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.