As technology becomes such an important part of education (and the real world) I am having more difficulty with a lack of resources. Part of the reason is that our school just doesn't have enough technology for each student. Another reason is that many of my students live in poverty and do not have access to computers at home. When I assign an essay that needs to be typed, many students have trouble making that happen. I struggle with this because I know I am not doing them any good by letting them cut corners, but I also know that it is truly difficult for many of my students, and I don't want them to be discouraged just because they do not have access to the technology. What are some approaches to this or perspectives about what we should/should not be lax about?
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I think your students might benefit on a focus on fundamentals such as writing, reading, and critical thinking. Research has NOT shown these to be improved by computers in the classroom. So instead of pining for gadgets which distract from student learning, just focus on the basic skills. After all, if Shakespeare could manage Hamlet with a quill pen, students should be able to learn how to write a coherent paragraph without a computer.
You are clearly facing a very difficult situation. I have some students in a similar position who lack printers and therefore have to pay to print out their essays at school. It is such a hard situation because on the one hand I don't want students to feel that their lack of resources is something that presents them with yet another barrier they need to surmount in terms of their education. Yet, on the other hand, I just don't feel I am doing my job correctly if I do not incorporate computer skills into my teaching. How am I preparing my students for life in the real world where computer skills are so important if I allow them to hand write essays?
You may wish to think about going back to basics in your subject area and think about what skills youneed to teach linked to your subject. Focusing on thinking skills, problem solving, drafting and editing can all be done without much technology. Do you have a class that you could make your problem a class project for inquiry learning? You could work with the students as part of the learning to contact possible sponsors, get their plight in terms of lack of technology publicised in the media and contact other schools for advice and support. Your difficulty could present a valuable learning opportunity!
My district is 75% free and reduced lunch and we're in a rural area where there's no nearby college or nearby rich partner school to help us. Luckily, we do have a couple of computer labs. So I give the students due dates that are far enough away that they can find a time to work in a lab. Sometimes I let them go during class. In a way, it's easier for us, I guess because so many are in that boat that there's no stigma attached...
This is difficult situation. Here are a few suggestions. I think a two-pronged approach can be best. First, a lot of education can be done without technology. In fact, for most of our history, people learned without computers. So, children without technology can get a top-notch education without computers. Moreover, some would argue that the lack of computers might actually make education better.
Second, if poverty is an issue, then you can look for funds for the school. There are many programs that help children. For example, my son's school partners with a poorer school and buys them supplies.
This two part approach can help solve both problems.
I wonder if it might be possible to get some voluntary community support. Many people have old computers lying around that are "outmoded" for sophisticated use today but that might still be useful for the kinds of tasks -- including typing -- that you mention. You might be able to win a lot of positive attention for your school, and also benefit your students, if you were somehow able to appeal to members of the community to donate "old" equipment. Local businesses, which often upgrade to new computers, might be willing to donate some of their "old" machines, and it would not surprise me if all such donors could get some kind of tax break. Nearby colleges might also be able to help. State government agencies might also have some "old" machines to donate. This possibility might at least be worth exploring. In any case, very good luck to you!
I also taught for many years in a rural community, and many of the students came from very poor families. Many did not have computer access, so requiring typed papers was a rare occurrence. Since the students were middle schoolers, most had no form of transportation. I suggested using the school and public libraries for research, but most students rode the bus to and from home, and their parents were not always receptive to making extra trips to libraries. Access to the school computers were also restricted after school (a poor decision made by the principal), so many of the children had little access to research materials or computers. I didn't have an answer to this problem then, although I believe far more students have computers at home now than at the time I was teaching at this school.
I have the same problem in my district. Many of my students simply do not have access to home computers. Unfortunately, RTI takes many of our students out of desperately needed study halls and access for the lab computers away as well. As a rule for myself, I feel that I need to sympathizes with my students' needs. When I assign an essay, I state that it needs to be typed. I also state that anyone who does not have access to a computer needs to come speak with me about finding an alternative. many times I suggest using a public library, which all students have free access to. Other times, I suggest them coming into school early and using my personal school computer.
I applaud your concern for your students. It is a shame they are at a disadvantage because of the circumstances you portray.
I think the most important things the grade school student of today needs to learn is how to type and how to use a computer on-line.
Surely your classroom has at least one computer with on-line capability. I would suggest merely rotating the students onto the computer with differing small projects. You might start with a typing lesson...requiring the student to merely copy something you've written on the black board, or wording on a classroom poster, and then printing and delivering to you.
An online projects would be finding and printing a list of U.S. Capitals.
Yes, ideally each student has a computer or iPad. But absent that, there's still much that can be done with fewer resources.
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