As an educational technology consultant, I am often asked to speak on technology panels or at the annual Career Day at the High School. Since 2007, I have offered my knowledge, experience, and expertise at various schools and educational conferences all over the country regarding the importance of technology integration in our schools.
It has been my experience that when I am speaking at an urban school there is a different attitude regarding technology. For instance, I usually do not have access to certain websites such as YouTube. Also certain devices that are used in many schools to enhance instruction such as digital music players, tablet computers and cell phones are missing from most urban schools I have visited.
As I began to investigate this situation, I learned from interviewing administrators and teachers in the urban school setting, that many of them are merely following policies that have been put in place by their central office. Policies that are in my opinion not only hindering the learning process but placing these students at a global disadvantage.
The National Alliance of Black School Eductators (NABSE) has declared:
Among the most significant trends that will increase the academic achievement levels of students is the use of technology. Technology makes learning opportunities more accessible to students at any time/any place. In particular, minority students will begin to realize their interests and learning patterns can be fulfilled with this new technology. Technology will enhance the classroom teacher, so that skill levels, learning styles, language barriers, and the place of learning will not be deterrents.
Those who craft these policies believe that these technologies detract from the learning process. For example in New York City, cell phones have been banned from schools. Although teachers and students are complaining about the ban, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have staunchly refused to drop the ban.
They insist cell phones are a distraction and are used to cheat, take inappropriate photos in bathrooms and organize gang rendezvous. While this may be true, why not teach our students how to be responsible with these devices as opposed to simply not allowing the devices on campus? People speed and drive while under the influence of alcohol – is this a reason to ban motor vehicles?
There are school districts that are using these technologies to either increase the productivity of their teachers or enhance instruction. In Corpus Christi, Texas, Sandy Riggs, says “using texting as an education tool has increased her students’ access to her, their confidence and ultimately gained their trust” Why can’t New York learn from Corpus Christi? Are the schools and students that different?
Urban schools, like all schools, must have technology policies that reflect the need for our students to be prepared for life in the 21st century. That can’t be done without integrating technology simply because technology is a major part of life in the 21st century. Let us make sure that our students are prepared.
Kai Dupé is a doctoral student at Pepperdine University where he is conducting research on Why African American Males Are Underrepresented in Computing. Kai can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his website at www.WhereAreBlacskInTechnology.com
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