Bridging The Digital Divide With Technology In Schools [EdSurge] - The Jose Vilson

Bridging The Digital Divide With Technology In Schools [EdSurge]

October 16, 2013

The Digital Divide

The Digital Divide

EdSurge, a popular education technology website, recently invited me to write an article for them. My mouth was agape at the offer, mainly because everyone knows I won’t hold back on issues of equity. I applaud their courage for taking me on. Here’s an excerpt:

Of course, this means I am advocating for tech as tool, not tech as teacher. A common misconception, especially for many education reformers, is that we can put a set of YouTube videos in front of a student and they will learn all the material they need better than if they had an experienced in-person educator in front of them. This sort of structure, commonly known as the “flipped classroom,” assumes students will use their devices at home to get all the lecturing they need and come to school to get their activities. In theory, this sounds great for the self-motivated student and looks to “free up” teachers to innovate with the time they got back from having someone else teaching.

In practice, however, our students tend to need someone in front of them, working with them. Even online teachers need to develop relationships with their students. Most adults I speak to don’t remember exactly what a teacher taught them but they remember the teachers they had based on how they felt about them. Plus, videos can’t adjust themselves to the students’ needs and don’t align themselves to the way the teacher or the school approaches the material. Pretty colors and 3D animations may attract students’ eyes but it doesn’t automatically lead students to create ideas or delve deeply into the curriculum. If anything, the ed-tech landscape as of now suggests badges, gradients, and glossy commercials make students learn, to the detriment of students whose parents buy into it imprudently.

Read up and share with your friends! Thanks everyone.

Mr. Vilson

This post was written by...

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

For more about me, read here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Roden October 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Jose –

Just read your EdSurge article and enjoyed it. You raise several important questions – so much innovation in ed tech ends up helping those least in need of the help.

In my city of Denton, TX (I’m on City Council), we’ve been getting all the major institutions at the table (as you suggest needs to happen) in order to begin tackling these issues: the school district, the city, United Way, our two universities, the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and nonprofits.

One such collaborative initiative had a tech component – our PreK Coalition. Wanting to move toward universal preK, but lacking the resources to do so, we discovered a local entrepreneur who was about to launch a tech tool designed to get high quality preK into the hands of the most most at-risk parents. We discovered that equipping parents (a child’s first and potentially best teacher) with resources on how to engage, converse, and do activities with their 0-5 year olds could help us close the school readiness gap. The tool, ReadyRosie (ReadyRosie.com), sends a daily 1-2 minute video modeling everyday activities to every parent of 0-5 year olds in our city. They can access and watch from their smart phone or computer. And it is 100% for those parents – the district covers the cost.

It is a great example of technology being used to improve non-technological interactions. Parents spend 2 minutes a day watching a video and are then equipped to have more meaningful face to face interactions with their kids – something that is proven to improve school readiness.

Our efforts were recently featured in Ed Week – http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/early_years/2013/10/free_video_series_showcases_daily_activities_to_prep_children_for_kindergarten.html

And ReadyRosie is now being used in cities throughout the US. Here’s a release about its use in Austin: http://www.unitedwayaustin.org/09/2013/success-by-6-champions-high-tech-early-education-initiatives-2/

The coalition we created is now pursuing additional projects including recruiting mentors for each of our city’s 10,000 at-risk students.

So thanks for the thought-provoking article.

Kevin Roden
Denton, TX

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Jose Vilson October 17, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Thank you, Kevin!

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