"Technology for the 'Have-Nots'." By William L. Bainbridge. School Planning and Management. September 1995.

Technology for the "Have-Nots"

by William L. Bainbridge, Ph.D.

Computer Gap: The United States is dividing into two societies -
one that's comfortable with PCs, the other that doesn't have access.
- - Newsweek (02-27-95)

We have been amazed and pleasantly surprised at the reactions of readers to the concerns which Kathy Bleimes and I expressed regarding the potential of new technology applications to widen the learning gap between the children of the "haves" and "have-nots" ("Beware of Edutainment", School and College, January, 1995).

School administrators have been universal in their understanding that most children do not now have access to personal computers in their homes. They understand the importance of the availability of the tools of teaching and learning in general and the home learning technology spawned by these needs. For the less than 10 percent of youngsters whose parents have invested a minimum of $1500 in computer hardware and hundreds in software, edutainment is fast becoming a major teachers' helper. Moreover, building and central office administrators know how proficiency and achievement test scores can be positively affected by structured learning opportunities outside the classroom.

Claudio Sanchez, Education Correspondent for National Public Radio recently said, "For the most part, poor children still do not have access to the same school choices and chances that children from better off families do - one example is in computers. Between teachers and administrators there is a sense that technology is creating not just another gap, but a bigger gap between the haves and the have-nots in public education, between poor kids and well-to-do kids."

We all know experiences in the home and community strongly influence opportunities to learn. Last year's national assessment of the Chapter I program pointed out, "...by age 18, children will have spent more than 90 percent of their time outside school. Of the 60 to 70 waking hours per week students spend outside school, high achievers spend about 25 hours a week engaged in literacy-stimulating behaviors. Typically, low achievers spend only about 12 hours per week in home and community settings cultivating their reading, math and social literacy skills. The experiences that high achievers get outside school equal more than 3 additional years of schooling." Moreover, research suggests that rural and inner city children have fewer options to extend classroom learning. Furthermore, the Council of the Great City Schools confirms the well accepted premise that students in disadvantaged communities are less likely than their counterparts to have met national performance standards in math or reading.

An interesting article in the January issue of ÏÍÎÉ points out that technology may be changing the way children learn to think. "Educators have noticed that children today are developing tremendous capabilities in the right hemisphere of the brain, the side that processes visual information. This is a result, they theorize, of prolonged exposure to visual oriented technology." The author, Evan Schwartz, contends technology "...enables children to assimilate diverse information from rapidly changing contexts. This may signal an evolutionary change in cerebral processing..."

Dr. Patricia S. Breivik, newly appointed Dean of University Libraries at Wayne State University, has long been a nationally recognized champion of "information literacy" through resource-based learning. She says: "Print, non-print, human and technological resources are used for students to draw personal meaning, solve problems, and make decisions through active involvement with data". In New Media, Eric Brown points out "...after a decade of interactive videodisks and HyperCard stacks, multimedia has yet to gain more than a foothold..." The fact is few schools have invested in significant interactive curricular software and many software publishers are focusing their marketing efforts on the homes of students from the upper socioeconomic strata.

My colleague, Dr. Steve Sundre, is the "thinker" in our organization. Last week, he told a group of educators, "Simply put, rapid advances in technology without the concurrent ability to disseminate it widely, dangerously erode equal access to education arguments which have formed the basis of public education since the turn of the century."

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Dr. Bainbridge is President of SchoolMatch, a Columbus, OH, research firm assisting corporations with school data and consulting services.