Can education technology ‘close the gap?’
There is a huge emphasis currently on ‘closing the gap’ for our pupils – that is to say ensuring that achievement is possible regardless of a background or deprivation.
Historically technology has been seen as an equaliser – a way to, for example, give the housewife time to work (washing machines, vacuum cleaners) or, more recently, a way to instantly share information, free of charge. Neil Postman, writing in 1996:
C.P Snow made what he regarded as a definitive answer to technology pessimists. He remarked that the industrial revolution made by possible advanced technology, was the only hope for the poor. Their lives were rescued from centuries old degradation by technology. Can anyone deny it?’
In fact, I wrote an essay on this very subject – which you can find here, if interested.
However, the modern teacher has many, many problems with this – as many of you will know if you attempt to set homework via an online task. Or if you have been given a class set of laptops and then been asked to show impact, or bought iPads with Pupil Premium money… The fact is that some schools have huge expectations from technology yet children (and families) have huge differences in what technology they actually access. And, to add to the confusion there are many different definitions of what ‘the gap’ is and what exactly the end result should be…
The question we should be asking, is what gap are we actually trying to close? What can teachers actually do?
Schools making good use of technology in education can:
- offer cultural experiences that some children may miss out on via skype or virtual tours
- connect children with other children that they may otherwise never meet, sharing experiences they may never hear (blogging / email / skype)
- offer support for parents who may not know where to go, or may find it too difficult to access in person (websites / internet)
- connect teachers who really are not sure where to go next… or whose school may be isoalted (social media / inernet)
- offer specific support for pupils with SEND – supporting their education achievement (targeted apps / access programs / online resources)
- offer cheaper and easier access to pupils and their families via school support and devices (kindles / internet access)
These are just some practical ideas that the use of technology can help with – it will help ‘close a gap’ – perhaps information, cultural or digital literacy – but it may not close the achievement gap. Here we are talking of cultural, digital, isolation and confidence. All of which are vital if we want our pupils to achieve.
If you are interested in this, the essay I wrote is at the top of this post!
Other resources of interest:
2014 look at how closing the technology gap can open a world of opportunities form Microsoft..