The New Digital Divide

In a recent article: Mind the Gap, Jeffrey Piontek writes:

“We must refocus our efforts to address the new sets of skills and deficiencies that children of the information age are bringing into our schools. Whether or not we use computers to do this is irrelevant. We must be conversant with the language of the information age – not to magically improve our lesson plans or to keep students on task – but to keep ourselves current with what is going on inside their heads, which, Birkerts stresses, is changing both developmentally and emotionally. As educators, we are responsible for addressing the new digital divide – the growing rift between students and teachers.”

There is a new digital divide happening in our schools. The phrase ‘Digital Divide’ was coined when talking about the divide between those that had access to technology and the information that it offered and those that did not, mostly based on social economic factors.
Today, schools face a new digital divide: The divide between teacher’s knowledge of the student’s world and student’s knowledge of their own world. More then ever, teachers are feeling out of touch with their students. The problem lays in the use of technology. Students today live, breathe, and interact with technology on a level that most teachers don’t even know exists.
Case in point: Yesterday I showed a class of 5th graders how to publish to their own personal blog that I have set up for them using Blog Meister. Within 10 minutes students were posting their thoughts on the web. Better yet, half of the students went home that night and submitted more thoughts and feeling about their school day on the blog.
Two weeks ago, I took an hour to show teachers how to post to the same Blogs. They all successfully posted by the time the hour was up, but not one teacher has added to their blog since that initial training session.
Students want to use the technology, know how to use the technology, and if they don’t know how to do something, they have the skills and knowledge to figure it out.
So this brings me back to my point on the use of technology in schools. There is a digital divide between the teachers and students; a divide that is causing both teachers and students to be frustrated in the classroom. The new divide is not between the haves and have nots, but between generations. A generation that has grown up with and tried to adapt to technology and a generation that lives technology.

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