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Social Justice and the digital divide in Lower Primary;

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Submitted by: Stephanie Rossiter
The term ‘Digital Equity’ is now recognised as a social justice goal of most educators working with ICTs.
The focus of ‘Digital Equity’ is social inclusion through universal access to ICTs within the classroom.
With the world knowledge base doubling every 3 years, fast speed internet and increased demand for higher levels of education, many industrialised countries are recognising a knowledge divide between higher and lower socio-economic citizens. How do we prepare students to become active engaged citizens in the future?

An Independent case study of 6 Australian primary schools using 1:1 laptops noted that student that used ICT were more engaged/on task students and were able to work at their own pace through subjects, creating student-centred classrooms which catered well for diversity. Which in turn resulted in clearer and more accurate assessment recording of students abilities, in particular students with ADHD related symptoms.(Fluck, 2011).

Experts agree that digital equity is an emerging issue in schools and that Government agencies, employers, schools and communities need to work closely to define what digital equity means, who it effects and how to best resolve this problem to improve student learning outcomes.

Australian (I'm in oz) and International authorities agree there is becoming a knowledge divide between higher and lower socio-economic citizens and believe this is due to how information is shared and distributed with ICTs.

So what can we, as Primary educators, do to improve student learning outcomes with ICTs?

Working from the senario of the most basic computer resources you may have in your classroom (1-2 computers, limited computer access, smart board, limited ICT support).

Strategy One:

Embed ICTs into the curriculum, aligning them with pedagogy and assessment.

Design Inquiry style projects for group work integrating subject key learnings (e.g. science, literacy, design, maths) and allowing students to use ICT to: research (Google), manipulate/explore first hand (3D Toad) and present information in a variety of mediums (vlog/blog/website) catering for classroom diversity and student learning styles.

Strategy Two:

Provide scaffolding with ICT tools to enhance learning

Develop clear rules about start and end of the lesson procedures and how equipment is to be shared amongst group members through role taking (two people at a time to each computer  while other team members undertake other roles). Have data saving plans (memory sticks) and focus on personal responsibility for saving data. Create student ‘experts’ in particular areas (printing, Google/searching, MS Word) to provide peer help as needed. Establish alternative methods that students can complete work  should technology fail (e.g. printing their work from a memory stick).

Strategy Three:

Move students from lower to higher order thinking activities with ICTs

Sequence lesson within units of work, which have ICT embedded, to move students from practicing simple tasks (typing/cut and pasting) to higher order thinking tasks (digital story telling, publishing, researching) by using freeware downloaded to computers (or Internet software where possible). Teaching students how to find, manipulate and reproduce data in a comprehensive way to prepare them for active citizenship.

Strategy Four:

Ensure students feel a sense of ownership about the ICT used in the classroom

Allow students to create separate log-in screens (based on their Inquiry groups) so they can personalise the desktop, short cuts and programs their group uses. Encourage students to manipulate the Smart Board in each lesson and ask for their input about activities undertaken on the board. Students are also able to use their own memory sticks (which they can take home and keep working on).

There are many other strategies you can use, but these should get you started.

With regards to ICT support, encourage students to become digital 'experts' in different areas (printing, MS word, Google, vlogs etc.. ) and offer peer support. Join twitter and other online forums and ask for help, there is plenty of ideas around.

Find out more at my blog