The dark side of the digital age: Is technology augmenting the achievement gap? | Chalkboard Project

The dark side of the digital age: Is technology augmenting the achievement gap?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 Iton Udosenata

If you haven’t seen a teacher use a Prezi on their Smartboard you should. Teachers can do some pretty amazing things, these days, with technology in the classroom. It seems like just yesterday I was the tech savvy teacher in 2004 that printed transparencies for my lectures from a word document instead of scribing my class notes on an overhead projector. Flash forward 10 years; overhead projectors and transparencies are extinct. Now teachers use LCD projectors and Smartboards to access Prezi presentations and online formative assessment apps like Plickers and Socrative to promote learning and instruction. We have made remarkable technological advances in education in a decade. The future will only bring more creative platforms to engage students and promote learning. With technology making our lives so much easier in the classroom and beyond many would presume that the drawbacks are limited. Believe it or not, there are some very real drawbacks for some students in the digital age. The emergence of technology as an educational tool has unintended consequences. Technology can augment the disparities between privileged and underprivileged students.

In a poignant speech for Google, educational leader Geoffrey Canada astutely articulates how students who come from educated households are more likely to have supports at home that know how to leverage technology for learning (e.g. using sites like Khan Academy).  According to Canada, “kids who have no access are totally left out of this whole thing”. More specifically, students with guided access to technology at home are more likely to engage in hours of academic practice each year while less fortunate peers lack access, or if they have access they use technology primarily for entertainment and social media. In the end, underprivileged students get left behind and the deficits that perpetuate the opportunity gap grow.

What can we do? Technology changes so rapidly that we can’t expect all parents to be technologically competent. We can however, promote access, exposure, and digital citizenship within the confines of our own schools. Some school districts address this by adopting one-to-one technology plans where every student within a school gets their own personal iPad loaded with educational applications and digital textbooks.

Students do not have to come from upper middle class families to benefit from the advantages of technology. From a global standpoint, technology has leveled the economic playing field for many developing countries. One of my favorite examples of technology improving a community is a YouTube video entitled, “Growing Knowledge” that features a man in a rural Kenyan village using technology to promote innovation and solve problems within his impoverished community. This story is inspiring. It shows that technology can truly benefit everyone.

I love technology. More often than not, I marvel at technological ingenuity that transcends how we communicate, entertain ourselves, and improves our overall quality of life. That being said, we can’t be oblivious to the perils of technology especially when it comes to kids and education. Schools must make a concerted effort to ensure technology acts as an educational bridge and not a barrier.

  • Technology in Education
  • Student Success
  • Equity and Diversity

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