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New Digital Divide?

June 5, 2012

Last week, I read New digital divide: Lower-income kids waste more time with their gadgets by Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and instantly became frustrated.  The post argues that there is a “time wasting gap” between higher and lower income students when it comes to the use of digital devices, particularly at home.  While I won’t argue that this is untrue, I do believe that the true issue here isn’t that students waste time (how do you quantify “wasted” time, anyway?).  What we should be discussing is how to train parents and students in what can help children learn.

I would argue that any kind of communication, even Facebook, is a valuable learning tool for younger children.  They must use typing, grammar, and spelling skills for this activity.  If you enter my one-to-one classroom, you will often find students making movie trailers on their iPads.  Of course they spend a lot of time fooling around with graphics and background music, but so do professional directors and editors.  In fact, any activity that could be considered “wasted time” could also be considered “real world job preparation” for students who may eventually go into digital design, web building, graphics, or a myriad of other technology-based careers.

As educators, it’s not our job to tell students they are wasting their time with anything or that they aren’t as good as their peers from high income homes because they use technology in different ways.  It’s our job to teach our students how to prioritize their tasks (homework first!) and appropriately use technology in their personal and professional lives.  We also have a responsibility to make sure we are a resource for parents to become well-trained and knowledge about helping their children achieve these goals.

Instead of focusing on a fictional “time wasting gap,” let’s choose to focus on how early access to technology can transform the future for our students.

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