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Myth: Students Without Access to Technology Creates a Digital Divide


Misconceptions of Flipped Learning #1: 

Students Without Access to Technology Creates a Digital Divide

I am starting a series of blogs about some of the common misconceptions regarding flipped learning. The Flipped Classroom has come under increasing scrutiny as it has gained popularity in classes across the country. 

Note: If any of my readers have a particular misconception you want me to cover, please comment and I might address it in a future post. 

This week:  Students Without Access to Technology Creates a Digital Divide

This is by far the most often quoted criticism/misconception of flipped learning.  What about those students who do not have access to technology at home? 

I don’t want to downplay this issue.  It is VERY important that we provide equal access to ALL students.  It is one of the hallmarks of a free public education.  Thus I recognize that this is an issue.  However, I believe that with a little creativity, this issue can be solved.  When Aaron Sams and I started flipping our classrooms in 2007, we had about 25% of our students without access to the internet at home, thus we HAD to solve this problem.  For us, we took a multifaceted approach to students with limited access.  Below are some ways that you can insure adequate access to your students outside of the school day.

  • Some students had computers at home, and either dial-up internet (remember those days) or no Internet at all.  For these students, we had them bring in a flash drive and we downloaded the videos onto a flash drive.
  • For students without a computer or the Internet, we burned our videos onto DVD’s which we handed out.  Students then watched the videos on their home DVD player.  We found that all of our students had at least this technology at home.  If not we were ready to purchase a few DVD players for these students.  Jon has recently been working with Havana High School in Havana, IL.  Havana High School has decided to flip their whole school.  Their school has approximately 50% free and reduced lunch.  In preparation for flipping their whole school, their superintendent, Mark Twomey, purchased several DVD players.  As of yet, no students have had to check out the DVD players.  Mr. Twomey reports that his students have sufficient technology in their possession to get access to the content.
  • Some students brought in their portable devices such as iPods, zunes, phones, etc.  We helped them get the video files onto their devices.  We also found that most students, even those with good access at home, wanted the videos on their portable devices so that they could have the learning videos accessible wherever they were at. Many of them reported that they watched them on the bus, in car rides, in the lunch room, and wherever they needed access. 
  • Several schools that have gone down this road have opened up their computer labs and libraries beyond the school day.  This allows for a safe, supervised, collaborative space for students to work and have access to technology.

This doesn’t just mean smart phones.  We figured out how to get the videos onto students “dumb” phones by putting the videos on micro SD cards. Those are the flash drives that are about the size of a thumbnail.http://mono-for-android.1047100.n5.nabble.com/file/n5710237/micro_sd_1__41616_zoom.jpg

On anther note: this whole talk of adequate access assumes that the technology has to be accessed at home.  Though this is often the case, there are instances where the videos are NOT homework.  In these instances of Flipped Learning students watch the videos in school using school computers.  I want to talk about this model in a subsequent post.

So if you are considering implementing flipped learning in your school/classroom, the problem of equitable access can be addressed with a little creativity. 

2 Responses to Myth: Students Without Access to Technology Creates a Digital Divide

  1. [...] Much of what I’ve read about flipped learning immediately attempts to refute the idea that tech access could be a problem. Teachers can burn DVDs and students can watch videos at home even without internet access. Or, kids can go to the public library or stay after school and watch the videos that way.  These seem like reasonable alternatives but a recent conversation with another educator about the growing use of digital textbooks brought up an interesting point to consider. Even when students have computers and internet access at home, many students live in homes with only one family computer (and perhaps only one family DVD player). Often, there are multiple children who need nightly computer access and when one computer is shared among parents and students all under one roof, the demands for screen time may become excessively challenging. Overall though, technology access seems to be increasing but it remains problematic that there are still some students who may struggle to access digital content outside of class time. If our goal as educators is to “reach every student in every class every day,” issues of convenience and access cannot be overlooked. Furthermore, Hertz reminds educators “not everyone learns best through a screen.”  I agree. While I love having quick, easy access to information through digital devices, I prefer reading paper when I need to read closely and annotate text. I know I’m not alone. I recently spoke with several upper elementary students who prefer reading novels in paperback compared to their Kindles and they’d much rather read a textbook at their desk than read information in a digital format. [...]

  2. DinBomani says:

    But what happens if there is no computer and/or the capability of a sd card?

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