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March 07, 2007

Tackling the Digital Divide

“Google it,” “blogosphere,” “download it” - If you are reading this blog, chances are you are familiar with these terms, use technology on an everyday basis, and know many others with a similar knowledge base.  But what about children in low-income communities with little, if any, access to technology at home?  When trying to close school-readiness and achievement gaps, the impact of the “digital divide” can’t be overlooked.

I consider technological awareness, just like math, literacy, and social readiness, one of my main priorities as a pre-k teacher.  Children also need to understand the function of the Internet and email because of their vital role in communication, education, and jobs in our society.

We are fortunate to have two computers in my room, which children can use to play educational games and explore basic applications like Microsoft Paint.  I set up the activities before choice time each day and introduce them during our tour of the centers in the beginning of the week.  The children can then choose to use the computers during choice time, alone or in pairs.  I have also set up an email account for the class and invite family and friends to send interesting stories, photos, and questions.  We respond as a class using the large “Smart Board” projection screen in our school’s Computer Lab.  Last year, my friend Alex sent pictures of llamas from his trip to Peru, and the students contemplated and answered his question about whether they would want to ride a llama or a horse.

This week we learned about researching online.  The students came up with questions about animals and brought them to the Computer Lab along with clipboards and pencils.  I searched on Google for answers to their questions while the students took notes using drawings and words.

Our first question was, “What do zebras eat?”  We walked through the search engine process and discovered that zebras eat grass.  The students drew the zebra they saw in the photograph and labeled it.  One astute note taker, Aniyah, raised her hand when I scrolled down to the picture past the words and said, “Wait, Ms. Pappas, go back so I can write zebra.”

We also explored bear and bat caves, lions, and dogs. The only disappointing part was when we had to leave, as many of the children wanted to look up additional animals.  We will have to wait until next week.  Luckily, though, their exposure to various uses of technology won’t have to wait because it isn’t available at home.

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Comments

The kind of thing you are doing in the classroom is so important, but I also believe teachers need to be part of movement for affordable, high speed internet for all. There is a report at http://speedmatters.org that talks about some terrific initiatives, like one in North Carolina which brings digital networks to 5 public housing projects. This is the kind of thing we all need to get behind if all our children are to be served.

Thanks for sharing the report Laura. I look forward to reading about the programs and hopefully getting something started in my area.

Sophia

Hi Sophia,
I have some friends who rteach in the Kansas City, MO school system. They have adopted Curiosity Corner in their Early Childhood Centers (and Success Fro All in the elementary grades). They feel the same way as you about the program. It doesn't reallt get to high level thinking questions, doesn't address the needs of kids in individual classrooms. etc. They were using a more constructivist approach, trying to do a lot of things from Reggio Emilia. They are EXTREMELY unhappy and feel that they are actually hurting the children with this program. What happened in your school that allowed you too get rid of the program? I know from my reseach that Atlanta schools are using it. These teachers would like to drop the progrram. Any advice you could give me to pass on to them would be very helpful! COngratulations to you for getting out of Curiosity corner and in to something better.
Jeannette Kowalewski
Kindergarten teacher

Sorry Sophia,
I meant to say after I read your curriculum piece. It is late, I'm tires. Have a nice tomorrow.
Jeannette

Jeannette,

Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, my efforts did not play a role in the decision to switch our curriculum from Curiosity Corner to Creative Curriculum. I am not sure how they do it in other districts, but in ours, the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) decided to make the entire district Creative Curriculum. I think each school or center used to have a choice, but then the OEC made it uniform. We also had about four choices handed down from the state.

Your comment, though, raises some interesting questions about curriculum choices: Who should make them? Who should decide from which curricula those people choose? What role should teachers, administrators, parents, and even students play? (Not to say that a four year old would sit on a district or state run committee, but, using data about level of engagement and progress with various curricula, students in a sense "have a say.")

I hope our dialogue invites more discussion on the topic.
Thanks!

Sophia

Sophia,
I'm a pre-k teacher in Georgia. I love your blog and would love to add it to a link on my blog at http://kari.edublogs.org/. You are so insightful and an inspiration to all pre-k teachers!

Kari,

Thanks for your kind words. I look forward to reading and commenting on your blog. I am at school now, but I will do it later from home.
Regards,
Sophia

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