Another Digital Divide

Students and school administrators are far apart in judging their school’s success in implementing technology, according to this post by the web-tech bloggers at

While the belief that schools were doing a good job of using technology to enhance learning was in the 72-74% range amongst teachers and administrators, that figure dropped to 47% for students who agreed. Part of the disconnect can arguably be attributed to the annoying content blocking firewalls that filter out the harmless along with the heinous content students might want to access. The other factor is undoubtedly the restrictive attitudes most administrators still have regarding the use of personal mobile devices in the classroom.

The times are definitely a-changing, and expectedly, such changes will never happen without pain and complaint on the part of the old generations.


Multiple Algorithms at New York’s School of One , which has shown itself to be a good source of education news and trends, recently featured this video with a story about “hybrid schools”.  Teachers, remote-tutors, computers, robots (okay, not quite), and personalized algorithms converge to produce some impressive educational outcomes at School of One. Who wouldn’t want their own child to have that opportunity?

It is clear that technology offers us a way to individualize education beyond what was available just a decade ago. The diversity of a student population, its language needs,  talents and challenges can be met through effective  diagnosis  and prescription. Daily monitoring, especially if the student is involved in goal setting and knows exactly what needs to be mastered, can work wonders and accelerate learning. Being able to “challenge” and “pass” an objective will mean less time devoted to repetitive work. Students can move at their own pace when the content is made to suit.

While  the benefits of tailoring education  through mathematical algorithms that figure out what a student needs can work great for math, yet more evidence is needed to see how well this would translate for Writing and Reading, a more personal and subjective area where content mastery beyond spelling and grammar is difficult to pin down.

While these and other hybrid schools look great in their videos, are they leaving anything out? What about music and sports? Can a school integrate all of those components? So many new schools and charters are shoved into office space and abandoned churches. In many cases they give up many things that larger, standardized institutions can accommodate, like decent playground. It might be excessive to demand everything of them, but the question must still be posed.

School of One is exactly what charters schools were supposed to be like, laboratories for innovation.  But achieving this vision for students across the board will require heavy investment, and commitment from the federal government and other public agencies. There aren’t enough foundations and endowments and grants to finance this educational renaissance.

Until such things are a reality in low-income schools, we will continue to demand “tequity”.

Digital Kids: Experts’ Views on Digital Learning from PBS

Couldn’t embed this one for some reason, but here it is:

Digital Media – New Learners Of The 21st Century

This is of a few videos that PBS has released recently about the so-called digital revolution that’s is taking over the classrooms the world over. Love of or hate it, educators are going to have to grapple with this at some point. For many of us in the teaching profession who still recoil at the idea of letting kids play with their phones in class, for example, this video should definitely make one reconsider.

But to be fair, the documentary is about more than cell phones in school. It delves into everything from tablets to stuff I didn’t know existed. Definitely an eye-opener and meant to be watched WITH your students, if they are old enough and/or have the language skills.

Also, keep this website in mind:

I’ve spent hours watching shows from NOVA to Frontline, many of which carry teacher materials and links to additional resources.

Mobile Devices for Learning

We’ve been hearing lots of talk on the great potential of mobile devices, ie. cell phones, to bridge the digital divide. Proponents, such as Dr. Elliot Soloway, co-founder of GoKnow, suggest that given the portability, accessiblity, and ease of use of these devices, they are likely to be a major force in education.

In the future, zapaTECHISTA will be focusing on these developments with a critical eye. Yes, we see the great potential, and new ideas are being hatched everyday, but we must also be wary of the power and influence of telecommunications giants who might also be interested in these changes and who might view our students as “new markets”.

See this video from Verizon to see what we mean: click me to see!

It is estimated that about 70% of students now own their own mobile devices. It is unclear if this includes ipod touches, or just cell phones, but the reality is that that number is steadily growing. Already we are seeing a variety of efforts to tap into this phenomenon.  Many educators, tech mavens, and even Arne Duncan, the Education Secretary, have weighed-in on the subject.

Here are some issues to consider, besides the aforementioned:

1. With budget cuts bleeding districts dry, are we now outsourcing our technology to students who, presumably, already possess their own phones? And if so, what does it mean for other forms of technology?

2. Can hand-held and mobile technology be used to strengthen  the information loop between schools and the home?

3. And the obvious, what is TOO MUCH in terms of screen time? Are we willing to give up the old paper and pencil? It’s been suggested that future classrooms will spend less and less time teaching kids how to write, and most writing will take place on a keyboard. What are the implications?

4. Mobile phones are great, but they are still very limited compared to a lap-top. Even the zapaTECHISTA favorite, the ipad, still has some way to go before it can be considered a game changer.  With so much content requiring Flash, when will the mobile market move beyond this limitation? We still can’t see BrainPOP, or Livemocha in the classroom.

We’ll look at others in the future. In the meantime, here are some articles to review:

Mobile Devices in the Classroom by    

November 2009  in District Administration

Why Mobile is a Must by Mary McAffrey,  in T.H.E. Journal 2- 8-11