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Crossing the Diversity Digital Divide In Education

1999

Where are the teachers of color, in technology andthe learning world? To think about...( Where is the training for those of any color who care enough to teach in places where many would not choose to be?)

More importantly, how do we involve these teachers as leaders? What are the models that are out there? If we have to import workers to help manage our technology projects in America are we short changing the children who could benefit from the high paying jobs if we do not invest in leadership in their communities? Would it not benefit the communities of diversity to have technology initiatives particularly in the schools? Do we show them leaders who understand the technology in the schools?

MODEL INITIATIVES
In 1992, I was , with a group of four others, picked as a Christa McAuliffe Educator. The NFIE www.nfie.org National Foundation for the Improvement of Education is a foundation within the NEA. Money mailed to the NEA on the death of Christa McAuliffe was used to support pioneering teachers. Thus the Christa McAuliffe Institute was found.

THE CLASS OF 1992- In Your Face?
The class of 1992 reflected diversity, we were a melange of African American, Indian (Lakota) , Japanese American, a male, and white. This was a first. Leadership had been given to people of color and women. It was one of the most exciting things to happen to us in teaching and learning.(Especially interesting for me, was that I had just been told to stop doing so much technology by an educational leader in the community the day before) .

My heart had wings, because I knew that I would have the permission I needed to continue learning . I was grateful. They cared about my work, not my color. Education was changing. I would see the pictures on the wall that excluded me, but I was there in person. We were being included.

I think businesses and foundations should sponsor more of these learning opportunities or use distance education and new technologies to show us how this can be done in a better way. There are some models out there. There need to be MORE.

Teachers Mentoring other Teachers
We CMI Educators were an interesting group. We first had to learn about each other, but then we were able to work within the framework of the task we were given. It was an awesome task. It was a wonderful empowerment. Christa McAuliffe Educators were tasked with creating a workshop at Stanford showing and sharing our uses of technology to other teachers.

We learned and dialogues with the "experts" from the people giving philosophical ideation, we talked to the experts and had meaningful time with them. It was a learning experience for experts and teachers. Later, we invited 25 teachers from all over the United States, to work with us at this conference. We shared our favorite technology initiatives,( we had special projects that brought us to the attention of the NEA and we taught , and also invited projects that we were interested in sharing). Apple, IBM, Pioneer, National Geographic, Ameritech,NCSA, and some interesting devices, the laser disc and something called a Lumaphone.. that was then, this is now.

The point of the workshop was to create a learning environment for teachers from teachers. During the whole conference we also included an international outreach this was a mini conference. We had teachers from Russia, Japan, Nigeria, and with our old technology, then we talked to teachers in South America and in Japan.* My friends and I worked so hard we hardly saw any of California hardly any of the campus at Stanford. We laugh about it now because we have been back to California, many times, as we continued to grow and learn.

More than that, we were funded , and coached to be able to do presentations, to be involved in teacher outreach to conferences, to attend state conferences, and we had the backing of the NFIE, so that being excused to work was seen as a wonderful thing, and the school system supported our work because of the NFIE involvement.We had permission to grow and learn. We also wrote articles, and did lots of email. We talked to teachers, teacher to teacher. We were respected as professionals. That is not often the case with teachers. Unfortunately, there is not much respect given to those who choose to stand in America's classrooms. This is a national shame. We need more institutes or partnerships using new technology to create teacher to teacher leadership opportunities.

POWERFUL PARTNERS
Further outreach came to us and other educational pioneers from NASA, NSTA, NCTM and the National Geographic. But the problem is and was that organizations often rely on the infrastructure within the learning organizations to make sure that all teachers are informed of opportunities, and training.

I work with a wonderful organization called Earthwatch. We had difficulty locating teachers of diversity to be involved in field experiences. The field experiences are wonderful, but the knowledge of the initiative was lacking www.earthwatch.org . There are fellowships for teachers, and there is a global classroom for connected learning.

It is my concern that teacher training for teachers in the classroom is happening too slowly. It is my concern that the teacher mentors, the people who can do technology, who can effortlessly show and share the possibilities and the ways in which we can make a transformation of education are lost in what I call the mishmosh. One very interesting project is the MCI MarcoPolo Initiative . (2007 MarcoPolo disappeared)

There are wonderful learning communities where one can continue to grow and learn, but there are variables, leadership, directives, the principal in the school and ways in which the individual teacher is affected that may make them seem to be a problem. I have wonderful friends who are conducting research to help schools with this.

I am not sure how we keep the teachers who are making the transformational changes without losing them to technology or from teaching.

INITIATIVES
Recently, ISTE created a Minority Forum, which invited teachers to come to the NECC conference. It was exciting. We were given some of the same opportunities to grow and learn, and we were also involved in the leadership conference, but also as important, we were listened to. We met other teachers of diversity.

Yesterday, Joyce Pittman of the Iste Minority Leadership Initiative and I were in an audience in Washington DC, with a number of leaders involved in thinking about the digital divide. We made a difference.She was armed with her knowledge and involvement of the new ISTE technology initiatives, and I have been around from the NIIAC, and the NCATE Technology Task Force. It is my concern that there are not enough of us teachers being involved nationally in enough ways to support the teachers at the other end of the digital divide. [2007 PowerUp Innitiative disappeared]

There are outreach educational groups but the teachers in the urban schools, geographically distant schools, and rural schools, need more help to manage the new ways of teaching and learning. Important is the lack of these teachers being involved in leadership groups or on the conference circuit.

These teachers are where the rubber meets the road. The educational foundation that I am most involved with is the George Lucas Educational Foundation. We have created a whole issue entitled " Bridging the Digital Divide, Spring 2000. We have tried to tell the stories of education in many ways. Copies of this newletter are online, in print and available by subscription. In this issue you can learn about some initiatives that help.

I thank, NEA, ISTE, NASA and others for their leadership and wonder... will the other groups and conferences step up to the plate and invite more women and real classroom teachers? Panel discussions... feedback loops like the recent round tables at School Tech Expo?

THE GLASS CEILING IN TECHNOLOGY
A senator at the digital divide conference said that the reason women were not involved in technology was out of choice. Hello? Earth to air? Well if you can get to graduate school perhaps? Technology in the schools is reflecting more teachers mentoring technology use, but for a LONG time the experts, and lots of them are my friends were a bunch of men. Where are the women? Why are there not more women involved? Why did people think you could just drop the computers into the classroom without professional development. I feel the lack of teaching teachers the use of technology after the wires is one of the problems. How could he say that? Who staffs technology departments in school systems? How do we establish leadership.

There are some tools for schools. here on The Educational CyberPlayGround.

Most of the lecturers in technology are MEN. I do not hate men, and I am not saying they are not skilled but inclusiveness often is reflected in seeing yourself as a part of the group participating in making decisions. Many of us have been pushed forward by men in technology who have seen this divide.

INITIATIVES FOR TEACHERS OF COLOR? TEACHERS WORKING IN THE DIGITAL DIVIDE?

There are some initiatives going on , but there is still a glass ceiling. There is also not a LOT of funding and or financial support for these pioneers.

Three out of four( 3 of 4) teachers in the classroom, need to explore, examine, evaluate and be informed in the use of positive uses of technology. We have the technology to do online courses, give the teacher a laptop and bring them together once a year for face to face involvement.

If the people who are teaching cannot demonstrate transformational learning , does it matter what the experts say?

Is an expert in education a person always who has LEFT the classroom? Or one who has just done research?

What does that say? I believe that is the general idea. I believe that people who are in the classroom get little say. They do not have permission. Unfortunately in education, one is often deemed to be a failure if one
remains in the classroom. It is my feeling that there are ways to reward, to create mentoring and partnership possibilities for those who actually teach.

NOT A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD!

The job in the schools where standards are not met is very different. I know from teaching experience that no matter how much technology I knew it was important for the administrator to understand what was possible. Unfortunately, many of us taught in schools where what the principal understood was the test, and the basics, like the senator said. A senator told us yesterday in the same conference that first the basics need to be met. How does he know that you cannot do this with technology. I know that technology makes the teaching job much easier, once it is learned as a tool.

I have these questions. I am not concerned about the standards, I am concerned about the way in which we collect data. I am concerned, about the way in which teachers are test driven. So here are a few questions. If you teach in a school where the children are not testing well, what is the incentive for the teachers to stay in that school and serve those who need the best of teachers?

Testing starts in some school systems in January. There are the tests before the test, where kids learn to take the test, there are the various regular tests, there are the country standards tests, the state standards test, and
various school initiatives in addition to reading tests and other measurements of student skill. Did I mention the reading tests, the writing objectives test? Why is there not a test baseline at the beginning of the year to show progress? What I mean is, when I taught in an inner city school in Washington, DC. I knew from the reading tests that the children moved up three years in progress in a year, but according to the tests given once a year, little progress was shown. How do we reward the hard work of teachers who teach the children who make progress like this?

There are ways in which technology can transform. But in a classroom learning landscape, many experts would experience extreme difficulty just trying to manage the day. Time is also one of our problems.

GETTING THE MESSAGES OUT
There are many people at this time speaking about the digital divide who only have a surface knowledge of the learning landscape in which these teachers work. Let me explain. Yesterday, I was at a conference which was a digital divide conference. A senator said, that we who are in the senate know that first we have to let kids get the basics before they get technology. He said he was told that by teachers. He then went on to quote the fact that 66 percent of teachers said they were uncomfortable using technology. So my immediate question in my mind was what are considered the basics, and how did he know and to whom did he talk? If you know me, you know I asked him. My reason for asking was not because I was grandstanding, it was because one of my best years of teaching was working with kids who needed the basics, and I was able to teach, to share, to encourage learning using good teaching skills, but also using powerful technology. The work I did resulted in what everyone asks\ which was higher test scores, but it also resulted in children learning to love learning.

Bonnie Bracey
bbracey@aol.com
K-12 Member of the National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council

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