Viewpoint: Educational software games could leave poor children even poorer

Socioeconomic status should not prohibit technology access.
Socioeconomic status should not prohibit technology access.

The amazing progress of technology used in modern teaching resources herald huge advances in learning opportunities. But are the costs of the equipment that play the new educational games limiting the scope to wealthy schools and families? Could children from economically disadvantaged families and countries get left behind?

Educational gaming software as we know it may soon become a stronghold of select major players. Developments are well underway with technology companies who view the educational market with keen interest. Understandably, they are primarily focused on the commercial opportunity that links the software to their branded products. But the arrival of these big companies could stem the flow of those great ideas that emerged from teachers and educationalists who previously developed the games for educational use.

In the distant past, a key feature of “slate and chalk” learning was its very low cost.  Education using this fundamental communication technique focused on the ability of the teacher and the commitment of the child. It was a level playing field for all.…Read More

Study questions digital-divide efforts

Technology can have a detrimental effect on student performance if not coupled with educational programs. Copyright: Nevit Dilmen.
Technology can have a detrimental effect on student performance if not coupled with educational programs. Copyright: Nevit Dilmen.

Two researchers at Duke University have published a draft study that raises questions about the academic value of giving students home computers and broadband internet access. Their study has led to a flurry of media coverage, with some reports trumpeting the study’s findings as evidence that efforts to close the digital divide are counterproductive. But is that what their research really says?

The study, “Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement,” is the work of researchers Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. It was published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research as a working paper that was not peer-reviewed.

The study examined the reading and math test scores of more than 500,000 North Carolina public school students in grades five through eight from 2000-05. It sought to determine if differential access to computer technology at home compounds the educational disparities among students from various socio-economic backgrounds, and whether government provision of computers to middle school students would reduce those disparities.…Read More

A look at the technology culture divide

Today's students live in a technology-rich world.
Today's students live in a technology-rich world.

The arrival and rapid dissemination of digital technology in the last decades of the 20th century fundamentally changed our students.  Today’s students represent the first generation to grow up with this new technology.  These adolescents have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cameras, text messaging, and cell phones.

Today’s students use technology such as Instant Messenger, Facebook, Flickr, and Skype to be constantly connected to friends, family, information and entertainment.  As a result, 21st century students think and process information differently. While educators may see students every day, they do not necessarily understand their students’ habits, expectations, or learning preferences–this has resulted in a technology cultural divide.

The technology cultural divide…Read More

Broadband access gap remains large

With 40 percent of U.S. homes without broadband, educators continue the push to close the digital divide.
With 40 percent of U.S. homes without broadband, educators continue the push to close the digital divide.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans do not have high-speed internet access at home, according to new Commerce Department figures that reinforce what some educators believe is causing some students to fall behind.

“There’s lots of talk about digital literacy. That’s something that should be built into the curriculum,” said Charles Benton, chairman and CEO of the Benton Foundation.

“The three R’s alone are not sufficient for today’s needs. We’ve got to be using today’s tools. It’s an old point, but we’ve got to keep beating that drum until we get the funding.”…Read More