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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Digital Learning Threatens To Leave Some Students Behind | WUNC

Photo: Lisa Philip
"North Carolina lawmakers are banking on the benefits of digital learning. Four years ago they passed legislation requiring that state funding for textbooks be replaced by funds for digital materials." says Lisa Philip, Education Reporter.

Fifth-graders at Mariam Boyd Elementary in Warrenton, North Carolina, use Chromebooks to answer questions about a story they’re reading. Their teacher, Charis Shattuck, says the technology allows her to review her students’ work in real-time and give them immediate feedback.
Photo: Lisa Philip / WUNC
The deadline is this summer. But educators and student advocates say the transition threatens to leave behind the many kids who can’t access high-speed internet at home. 

Driving into Warrenton is like stepping back in time. The town of 800 or 900 is filled with centuries-old housing, churches, and storefronts. Step into its elementary school, and you’ll rejoin the present – or even catch a glimpse into the future.

In a back hallway, in a fifth-grade classroom, each student huddles over a Chromebook. They’re using the devices to answer questions about a story, with occasional help from their teacher, Charis Shattuck. 

“A lot of people assume that when you take technology into the classroom, the teacher is out of the classroom, or that the teacher isn’t directly involved with the students,” Shattuck said. 

Shattuck said this isn’t the case. 

“A lot of the apps that I use or the programs that I use, allow me to go and see their work live,” she said. “And I can shoot them feedback, or as I’m walking around the room, I can help them.”

But what about when Shattick’s students go home? 

Some 40 percent of Warren County households lack high-speed internet access, according to the Federal Communications Commission. 

“As we move more toward a digital age, and you know, the story with the digital textbooks, and digital resources. When students are at home, some have access, and some do not,” said Ernest Conner, Jr., director of technology for Warren County schools. “So all of our students are not on the same playing field.” 

Educators worry lack of home broadband access in rural and low-income communities is widening learning gaps. That’s because online resources allow those students with access to deepen their knowledge of classroom material – even after they leave school. 

“When students have access, there’s a certain amount of curiosity, there’s a certain amount of freedom to explore new and different things,” said Ray Spain, superintendent of Warren County schools. “And they need that.”

Source: WUNC