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Created By: Kienna Knowles

Course: EDUC-6661-T2004 Exploring New Technologies: The Impact on Society, Work and Education

Course Instructor: Evelyn Thompson

Technology Standard 6: Social, Ethical, Legal, and Human Issues

Program Outcome: S6.5: Facilitate equitable access to technology resources for all students.

Rationale: In today's digital classrooms, students are using digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning their peers. Because digital learning environments are becoming more common in schools, districts and educational professionals must ensure that all students have equitable access to technology. In the following document, this learners discusses the various plans and action steps that ensure all learners have equal access to technology.

Title: Achieving Digital Equity

Educational technology, especially computers and computer-related peripherals, have grown tremendously and have reformed how schools and educators teach curriculum. It is incomprehensible (to this learner) that today’s educators are not using some form of technology in their classrooms. Most young people cannot understand why schools provided limited technology usage (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2005). For this generation of youth, technology plays a major role in all aspects of their lives. In fact, technology enhances their social life and academic work (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2005 and Cuban, 2001). Today, all people are using technology to conduct such day-to-day activities as education, business transactions, personal correspondence, research, and job searches. Each year, being digitally connected becomes ever more critical for economic and educational advancement (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2005). Therefore, raising the level of digital inclusion is a vitally important goal for educators and schools. 

Educational technologists have noted barriers that can inhibit successful implementation of effective technology usage in schools. These barriers are so prevalent, that it is often very difficult for educators and school to effectively overcome them and use technology efficiently (Byrom & Bingham, 2001). There are many factors that affect technology implementation, especially in urban schools. Byrom and Bingham (2001) have included the following as barriers affected technology integration:  

When a school, educator or district decides to implement educational technology into the curriculum, one of its overriding goals must be to create plans and policies for all members of the learning community to have equal access and use of technology (Ficklen & Muscara, 2001). Appropriate funding and professional development represent the key means of supporting equitable access and use of technology to ensure technology literacy and to support meaningful learning for all students (Cuban, 2001). In the average U.S. public school, 3.8 students share every computer used for instructional purposes (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2005). Some districts and states are working to provide students and teachers with greater access to technology by purchasing laptops for teachers, wireless laptops, and personal digital assistants or specialist (Byrom & Bingham, 2001).  

Education technology has the potential to enhance learning opportunities in several ways. However, in order for this to occur improvements in digital equality must be achieved. To help achieve digital equality, schools and districts must ensure they are providing educators with an adequate supply of digital equipment and investing in effective training on technology integration. To ensure teachers are adequately trained, education degree programs and school districts must provided useful training for teachers in today’s classrooms. 

Educational technology university courses are designed to attract certified teachers and other educators eager to integrate technology in all curriculum modalities. Additionally, technology in education degree programs typically attracts educators who wish to integrate technology into their curricula and/or serve as computer specialists and coordinators in their schools. These courses and degree programs are concept oriented, exposing students to the computer's powerful potential in the inclusive classroom as well as to the latest advances in software, telecommunications and multimedia (Starr, 2003 and Cuban, 2001). 

As an alternative to university course work and degree programs, many school districts are investing in technology consultants to facilitate effective staff development for their teachers. A well-planned, ongoing professional development program that is tied to the school's curriculum goals, designed with built-in evaluation, and sustained by adequate financial and staff support is essential if teachers are to use technology appropriately in the classroom (Starr, 2003).  

During staff development, educators should be immersed in hands-on experiential technological activities to improve student achievement in all subject areas. Additionally, educators should learn strategies for integrating technology that can be incorporated into daily practice, and for using new technologies such as Internet-based curriculum, digital tools, handheld computers and scientific software (Starr, 2003). 

Lack of professional development for technology use is one of the most serious obstacles to fully integrating technology into the curriculum (Starr, 2003 and Ficklen & Muscara, 2001). This learner supports that technology educated (savvy) teachers are more likely to overcome barriers associated with technology integration because they have been adequately trained to do so. On the contraire, those educators with a lack of technology preparedness will likely become flustered and ineffective with technology, when faced with technology integration obstacles. As a result of professional development and university courses, this learner was shown how to use LCD projectors and televisions to display information from one computer. Additionally, this learner was given several CD-ROM’s and software that can be used to supplement science curriculum using one or many computers. However, staff development and university training alone will not ensure digital equality.  

It is often difficult for schools to find money within their existing capital and operating budgets to fund technology integration for all teachers. In many cases schools and educators seek technology funding through other means. Recently the most popular means to fund technology in school has come via technology education grants. Typically, technology education grants will allow K-20 schools, after-school programs, non-profit educational organizations, colleges and universities to meet the constant challenge of providing up- to-date technological training, equipment and materials by drawing on new available resources (Education World, 2007). Technology grants enables the development of new and challenging courses with the help of cash grants, hardware, software, computer/IT training, and staff professional development grants, as well as funding for new programs and curriculum development (Education World, 2007). During the 2005 school year, this learner’s school received a large technology grant that enabled the school to purchase additional wireless carts so that one cart is shared between two teachers. Additional, this grant allowed the school to purchase laptops that magnet students could check out from the media center to be used from home. This learner has identified the following web sites to be useful for researching technology grants and organizations seeking to invest in technology integration:  

http://www.cpsb.org/Scripts/abshire/grants.asp (Abshire, 2007)

http://www.education-world.com/a_admin/archives/grants.shtml (Education World, 2007). 

Technology offers a unique opportunity to extend learning support beyond the classroom. As the amount and variety of technology available to schools continues to grow, the potential for new and innovative ways to enhance students' educational experiences increases as well (Cuban, 2001). But the digital inequality is an obstacle for using technology to enhance education. The main reasons digital inequality exists is funding for technology equipment and resources and teacher preparedness. In an effort to equalize access to digital tools and information, schools and educators are seeking to improve staff training with technology integration, as well as, find supplemental funding for technology equipment and resources. Effective, ongoing technology training ensures that educators are using technology correctly, efficiently, and equally in their curriculum. Additionally, several grants and organizations exist to provided funding for schools and educators to have full and equal access to technology. This educator believes that, today, technology integration is equally as important as modern textbooks. This learner believes that technology enables students to extended their learning to the edges of the universe, with technology students can see the impossible and often find the unexplainable. 

References:

Abshire, S. (2007) Grant Resources. Retrieved October 6, 2007, from Calcasieu Parish Schools at http://www.cpsb.org/Scripts/abshire/grants.asp

Byrom, E., & Bingham, M. (2001). Factors influencing the effective use of technology for teaching and learning: Lessons learned from the SEIRTEC intensive site schools (2nd ed.). Durham, NC : SouthEast Initiatives Regional Technology in Education Consortium. Retrieved October 6, 2007, from http://www.seirtec.org/publications/lessons.pdf

Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press. Retrieved October 6, 2007, from http://www.hup.harvard.edu/pdf/CUBOVE.pdf

Education World. (2007). The grant center. Retrieved October 6, 2007, from http://www.education-world.com/a_admin/archives/grants.shtml

Ficklen, E., & Muscara, C. (2001, Fall). Harnessing technology in the classroom. American Educator, 22–29. Retrieved October 6, 2007, from http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/fall2001/tech.html

Starr, L. (2003). Technology integration programs that work. Retrieved October 6, 2007, from Education World at http://www.education-world.com/a_tech/tech165.shtml.

U.S. Department of Commerce. (2005). Falling through the net: Toward digital inclusion. A report on Americans' access to technology tools . Retrieved October 6, 2007, from http://search.ntia.doc.gov/pdf/fttn00.pdf