Closing the Digital Learning Gap

As my last assignment for a class on the Brazilian Policies of Education, I worked on a project with five other colleagues which sought to investigate how Brazil’s Internet and technology policies were being applied in real life.

As our research method, each of us spent 20 hours inside schools serving different social classes. These included: three public schools, an elite private school, and a school for the deaf. Through our conversations with students, professors, and technologists, we observed how well equipped these schools were, which in turn helped us to better understand the extent to which kids from differing social classes had access to digital technologies. Our finding were very interesting. Before starting to work on the study, we hypothesized that relative to private schools, public schools would lack basic technology equipment. However, we we were proven wrong. Although the private schools’ equipment was of a better quality and more up to date, all the schools had technology resources to work with, from computers to the Internet.

Another interesting finding was that although schools generally had the same equipement, it was the lack of trained personnel which created a participation gap between students. While private schools had well-staffed technology centers with trained professionals, the public schools had their computers locked in rooms, whcih neither students nor professors could access, because they did not know how to use them.

Given our findings, I strongly believe that workshops must be implemented to train educators not only on how to use technology, but how to teach it to their students. I have also begun to think more seriously about online learning, especially here in Brazil where there is a large participation gap between classes. Although I hail my university’s efforts to invite more students by alotting 6,000 spots by creating Distance Learning, how can we implement this new program (Online Learning) when the digital divide is still just a pervasive problem? What are some efficient methods for tackling the technology participation gap in schools?

– andré valle