Technology and Low Income Learners

I received the Teaching Music magazine in the mail today and sat down to flip through it and found an interesting article about technology. After reading the article,”Making the Tech Connection”, I sat and thought about lower income students and how much technology benefits them.  Okay, some of you are wondering where I am going with this. Keep reading.

The common assumption is that students are crawling in technology, they have iPods, computers, game systems, cell phones, etc… but, do they?  In many schools with students from lower income households,  technology could be intimidating and therefore cause education to be  intimidating.  Now, you are thinking that all students need to learn technology and therefore we should teach it if they don’t have the means to learn it at home.  Of course we should! except when? between math, reading, writing, science, social studies, MUSIC…the list goes on and on!

We assume students come to us knowing the basics of technology, but in fact many of them do not.  Of course, teacher led technology is fine, but asking some students to click a mouse to start a timer(see below), type a word, or scroll down a page could be a stressful event. They have had very little experience with a computer, much less a laptop and are just hoping not to be made fun of by the rest of the class if they mess up.  Of course, to us this sounds very elementary.

Another instance of “wasted” technology.  We have school web pages that host our personal classroom webpage that should be an excellent learning tool, but because many of our students do not have internet access it goes unused and ignored.  I should be able to use it to communicate and give students extra activities to do at home, but many students are unable to access, navigate, or work a computer.

I worry that some teachers think it is so important to have technology that they forget what they started off to teach. For music education, music is still the “it” that we should be teaching.  I feel like we should be aware of how much technology our students have been introduced to, before using the “cool” new computer program we have found.  Before making the plunge into technology, I feel we should ask ourselves if it will be more intimidating or more helpful to our students.

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2 responses

  1. As an undergrad, and at the beginning of my first year of teaching, I was very conscience of not introducing technology too quickly, for fear that many of my lower-income families would not have the same opportunities. Now, I can only speak for my own location, but regardless of income-level, I find that nearly all students embrace technology to some degree. The age of technology is upon us, and even as a twenty three year old, I can clearly see the difference between students in my generation, and those who I teach now. Many of the lowest income students I have (who live in trailer parks and cannot afford an instrument) have an XBox, and have constant online access. It’s a funny world we live in, but I think we need to be aware how much time most of our students do in fact intereact with technology.

  2. I completely agree with you Ashley! My school is over 70% free and reduced lunch, and many of our families are single or no income families that can barely keep the lights on. Sometimes, the kids will tell you even when they can’t afford to keep the bills paid. I use my iPod often at school, as I now have a stereo that can play both cd’s and an iPod. When I first brought it to school, some of my kids commented that they had one of their own, while most commented that they had never even seen one in person before, or if they had it was behind the glass case at Wal*Mart.

    One of my students remarked that their dad got their mom an iPod for Christmas, but that they had to return it because the father wasn’t aware that you needed a computer to make it work, and they don’t have one in the home.

    I’m very glad that someone else realizes that many of our lower-income students do not have access to computers, internet and iPods in the home, and that this is something they need to be taught. I’m glad you’re getting the word out there, and making others give this some thought!

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