Over the past decade, technology has brought significant improvements in America’s educational system. Digital tools, from handheld devices to artificial intelligence, have increased course offerings, enhanced student engagement, and accelerated learning. ;
A technological shift
With information at the tips of our fingers, education has become more accessible than ever. Students can retrieve resources and coursework as long as they have internet connection. Personalized online exercises can help students master a concept at their own pace and improve knowledge retention.
Online-based activities can also encourage students to collaborate with other classrooms around the globe. These projects will likewise equip them with essential tech knowledge they’ll need to succeed in the modern workforce.
Technology allows parents to be more involved in the early stages of learning. Guardians with busy schedules can meet instead with teachers through web conferencing. Additionally, they can assess their child’s performance and attendance through online collaboration tools.
In the teaching aspect, technology connects instructors to an extensive library of informative resources in virtually any field. These materials can help them improve their lesson plans and create personalized programs for each student.
Virtual lessons can be particularly beneficial for students who juggle the demands of school and work simultaneously. Full-time professionals who wish to pursue further studies can make it happen with online postgraduate programs.
It’s no secret that technology ushers in vital structural changes to modern education. In turn, more exposure to technology produces smarter and useful members of society.
But what does this say for students who don’t have the means to stay connected? Will they simply remain in the dark while the rest of the world evolves?
The digital divide
The digital divide is a term used to describe the disparity in people’s ability to effectively use and access technology. This gap can be caused by several factors including age, geographical location, income levels, and exposure to technology.
In the U.S., roughly 29% of adults with annual household incomes below $30,000 do not own a smartphone. Forty-four percent do not have access to home broadband services while 46% do not own a traditional computer.
Even if classrooms are well-equipped with the latest software and devices, students without computers or high-speed internet connectivity at home will still fall behind. They are at greater risk of underperforming and losing the motivation to learn. In contrast, privileged students have more access to quality education and opportunities for success.
Unfair competitive advantage
While technology aims to make learning easier and more engaging, for underprivileged individuals it poses another hurdle to their path to success.
Students without constant access to the internet risk missing online announcements which can affect their academic standing. Similarly, online gradation systems also won’t work for those who are unable to monitor their progress daily, preventing them from making necessary improvements to their performance.
Because essential learning aids are just a few clicks away, privileged students can accomplish their course work in a flash. This allows them to advance their studies or use the extra time to hone their knowledge of certain topics. Those in lower socio-economic classes, on the other hand, have to seek alternate resources and undergo longer hours of research to accomplish the same set of requirements.
In the long run, inadequate access to technology can hinder them from obtaining the skills they need to stand out in today’s job market. Having limited resources can discourage students from pursuing further studies or high-paying careers that involve intensive research or digital expertise.
Closing the gap
Bridging the digital divide is a prerequisite to nationwide quality education. Schools, together with vital government agencies, must explore ways of ensuring everyone has equal access to necessary digital tools for advanced learning.
For example, colleges can introduce a laptop and tablet lending initiative for all students. Additionally, they can partner with private internet providers to distribute Wi-Fi capable devices or even home internet access that can support students from low-income households.
The government should also be responsible for increasing public funding for technology used in education. This way all students, no matter their socio-economic background, have equal opportunities for educational excellence.
Additionally, implementing inventory tracking solutions can help schools monitor their hardware and tech budget. This ensures all available resources are distributed to students who need them the most.
But closing the gap goes beyond the provision of devices. Teachers must promote digital literacy through campaigns, training, and workshops to uplift students of all ages and varied exposure to technology. Being digitally literate can make them more competitive in the job market and empower them to adapt to today’s online world.
Overcoming the digital divide is a gradual and costly process. But providing everyone with equal opportunities for quality education is the first step to nationwide progress. With the right tools and guidance, students from all walks of life have the freedom to develop innovative solutions and reach their fullest potential.