PLAYBACK: Race, Class and Technology Use

 
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Photo by Xiaming.

6.16.11 | How parental attitudes affect young children’s technology use; kids of color are using more media than white youth; and real-life examples of cloud computing and Twitter in the classroom.

A Parental Digital Divide?: Parental attitudes toward young children’s use of technology greatly affect a child’s interest in and skill using new tools in a pre-school setting, according to a new UK-based study.

Multimodal Literacies in the Early Years” explores what learning to be literate means for young children growing up in today’s media-rich world. Researchers from The Open University and Cambridge University completed case studies of 10 pre-school children in a Sure Start Children’s Centre and interviewed parents and staff. Among the key findings:

Home ownership of mobile phones, TVs, satellite, computers and internet was widespread, although two families in the lowest income band (>£10,000 per annum) had no computer, with implications for social inclusion/equality. Whilst safeguarding against their over-use, most parents recognised the potential of new technologies for their children’s learning, but were less sure about how to support screen-based literacy activities.

Some children were not allowed computer access at home, but did use mobile phones, TV/videos, and ‘smart’ toys which converged new and traditional technologies (e.g. talking books, interactive toys). We therefore found a ‘digital divide’ where some children in the nursery displayed strategic, meta-level literacy knowledge with new technologies derived principally from participation in supported activity at home, whilst children with less experience only participated in low-level activities or did not use them at all.

“There is a lack of guidance on how to support literacy with digital technologies,” researcher Rosie Flewitt told The Guardian. “The exception was with children with learning difficulties or physical difficulties, as practitioners had realized new technology could really help.”  Some of the more affluent families—as well as pre-school staff—were more likely to restrict access out of concern that early technology use can hinder educational and social development.

“Some children from highly educated, affluent families had very little exposure to new technologies,” said Flewitt, “whereas some children from less affluent families were given excellent support at home to develop their literacy skills through diverse uses of new technologies.”

The Guardian article also quotes experts who believe digital technologies can compromise healthy development for very young children. We’ve covered this issue in depth on Spotlight earlier this year. For more, read “Learning, Digital Media and Creative Play in Early Childhood.”

Youth of Color Use More Media:  Minority youth are using an average of 13 hours of media a day, nearly 4.5 hours more than white youth, according to a new study by Northwestern University released last week.

The number of hours includes listening to music, watching TV, playing video games, using the computer, reading print media, and viewing movies. The report, Children, Media and Race: Media Use Among White, Black, Hispanic and Asian American Children,” (pdf) analyzes data from the 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation Generation M2 study on media use among 2,000 8- to 18-year-olds and the foundation’s 2006 Media Family study on another 2,000 children from birth to 6 years old. The study also found all groups read for pleasure 30 to 40 minutes a day.

The study’s authors—Ellen Wartella, Vicky Rideout and Alexis Lauri—wrote that the report aims to “briefly hit a national pause button: to stop and take note of these differences, to consider the possible positive and negative implications for young people’s health and well-being, and to reflect on how each of us can respond in our own realms—as educators, public health advocates, content creators, and parents—in a way that benefits children, tweens, and teens to the greatest extent possible.”

Another interesting piece of the research found that minority youth spend more time consuming media on mobile devices, including cell phones and iPods, than other groups. Last year, Spotlight spoke with S. Craig Watkins, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Texas at Austin who has written about the “participation gap” and the ways that black and Latino youth are embracing mobile technology. Read the story here.

Educators on Cloud Nine: We’ve been writing about the possibilities that cloud computing offers for education lately. In case you’ve been in the clouds yourself, the term to refers to storing data and applications online, removing the need for installing application software on a computer. The model got a lot of attention recently with the unveiling of Apple’s iCloud and Google’s Chromebook.

Before we jump to the conclusion that this is surely a game changer, we have to get beyond the slick unveilings at developer conferences and pay attention to how cloud computing is being integrated into schools. We’re always on the lookout for examples of how teachers are using new tools to enhance learning in classrooms. Turns out many educators are already using cloud-based technologies—and for more for more than just administrative management. 

This great piece in THE Journal shares nine compelling detailed examples from educators around the country who are experimenting with new online tools like StudySync and Wixie. Some students are collaborating on projects such as literacy salons and podcasts, while others are mentoring younger students.

In Florida’s Palm Beach County, for example, students and teachers are using Adobe Connect Pro tools to collaborate before, during, and after field trips:

In advance of a recent trip to a local state park to explore its different ecological zones, for example, Palm Beach students met online with park rangers via a video chat to ask questions, obtain beach reports, and gather other pertinent information. Once out in the field, students were armed with laptops, cameras, and scientific probe devices that allowed them to gather data for use in the classroom the next day. Final reports (both written and video) were completed online and shared with teachers back at the school. Teachers were able to connect with the students in real time with feedback to the information they were uploading, ask additional questions, and even immediately grade the assignments students were completing back at the park.

“Using technology, teachers can make the lesson much more compelling and extend past a single day’s trip,” says Kim Cavanaugh, the district’s technology program specialist. “They can also latch onto the enthusiasm immediately, and use it as a motivational tool for students.”

Read the full piece here.

Plus: The New York Times technology columnist David Pogue says Google’s new Chromebook is not all it’s cracked up to be. Echoing concerns some educators have raised about privacy, infrastructure and access issues, Pogue writes that while Google deserves praise for its “noble experiment,” for now, “unless you’re an early-adopter masochist with money to burn, you probably shouldn’t buy a Chromebook.”

Twitter for Budding Historians: And finally, one more story of classroom learning comes from this story at CNN last week featuring Enrique Legaspi, an eighth-grade history teacher at Hollenbeck Middle School in East Los Angeles who uses Twitter in his class to help his students “find their voice.”

“I have many students that do not participate in my classes or share what’s on their mind, so Twitter became that vehicle,” he said.

In the video below, you can see how Legaspi sparks discussion about World War I and how he’s developing literacy and voice in the process. As an educator, Legaspi is really enthusiastic about Twitter’s ability to engage his students.

“I get feedback on the spot. Not only that, all the students can see what they’re sharing,” he said. “This is powerful.”

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