“They can just use a computer on campus.”
This is a common response when I bring up the challenges of using technology in my courses. I teach a blended biology class, where students have an online lesson one day each week. Often a student’s computer is their cell phone. I challenge any educator to complete an online class using only a tiny cell phone screen! Technology would benefit my literacy math class, but the digital divide is even more prevalent with this group of students. A ‘digital divide’ is unequal access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) due to geography, socioeconomic status or knowledge (Wikipedia, 2014).
According to the Canadian Federation of Students (British Columbia) (CFSBC) (2013), the proportion of aboriginal students in ABE is higher (at 12%) than in traditional K-12 systems. This student population identifies as visual or graphic learners and ICT can support this method of learning (Thiessen & Looker, 2010). However, 71% of ABE students live on an annual income below the poverty line, even though half are employed full-time (CFSBC, 2013) and only 58% of households with incomes $30 000 or less have access to the internet (Statistics Canada, 2012). Students believe they learn more using computers than from reading books or watching TV (Thiessen & Looker, 2010), but without access at home they are required to remain on campus outside class time. Since 29% of ABE students support a family while attending school (10% as single parents) (CFSBC, 2013), class time may be the only time they have in the day. I see the value in using technology in my classroom, but I still struggle with how to create an equal learning experience for all my students. Seeing the statistics has made me realize how challenging this may be.
Canadian Federation of Students (British Columbia). (2013). Adult Basic Education: A gateway to post-secondary success (Fact Sheet). Retrieved from http://cfs.bc.ca/section/50
Thiessen, V. & Looker, E.D. (2010). Chapter 3. Bridging and bonding social capital: Computer and Internet use among youth in relation to their cultural identities. In E. DianneLooker & T.D. Naylor (Eds.), Digital Diversity (pp. 59-86). Retrieved from https://d2l.viu.ca/d2l/le/content/56545/viewContent/622563/View
Statistics Canada. (2013). Canadian Internet Use Survey, 2012 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/131126/dq131126d-eng.htm
Wikipedia. (2014). Digital divide. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide