemic, using Skype or FaceTime can be great for connecting with friends and family memberswhether they live down the street or across the country. Apps like Marco Polo and Voxer can model how technology can enhance relationships.  

 

Preventing Screen Brain for Children Over the Holidays

Toddler Looking at Screen

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

As in changing any behavior, one might anticipate howling protests prior to separation from devices from children or teens. The equivalent of the primal yawp, or NOOOOO!. I advise parents to be steadfast and clear, and define the limits (no screens means…zero screens), and make these borders non-negotiable when possible. Pushback from the peanut gallery may amount to carryings-on, kvetching, complaining, loud grousing, grumblings, mumblings and bitter statements meant to be overheard. I’d recommend meeting these with the professional cool of an airline attendant sharing a long delay. “We apologize for the hardship, but let’s do the best we can to work together to make the journey enjoyable…” is the vibe I’d go for. Whinging is best ignored, quote the law and move on. Kids will eventually follow.

Card play, board games, or lively ‘parlor game’ type activities, like pictionary or team based activities can get kids out of their grouchy headspace and distracted (or dragged) and into the shared activity. In the case of my kids, this could sometimes take a round or two of play,  to clear the cobwebs and distraction of getting back to their device. Like many kids, they didn’t always want to, but they should be committed to a reasonable amount of time to engage that feels sufficient (15 minutes), and soon enough they moved on and got lost in the game. During such evenings, I’d argue, that ALL screens are best valet parked for the duration, and at least for the evening.

 

Turn off the tech early so kids get a great night’s sleep

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CHILDREN’S tech obsession can be hard enough for parents to deal with during the day – but new evidence suggests they should be concerned about the effect it’s having on kids at night too.

Research shows that the 40% of children aged between six and 11 years who use mobile phones, laptops or tablets in the hours before bedtime are getting around 20 minutes less sleep a night than kids who don’t use tech in the run-up to bedtime. So children who use tech before bed every night could end up with a sleep debt of around 121 hours a year.

The research, led by cognitive developmental psychologist Dr Anna Weighall from the University of Sheffield, in conjunction with the University of Leeds and Silentnight, questioned 1,000 parents, and also found that on average, children slept 60 minutes less if technology devices were in the room, compared to those who slept in a tech-free zone.

“Technology can benefit our lives in so many ways,” says Dr Weighall, “but parents need to be aware of the negative impact it can have on children when it comes to sleep.

“The presence of tablets and phones in a child’s bedroom, even if they’re switched off, can leave them feeling unsettled.

“A 20-minute sleep debt may not seem a lot, but if you look at it over a year, or even throughout their childhood years, you begin to see the significant impact of a tech-filled bedtime routine. Having clear rules about the use of technology close to bedtime is a small change that has the potential to make a really big difference to our children’s daily lives.”

When light levels drop in the evening, our circadian timer switches on and stimulates the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, but the use of tech before bed disrupts this natural process, explains Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Silentnight’s sleep expert.

Dr Ramlakhan says screens on phones and tablets emit blue light which suppresses the production of melatonin and stimulates production of the chemical dopamine, which makes us feel alert.

“By establishing a regular sleep routine, without mobiles or tablets, children will sleep better, perform better at school, and be happier and healthier as a result,” she stresses.

“Concentration and the ability to learn can be severely affected by lack of sleep, so I urge children and parents to put down technology at least 90 minutes before bedtime.”

The research also showed one in 10 parents feel unable to ensure their child gets the sleep they need. However, child sleep specialist Andrea Grace has these tips to help school-age children get a good night’s sleep: TEN LITTLE STEPS TO THE LAND OF NOD SCREENS OFF. Turn all screens off at least half an hour before bath time and don’t have TVs or computers in the bedroom.

ROUTINE IS VITAL. A consistent bedtime routine will help your child feel safe, and ready to sleep, although Andrea warns that parents with more than one child must be organised.

EARLY HOMEWORK. Try to get homework done well before bedtime. It’s nice to have quiet time together before bed, chatting or reading.

NO STIMULANTS. Avoid fizzy drinks, chocolate or other foods containing stimulants. Encourage your child to have a nourishing evening meal which is rich in carbohydrate and protein.

GIVE THEM A COMFY BED. Make sure your child’s bed and mattress are comfortable, and they have the right amount of bedding for the room temperature.

ATTENTION PLEASE! During the preparation for bed, give your child or children your fullest possible attention, and try not to take telephone calls.

“As well as feeling safe, children need to feel loved in order to sleep well,” explains Andrea, “so show your child how important they are by giving your time, even if that time is being shared with siblings.”

 

This article was written by Lisa Salmon from Derby Evening Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Real Moms (and 1 Dad) on Their Social Media Strategies for Their Kids

 

Twenty20

You want your kids to be current, but you also want to protect them from the big bad digital world, which makes navigating whether or not to give them social media access a tricky decision. The pros of social media access, in particular for pre-teens and teens? It can strengthen friendships, provide a sense of belonging when they’re grappling with something tough, and help them learn how to express themselves, according to studies. The cons? They’re mostly the ones we’re familiar with (sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression), plus a new biggie: Social media use for teens can become addictive and cause them to live in a world that’s activated by likes, says a recent study out of UCLA. We checked in with five moms—and one dad—to hear more about their approach. 

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Nope, Not Even a Little

“My daughter is nine years old and we don’t allow social media at all. She has a Kindle with a couple of game apps on it and the only online game she has access to is Prodigy, a math game she plays in class at school. Apparently, my husband and I are really old-school. ‘Social’ anything for her right now is face to face or on the phone, period. She does, however, have an email account that she uses to keep in touch with out of state family and friends. She hops on one day a week to check it and return emails. (I monitor her incoming and outgoing messages.) We told her that when she turns 13, we’ll revisit our decision on her social media use.” — Katie, MA

Yes, But Only Snapchat

“I have two boys, ages 8 and 12. My eight-year-old is too young and doesn’t care about social media at this point, but my 12-year-old is in the seventh grade and wants to interact with his peers. I agreed to let him have Snapchat, which I also have access to, but he’s never on it. That said, he’s a gamer and loves YouTube. This will probably become a heated debate when he turns 13. He’s a good kid—respectful and trustworthy—but I know what’s out there. I’ll likely give in and allow him to start his own channel…and then monitor it like a madwoman.” — Ayana, MI

We’re All About Monitoring Access

“My son will be 12 just before Christmas and has a Facebook account and an email address. He is *only* allowed to use Facebook to message me, his dad and his nana and papa—not for posting. And the email is for logging into certain games and YouTube, all of which we monitor his activity on. He uses pretty good judgment about what’s appropriate and what’s not, but I check his web history once a week and log into his email account and YouTube accounts weekly as well. In my opinion, communicating with him daily about what he’s doing is most important, but also trying to keep up with all the new apps and trends kids use to hide their app use is helpful, too. The only thing I struggle with: Minecraft, where they can basically be talking with anyone.” — Kate, SC

It’s Not Even Up for Discussion

“My daughter is 11 and is not allowed on social media, but many of her friends have Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. She has asked to join several times, but she knows the rules are set. I have had consistent rules with social media and restrictions on internet usage her whole life, so there aren’t too many arguments. She does have an email account, but only for school work. Her cell phone screen time is restricted to three hours and I need to authorize downloading any apps.” — Matt, MA

Snapchat is Allowed…But Only On Our Phone

“My 11-year-old daughter is not allowed to have any social media accounts. She is allowed to Snapchat with her teammates from my phone under my account. She understands the rules and regularly informs me that ‘only old people use Facebook.’ So I am old.” — Lara, CA

Yes, Every Single Platform

“My 15-year-old son is on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. He’s been on social media for a while. I don’t believe it’s realistic to keep teens away from social media. Plus, in high school, they’re using Facebook groups and chats as virtual study accounts, where one is for the parents to see and the other is for their friends. What I do instead of monitoring is make sure he knows that anything he posts could wind up public at any point. There’s no such thing as privacy on social media. Also, since he was in elementary school, I’ve talked to him about how things can come across differently on text or social media than in a personal interaction. I took this approach to help him understand that if you’re joking with someone on text or social media, it might be offensive and it’s much harder to register that—and offer a sincere apology—when you’re missing a personal dynamic.

Though I know a lot of parents who have their kids’ passwords for social accounts, I don’t. I’ve always worked on a trusting relationship and allowing some personal space. If I sensed he was in trouble or participating in something upsetting, I’d pursue that route, but as long as his grades are good, he’s engaged with school and activities, and he’s not showing any signs of emotional problems, I’m OK with giving him some privacy online.” — Sam, NY

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The 3 Biggest Ways Tech Will Change Millennial Parenting in 2018

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Be prepared for these big innovations that will reshape our lives.

In an era where we are told that technology is making us not just lonelier, but also less kind, it has always felt important to me to find the antidote to that—to find and use technology that makes us more connected to each other and to our world.

When I started my career, dating by using technology received at best, a raised eyebrow, and at worst, a lot of negative attention. I was part of that full 360, running Badoo (a large dating European dating platform), and was part of Bumble, the seminal Millennial dating product. Watching how attitudes changed was not only exciting, it was fascinating. Tables turned, taboos were broken, and new industries were born. It was this experience which highlighted most clearly how my newly occupied arena, motherhood, was in need of a technological shakeup.

At one point when I was out on maternity leave with my son in 2013, I found myself trawling baby advice blogs at 2 a.m. and I realized there had to be a better way, a new social shift, a new taboo to bust. And that was the start of Peanut, which uses everything I had learned about technology to connect like-minded mothers (to make us less lonely) and enable them to communicate (to be kind). That was around 10 months ago, and since then, I’ve relished every opportunity to use tech to enrich our lives as mothers.

As my son grows up, we are sort of navigating technology together. This year, there are so many things I am excited to show him, and I think we are going to see a lot more how it will make our lives easier. (I’ll take all the help I can get!) Here are some of my favorites:

Virtual Reality

We already know VR is everywhere, but advancements in this field create the potential for it to go beyond gaming and “sunbathing” on a beach, to help us educate our children. I recently attended an event where a children’s charity used VR to transport you to Africa, walking alongside a schoolgirl on her morning pursuit to collect clean water before school. It made such an impact on me, and as advancements are made in this space, it could end up being an important tool to have to teach our children—we won’t have to just tell them, we can show them.

For example, Discovery VR can allow our children to swim with the sharks in the depths of the oceans or play with pandas in China, all from the seats of their desks. My son Finlay is very into bats right now, so this is an amazing way for him to see them and interact with them safely. Another great one is Star Chart, which maps out constellations and allows children to explore the planets in our solar system while also being able to time shift 10,000 years back and forward, to see what our planet once looked like, and how it may possibly evolve in the future. That’s better than any science textbook I ever had!

Virtual Health

Every parent knows how intimately you become acquainted with your medical practitioner, and how important it is to have immediate access to those professionals. Tech to make those medical appointments easier, more accessible, in real time will be a huge asset for busy parents who need immediate, expert advice. Apps like Heal, DoctorsOnDemand, HealthTap are doing such cool things in this space to make life easier. But Maven has really stolen it for me here. I met the founder recently. She told me 80 percent of women are making decisions about healthcare in their families, and yet the current system is not exactly female friendly (trying to get to that appointment during your workday, or collect your kiddo from school to get them there). The ability to use video appointments and direct messaging for peace of mind? That is what every mother needs.

YouTube Kids (with better regulation)

We’ve all read the stories and have been horrified by what our children may see by accident. We know that YouTube is looking more carefully at moderating the content posted to their channel, and 2018 will likely bring increased regulation and more child-friendly streaming services. There is still a way for all of the wonderful content that exists online to enrich our children’s world, to give them access and opportunity to content we had to access through dusty encyclopedias, and let’s be honest, to give us 20 minutes respite whilst we’re trying to juggle a million other balls. However, until regulations and moderation are where we need them to be, perhaps the solution is watching together.


Michelle Kennedy is the CEO and co-founder of Peanut. Available in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Peanut is a free Android and iOS app that uses a smart algorithm to connect like-minded women who are mothers. Michelle started her career as an M&A lawyer at leading international law firm Mishcon de Reya. She later joined dating app, Badoo, where she rose to the role of Deputy CEO. She is also a mama to her 4-year-old Peanut, Finlay.

 

This article was written by Michelle Kennedy from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Early Learning and Technology Part Five: Social Interaction and Collaborative Learning

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 03/15/2015 on the 
HMH blog.

We know that relationships are essential to healthy child development. We can observe organic collaborative Girl at Computerbehaviors even in very young children, who often explore their worlds and gather information while they play independently, but then eventually come together to learn and share experiences with others. 

Technology offers unique opportunities to cultivate the innate human instinct to collaborate. Educators and developers have embraced these possibilities by creating platforms and projects designed to facilitate learning experiences and communication–between peer groups, teachers and students, and school communities and families–and to expand virtual space for cross-cultural education.

Let’s take a closer look at how technology can support collaborative learning:

1) Extending Access

In 2001, education researcher Dr. Sugata Mitra launched a unique experiment he called the “Hole-in-the-Wall.”Mitra installed a public computer in a remote village in India. Young children in the village quickly discovered how to scroll, seek out information, learn English and more. In short, Mitra witnessed young children teaching themselves and one another via the computer’s resources.

The Hole-in the Wall project cracked open the concept of a school “in the cloud” that children can access anywhere, anytime.  The community computer and its content enabled a natural learning environment to grow, complete with encouragement from mentors, teachers, family and friends.

As Dr. Mitra’s work demonstrates, technology’s potential to extend access to learning content far and wide is huge. In the last decade, partnerships between educators, ministries and organizations have helped to deliver content and training across the globe, from reading on mobile phones in developing countries to professional development seminars that can be viewed offline for communities lacking internet connections.

2) Creating “Blended” Learning Environments

An approach commonly called a “blended” learning model encourages classroom collaboration, and technology can provide a wonderful support system for the experience. For example, students may be organized into small clusters based on shared learning styles, abilities or interests. This organization allows teachers to focus carefully on individual students and to craft dynamic learning scenarios for an individual child or small group. Technology’s capacity to support personalized learning pathways allows for individually tailored pacing and practice, in turn promoting subject or skill mastery. As a result, students feel confident and are proud to share their knowledge.

3) Learning by Playing

Digital games powered by quality content can improve attention, focus and reaction time. Whether there are two players or many, gamers acquire pro-social skills through healthy competition, which then translate to other relationships and aspects of life.

Consult KQED’s Mindshift’s Guide to Digital Games and Learning for recommendations on digital learning tools.

4) Making Global Connections 

Increased connectivity can offer children real-world insight into communities and cultures around the globe. There are a number of exciting collaborative projects and platforms that create space for teachers, students and parents to communicate and learn from one another, regardless of geography.

For example, ePals uses web-based tools to bring diverse learners together in virtual classrooms. Over 4.4 million students and teachers are currently participating in cross-cultural exchange on the platform.

Look out for projects and competitions that bring kids together to reach common goals via online collaboration, like the Give Something Back Project’s Virtual Classroom.

5) Bridging Home and the Classroom 

There are also many free apps to connect teachers, parents and students in order to support timely and confidential communication. Check outGoogle Apps for Education. This free suite of productivity tools helps keep parents in the loop on their children’s progress in class. Parents can log into Google Drive and see what their kids have been up to in any class and communicate with teachers.

Whether you are encouraging technology-enabled collaboration at home or in the classroom, remember to balance screen time with face-to-face conversation and interaction.Encourage kids to think about digital citizenship and to act as positive role models for others in all social interactions, whether on-screen or off. Happy collaborating!

Technology and Early Learning: Part Four Grey Matter: Child Development and Technology

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 02/25/2015 on the 
HMH blog.

At the beginning of this year, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center published Ten for ’15: Education Reform for a Shared Promethean BoardFuture, a list of ten takeaways and resolutions designed to give educators inspiration as they plan for a successful 2015.

Number five on that list is a call to rethink the brain. It may sound like a strange concept, but new, cutting-edge research on early brain development can help us gain a deeper understanding of early literacy and related behaviors.

So, let’s rethink the brain today.

First, some brain basics: Beginning in the prenatal period, the brain develops in a predictable sequence, accommodating a range of functions from the most basic to the most complex, from the birth of new nerve cells to the formation of intricate networks of transmitters that allow those cells to communicate.

The brain undergoes astonishing growth during early life. In fact, it doubles in size during a child’s first year, and by age three, the brain reaches 80 percent of its adult volume. We also know that genetic inheritance and interaction with the environment, including human interactions with family and others, profoundly impact the wiring of the brain. This, in turn, impacts a child’s developing sense of resilience and his or her cognitive abilities, achievements, health and happiness.

Dr. Patricia Kuhl, Co-Director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Science at the University of Washington, is currently expanding our knowledge about how young brains develop. She has been studying the period between eight and ten months of age — a critical time for early brain development — focusing specifically on language acquisition.

Her research confirms that by the time that babies are eight months old, they can discriminate all sounds of all languages. They are truly “citizens of the world.” Then, at around ten months of age, there is an important shift. They start to become “culture bound” listeners.

In a TED talk on the subject, Dr. Kuhl explains that as babies are busy collecting information about the world, human contact is essential for translating that data into language. Put simply, human interaction — the social brain function — plays a dramatic role in language acquisition. Very young children need human contact for learning and communicating. They won’t learn from a screen.

The research leads us to important questions: How exactly does technology impact developing brains, especially in the earliest years? What are the long-term implications as children grow? Is it too soon to tell?

Gary Small, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UCLA has noted that the brains of digital natives are “wired to use [technology] elegantly.”  But he also cautions that young people between the ages of eight and 18, many of whom spend 11.5 hours a day on digital devices, are lacking in ability to use human technology.  They may struggle with face to face conversations, non-verbal cues and eye contact – the same type of human interactions that are so critical for initial language acquisition.

Technology isn’t going anywhere. To ensure healthy developmental growth for little ones, balance is key. Here are a few tips to help families find that equilibrium:

  • Seek Expert Advice: The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests avoiding television and other forms of electronic entertainment for infants and children under the age of two.
  • Go Screen-Free: Create screen-free zones in your home, and use them! Create areas to read books, draw, play board games, dance and perform plays and music, and schedule time outside for physical activities.
  • Make Family Time Count: Avoid using digital devices during family meals, especially dinner; use family time for real-time, face-to-face communication.
  • Maintain a Digital Diet: Be thoughtful about the digital content your children consume. Check out our previously recommended resources to help select quality digital content.
  • Be a Role Model: Remember that children model YOUR behavior. Are you distracted by digital devices when you’re with your children? Do the majority of your family interactions include a screen? Plan an unplugged weekend! Be aware if you are using technology as a babysitter — such habits can creep in quickly.

When it comes to screen-time for kids, the choice of apps, games and films may seem endless. But just a little knowledge about the developing brain provides a golden rule – above all, human interaction and connection are the greatest learning tools we have.

Five Ways to Encourage STEAM Learning

Asian mom and girl kid playing with blocks. Vintage effects and

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEAM learning (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) has become a vital part of early childhood education. STEAM concepts help prepare children for life in the 21st century. After all, STEAM-related jobs make up one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. economy (Baird-Remba, Guey, & Lubin, 2013). This is expected to increase over time as children eventually join the workforce. Here are five ways you can encourage STEAM learning at home.

  1. Take a field trip. Museums, zoos, aquariums, libraries and even public parks provide many opportunities to introduce STEAM subjects. Be sure to engage your child, ask her what she would like to see and ask whether she would like to learn more about what she has seen.
  2. Watch STEAM-related TV shows and movies. While screen time should not be solely relied upon for education, there are many ways it can help enhance your child’s learning experience. Things like documentaries and educational programming may strengthen your child’s understanding of STEAM subjects.
  3. Conduct experiments. Many fun and easy science experiments can be done at home with simple household items. You can find some ideas here. You can also help your child keep a journal of the experiments she completes and record what she learns from each one.
  4. Encourage questions. Children are naturally inquisitive, often asking “why?” or “how?” Following this thread of curiosity may lead to a STEAM subject which interests your child. If you don’t know the answer to your child’s question, research the topic with him.
  5. Ask your child what she would like to be when she grows up. Many careers are tied to STEAM learning. Help your child find out more about the field she wants to pursue and what she needs to learn to get there.

References

Baird-Remba, R., Guey, L., & Lubin, G. (5 June 2013). 14 US Industries That Will Boom In The Next Decade. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/americas-fastest-growing-industries-2013-6

Technology and Early Learning: Part Three Bridging the Digital Divide
Practical Resources for Educators

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 02/05/2015 on the HMH blog.

Just over 30 years ago, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates shared a vision for a society with “a computer on every desk and in every Girl at computerhome.” We’ve made great progress since then – over 80% of the American population now has a home computer and more people than ever now use the internet. From smartphones to Skype, digital resources shape much of our daily lives.

Today’s edtech landscape is exciting, with adaptive technology, learning management tools and interactive content designed for students on-the-go. However, we still have work to do when it comes to digital equity and closing the digital divide — the Pew Research Center reports that digital access varies drastically by state and geography.

Furthermore, educators report a number of barriers to smooth tech integration in the classroom, from budget challenges to low-bandwidth internet connections to lack of professional development, and many have also observed that their classroom’s use of technology remains basic – word processing, video projection or simple research.

We’ve explored the concept of “too much” tech and the importance of a digital diet in the last post, but what’s at stake when learners do not have access to digital learning resources?

Here’s some food for thought about the digital divide and education:

  • 72% of public K-12 schools and the majority of public libraries do not have sufficient broadband to support 21st century learning.
  • 30% of households do not have high-speed internet, making it difficult for students to benefit from digital learning tools at home.
  • Teachers and students in underserved areas disproportionately carry the burden of these access issues.
  • 85% of teachers surveyed by the Pew Research Center seek out their own opportunities for professional development around effective use of tech; 75% say digital tools have added new demands to their lives.
  • 84% of teachers worry that access to new technology is leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools and districts.

Comprehensive digital literacy and advanced technology training has become more essential than ever to career development and college-readiness. We can’t afford to have some students using microblogs, creating podcasts and communicating with instructors via social networks, while others struggle with outdated hardware and limited internet connections. Without holistic action to bridge this access gap, many young people (and educators) will be left behind. 

Digital equity is a complex systemic issue that stretches beyond the education space, but it is not insurmountable and individual actions will make a difference. So, what can educators looking to increase access and sharpen skills within their own classrooms and communities do to move forward? There’s plenty:

Look To Your Greater Community

  • Explore creating technology alliances with civic organizations such as the YMCARotary, and Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Local community colleges, colleges and universities have some of the best technology resource centers around. They also often have services for the greater community, like volunteer mentoring programs and free or inexpensive workshops.
  • Children’s museums offer age-appropriate technology centers for teachers, parents and kids. See if there is an Intel Computer Clubhouse in your community and encourage students to join.
  • Create relationships with local businesses. Many are interested in community investment and can offer professional development for teachers and/or resources for students.

Utilize Complimentary Tech Support 

  • Stores that sell computers often hold workshops for people that have recently purchased equipment. Sales people can be very knowledgeable and eager to help you better understand the technology landscape.
  • All tech companies provide tutorials, videos and product information for their products. Increasingly, customer service support is available by online chat in addition to toll-free phone calls and is reliable and real-time.
  • Internet and telecommunications providers routinely have school and at-home programs available for communities and families that do not regular have internet access. 

Visit Your Local Library Network

  • Make a standing appointment with a local resource librarian. Libraries often offer free courses or seminars. You could even provide questions prior to your appointment to maximize learning time.
  • Most public libraries now offer computer and internet access. Don’t be afraid to ask the librarians for information about access – what are the rules or guidelines for young users? Are there times when the computer stations are used for classes, or are very busy? Are there branches of your local library network that are especially well-equipped?
  • Check out a book! There are many great print resources on technology for beginners looking to enhance their digital skills and expertise.

Technology is best learned through practice. If one thing is certain about the tech boom, it is that the digital landscape is constantly evolving. It is easier to gain confidence when you understand that learning new things is an inherent part of using and benefitting from technology. And don’t be scared to learn from your students – they make great teachers, too!

Technology

As we know, technology is changing at an unbelievable rate. When we were little, modern devices were just a dream.Smart Table Now, technology makes more inventions possible, and it is constantly changing. Technology is very exciting, but have you ever asked what it is?

According to Merriam-Webster, technology is the “practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.” (“Technology,” 2015) Technology makes things so much easier and more convenient. Think of the items that have been created in science to make life easier and better. Devices, such as pacemakers and bionic legs, have been invented to improve our quality of life. Devices can also help make car rides with children more pleasurable or calmer, and other devices can make cooking easier. As technology improves, schools will include more technology at every level of education. These may include interactive boards, computers, digital cameras and tablets just to name a few.

However, remember that even though technology makes things easier, real hands-on experiences cannot be replaced. Technology cannot replace the feel of hugs, dirty hands, paint, and the wind in your hair; the sights of the brightness of the sun or a child’s smile; or the smell of hot dogs cooking on the grill. Therefore, remember to use technology to enhance learning at home, not to replace real-life experiences.

Technology [Def. 1a]. (2015).  In Merriam-Webster., Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology.