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Imagine a school where students could barely access the internet to research or complete assignments, or being part of a district that could barely afford textbooks, let alone computers. Think about simply meeting a student who has been put at an extreme technological disadvantage for not only that moment, but for the future as well. The educational technology gap is influenced by income, race, and education. The technological gap in education threatens the possibility of success for students by not providing students in need with similar technologies as peers in other regions.
This issue began with “white flight” which occurred in the 1950s. The movement of white people to suburbs created a wage gap as all their tax dollars went with them. Those who lived in suburbs were the ones who got better educations and could afford more than people who lived in inner cities; however, since the first forms of technology, it has been integrated into education. Decades ago there were “air-classes” for students using radio stations (“Evolution of Technology”, 2017).
Now, students use technology as a basis to complete their education. Technology has always been used as a way to make things more convenient for not only students and teachers, but the world. With the use of technology comes the ability to provide virtual and online learning as well as full time online schooling by integrating it into schools. With face to face and electronic learning as a pair, it has also been a great resource for homeschooled students and their respective homeschool teachers.
Technology has become an essential part of daily living in households worldwide. The digital divide was created when internet access became more prominent in the developed world. Developed countries represented 65% of those who had internet access, and most of these countries are within North America and Europe. With the progression of technology came the realization that it could aid in education. Countries began to invest money for computers to be put into schools and having teachers trained to use them and teach students how to use the technologies. Due to this, 98% of schools in the United States were connected to the internet (cite). The United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia also adopted this pattern. At one point, most students had personal computers or laptops, or had easy access to the internet. Colleges and universities in developed countries also joined in on the technological advancement by adopting the use of wireless or fiber optic internet. Schools in developing countries started to fall behind as they couldn’t concern themselves with technology because they didn’t have the basics such as properly trained teachers, adequate administrators, and textbooks. Most schools had low numbers of enrolled students as most families could not prioritize education.
LUXURY TO NECESSITY
Technology is a necessary part of life in the 21st century, specifically within secondary and postsecondary education. Educational technology gives students the tools to develop higher critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will aid them in postsecondary education and career life (cite, international gap in tech). “I think it’s obviously a necessity and not a luxury. Beyond that, there are advantages to using technology in the classroom today that just didn’t exist even a few years ago. There is a model where we think about whether or not we are using technology simply to replace something that we could be doing without it. Think about worksheets. Sometimes, we open the computer to complete a worksheet,” says Superintendent Dr. Spence. This opportunity should be given to all students, rather than solely offering it to those who can afford it, or are within school systems that can afford it if they themselves cannot. Once acknowledgment is given to lacking areas, and working toward implementing solutions has begun, there will be power to change and close the technology gap that is prohibiting so many students around the world.
Technology has been fully implemented into education, and the future is filled with paperless education and a one to one computer system in every school district across the country; however, this issue needs to be addressed quickly. All students will be given a fair chance of learning at the highest level in primary and secondary education, and in addition they will be the most competitive students at the postsecondary level. Everyone should receive the materials necessary to be as successful as desired, and let whether or not the opportunity is taken advantage of be left to the individual. This option could always be there for all students if the problem is addressed and current resources are used to rectify the issue. Virginia Beach City Public Schools went one-to-one this year, and Superintendent Dr. Spence says “We didn’t decide to go one-to-one this year. We’ve been working deliberately towards this for the last four years. We’ve been very intentional about getting people ready to have technology in the classroom, and about providing the right tools to manage the learning and the right curriculum resources to support this kind of learning environment. I really do think, based on the feedback we’ve gotten, that most people are happy we are moving in this direction.” This is a testimony to the fact that as our society grows technologically, the need for technology to allow education to grow also comes with it (cite). The laws are there, the money is there, the teachers are there; everything needed to provide a bright future is there, and it is possible.
ENHANCING EDUCATION THROUGH TECHNOLOGY ACT OF 2001
The Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2001 was designed to essentially aid localities in implementing an effective system of educational technology as well as keeping it consistently updated to improve academic achievement, especially within high-need areas. It also provides and promotes the teachers and administrators that are trained in using the technology being implemented for the students. The goal is to allow implementation of educational knowledge to aid in improvement of academics. There is also a want for students to be technologically literate by the time they finish their eighth grade year regardless of race, gender, income, ethnicity, etc. (cite, EETTA of 2001)
OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
The Office of Educational Technology has developed a National Education Technology Plan and their goal is to have “All learners will have engaging and empowering learning experiences in both formal and informal settings that prepare them to be active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants in our globally connected society” (cite). People need ways to acquire skills and knowledge to be successful in all aspects of life, and because of this, new learning sciences have advanced how people educate themselves. Historically, education was limited to what you could access within your school or classroom, but now technology allows students to access information anywhere in the world from anyone in the world.
The Office of Educational Technology has provided that “technology has the potential to accelerate, amplify, and expand the impact of powerful principles of learning.” (cite) The process of learning is almost required to evolve as time moves on, and due to how much technology advances over short periods of time, the ability to learn comes easier to those who use technology as a supplement. A Texas middle school principal attests to the use of technological learning programs being proven to help boost confidence in students who did not believe they were able to excel academically. She has had who lost motivation to continue to try, tell her that they finally believe that they aren’t “dumb” but rather have to put in more work to achieve the grades they want. Implementing technologies in education helps students learn in different ways. It promotes out of the box thinking and learning styles that may be more updated rather than traditional. It also provides for more engaging ways to learn and giving access to information that would be found outside of the classroom. The plan also discusses technology not only in the classroom, but outside as well. Technology can aid in learning devices found in libraries and museums as well. It can also speed up the process of learning languages as you are able to not only study the language, but communicate with other who speak or are studying the language as well.
ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT
There is legislation with content that could have different implied meanings based on the state of our society. To fight the “War on Poverty,” Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Created to aid Title I schools and help pay for the costs of educating disadvantaged kids. This act has been amended several times since its passing during the Great Society in 1965. An amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes the No Child Left Behind Act, essentially stating that kids in grades 3-8 are required to be tested in and exceed state standards of mathematics and reading by 2014. In addition to this, it raised the bar associated with the definition of a “high quality teacher” (Klein, 2018). It expired in 2008, and was replaced by Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act due to the becomingly unworkable nature of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But with the Every Student Succeeds Act, it required that not only do we give students the attention they require, but we teach them to a standard that will prepare them for postsecondary education or career life (cite).
STUDENT SUPPORT AND ACADEMIC ENRICHMENT PROGRAM
There is a program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that was later amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act; it is called the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program. All state education agencies are able to apply for this grant, and it has the ability to help fund educational technology. It has a goal “To improve student’s academic achievement by increasing the capacity of States, local educational agencies, schools and local communities to: (1) provide all students with access to a well-rounded education; (2) improve school conditions for student learning; and (3) improve the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy for all students” (cite).
INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides that a free and adequate public education is given to all families with disabled students. Specifically, the act states one of its purposes as,“to ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities by supporting system improvement activities; coordinated research and personnel preparation; coordinated technical assistance, dissemination, and support; and technology development and media services” (cite). With that being said, money that funds the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act could also be used to fund educational technology as students with disabilities are not exempt from the issue. Technology in education will ease the lives of students with disabilities after they have mastered how to use the devices. This act also provides for teachers who have been equipped with the knowledge of how to use the devices and abilities to teach students how to utilize them as well. It states the ways technology could be used in education such as the following: communicating with parents, connecting with STEM professionals, providing mobile and assistive technology devices, along with providing devices that aid English as a Second Language (ESL) students in mastering English (cite).
GRANTS AND ALLOCATED FUNDING
There are a multitude of grants available to fund technology in schools. The grants must be applied to by the individual school or their district; however, they specifically provide money for technology in schools that need it. School districts are also allocated money to maintain the schools and their contents. The issue with that lies within the fact that sometimes schools have to prioritize things such as building maintenance before technology, and the fact that they have to choose between two necessities is another reason the gap is made bigger. Schools are locally funded by property taxes paid by citizens in their city; however, this creates a cyclical issue. Locally funded schools in lower-income areas get less money because their property value isn’t high, and due to this the schools suffer. The conditions of schools have a correlation between the people and communities they serve. States should slowly begin to build their communities to become better not only for students, but for families as well. Doing this will not only contribute to better education, but lower crime rates as well. The areas in which these schools are built can greatly impact the quality of their education and for that reason we need to make sure that the communities are well taken care of too.
There is a billion dollar school lawsuit against the state of Arizona. A school system is suing because of decades of spending cuts that equal over $2 billion. The money would’ve been used for textbooks, buses, building maintenance, and technology. Governor Doug Ducey started his job in 2015, and walked into it with this lawsuit hanging over him. The schools claim that not enough money was given to them after the recession to cover inflation costs, which was required by voter-approved legislation. An Arizona judge ordered the state to pay upwards of $1.6 billion dollars over 5 years, and schools requested $1.3 billion in extra to cover inflation costs. Voters approved plan that will add $3.5 billion to education over next 10 years. In his State of the State Address, he discusses the funding issue by presenting a plan that would bring $96.6 million for the Arizona schools. He presents a 0.4% raise for teachers and a one thousand dollar bonuses for those who sign contracts with low income schools, and $10 million full-day kindergarten programs for said low-income schools (Rau, 2017). He then discusses almost $40 million in additional spending for schools that are doing well academically; however, he is worried that the state will be ordered to pay money that is not able to be obtained immediately, and refuses to raise taxes to cover these costs. This is a plan that would happen gradually, but may be delayed by the current pending lawsuit.
Tim Hogan, the lawyer who successfully represented the schools in their first law suit, is preparing to do it again. He is defending the claim that the state legislature has been taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from Arizona schools districts. This money was to be used to buy new technology for students and update building infrastructure. Some school buildings have deteriorated to the point of needing to shut down and relocate their students; approximately 1,500 students have been moved. ‘The situation just keeps getting worse and worse without school districts having capital funds to address deteriorating facilities and equipment,’ Hogan said. (cite?) Districts have had to go to lengths such as requesting for voters to pass bonds that inherently require these districts to pay for things the state should be covering. There are some schools that have almost no source of income, and therefore don’t have the means to obtain bonds to get what they need.
NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL BOARD ASSOCIATION
The North Carolina School Board Association (NCSBA) is suing 14 state officers. In a decision from 2008, the state was to pay NCSBA $747,833,074 to update technology in schools. The NCBSA was only given $18,133,251, which is 2.5% of the total, and they’re looking to extend the date in order to get all the money they need. The plaintiffs are also willing to work to create a payment plan. “As a state, we have two choices: Invest in technology and have our students compete with the best and the brightest on a level playing field, or stick with the status quo and have our students potentially watching from the sidelines,” Minnie Forte-Brown, president of NCSBA, said. The use of technology is becoming a necessity, and they currently do not have the means to keep up with the rest of the country. 20 out of 21 of the computers at George Watts’ High School are at least ten years old, and compared to typewriters by teachers employed in the high school. Democrats went against their promise to fund education in the past, and cut education spending by over $700 million in two years (cite).
In the 2008 decision the North Carolina courts found that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Transportation, Revenue and Commerce, Environmental Quality, Employment Security Commission and the University of North Carolina system were given money through fines and penalties paid by third parties (cite). This money was required to be given to the public schools to pay for a technology update and was instead kept for at least 10 years by these systems and departments. Over 20 schools joined together to refile a lawsuit as this decision was about to expire. There is $729.7 million that has yet to be given to the schools, and teachers and administrators are worried. As surrounding states and districts are moving forward technologically, they wish to do the same; however, they cannot compete if their budgets cannot compare (cite).
Students all over the country are heavily dependent on technology to complete schoolwork and advance skills they may not be able to fully develop within the classroom. When certain cities or districts are left behind due to the lack of money to update, it creates a technological ability gap called The Digital Divide. “The ratio of computers to students is absurd,” said English teacher Andrew Flaherty, a veteran educator who reports that many of his students cannot afford computers at home and don’t get enough time to use them at school. As a result, Bronzeville Scholastic students born into a digital era struggle with basic skills, such as saving work to a flash drive and setting margins in Microsoft Word (cite).
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