Sunday, November 18, 2012

Flipped Learning & the Digital Divide

If you have been researching flipped learning, then you have probably come across an assertion that goes something like this...

"Flipping the class may be great for some, but due to the digital divide, this model penalizes those students who lack access to modern technology." 

I understand this point of view.  Yes, in many communities, there is a stark digital divide.  Some students have access to high-powered computers and smart phones with incredibly fast and reliable internet access.  Some simply do not.  

But I counter with this question:  "Do we then penalize those students who do have access to modern technology by refusing to change?  Is teaching like we did a half-century ago really preparing our students for today's world?"

This issue is, of course, not related solely to flipped learning, but all other approaches that leverage modern technologies. 

For brevity's sake, here are a few points to consider:
  1. Unleash your students' potential.  If students have the best technology available to them, let them leverage it the best way they (and you) know how.
  2. Incorporate technology into your class time wisely and efficiently.  For those students who lack access, your class can be at least one space where they can learn about and effectively use modern technology.
  3. Provide opportunities outside of traditional class time for students without access to use school resources.
And what if your school lacks the resources needed for students during or outside of class time? (An unfortunate reality for many of us.)

You must do everything in your power to remedy the issue.  Lack of student access to educational technology is a disturbing problem that persists across the nation.  We hear all the time about the US dropping in world rankings and how we need to improve, yet we fail to invest in our school districts to bring them into the 21st century.  In regards to this, here are a few things I think all of us can do.
  1. If there is a technology (or related) committee in your district, consider joining.  You can become a leader who helps shape and implement the necessary changes.
  2. Form a coalition of those who share your sentiments and have a vested interest in educating the community. They can be students, teachers, parents, administrators, or other community members.  
  3. Voice your concerns to your school leaders, the school committee or others who have the power to make the necessary changes.
  4. Utlilze third party resources through grants or fundraising (ex., DonorsChoose).
In short, the digital divide is not an excuse to do nothing.  For students who have access, unleash their potential.  For those who don't, provide as many opportunities as possible for them to use technology at your school.  If your school lacks the necessary resources, do your best to help get them.

Yes, I know, easier said than done.  Everyone's situation is different, and I don't claim to know how to address yours specifically.  I do know, however, that this is one of, if not the, most important educational issues of our time and that each of us should do our best to provide the best modern education possible for our students.