This week’s readings helps to solidify many theories I have developed over the years about the benefits of technology in the classroom. I have always thought that developmentally appropriate, properly selected, academically sound uses of technology can be beneficial to students. “The evidence from public broadcasting’s Ready To Learn initiative suggests that when television shows and electronic resources have been carefully designed to incorporate what is known about effective reading instruction, they serve as positive and powerful tools for teaching and learning (Pasnik et al. 2007; Neuman, Newman, & Dwyer 2010; Corporation for Public Broadcasting 2011).
Technology is the wave of the future. Students need to understand how to navigate this ever-changing world. However, it is important that educators understand how to most effectively use technology, and how to use it to further academic goals for students. Technology is more than learning about hardware and software, it is more than playing computer games and watching videos. Too often, technology becomes an isolated activity that provides rudimentary activities that do not engage or stimulate the student. “Appropriate technology and media use balances and enhances the use of essential materials, activities, and interactions in the early childhood setting, becoming part of the daily routine (Anderson 2000; Van Scoter, Ellis, & Railsback 2001; Copple & Bredekamp 2009; NAEYC 2009a). Technology and media should not replace activities such as creative play, real-life exploration, physical activity, outdoor experiences, conversation, and social interactions that are important for children’s development. Technology and media should be used to support learning, not an isolated activity, and to expand young children’s access to new content (Guernsey 2010a, 2011b).”
One final issue to confront is the digital divide and the use of computers in low-income households and schools. “The digital divide separating children in socioeconomically advantaged homes from children in socioeconomically disadvantaged homes is mammoth” (Becker, 2000, p. 56). For example, about 22% of children living in families with annual incomes under $20,000 had a home computer in 1998, compared with 91% of children living in families with incomes over $75,000 (Becker, 2000). Logically, the Fool’s gold authors would have to take the position that the lower-income children are far better off in this case. We contend that this would constitute a sour consolation to less advantaged families, especially considering that certain uses of computers can facilitate children’s learning and development11 and that higher-income schools, compared to lower-income schools, use computers in just these more intellectually powerful ways (Becker, 2000). Although lower-income schools have approximately the same ratio of computers to students, teachers in these schools use technology more for traditional applications such as drill and practice.” I have found that while almost every student in my school (90% low income) has access to computer/internet technology, many of them are not engaging in positive or appropriate use. I would estimate that 50% of my fifth grade students have access to multiples social media accounts (Instagram, facebook, kik, musical.ly, snapchat). I would estimate that 75% of all my students have cell phones, tablets and home computers. I would also estimate that half of those students are being ‘babysat’ through the use of their technology – being occupied through the use of games and videos. Many of these same students have access to video game consoles and play video games regularly.
Technology is a powerful educational tool when its use is carefully planned, monitored and executed.