Introduction What is Digital Access? The definition of digital access, as suggested by Ribble, Bailey & Ross (2007), is “Full electronic participation in society”. Technology in today’s society provides greater opportunity to interact and communicate very quickly. But, just because the technology is available, does not mean that everyone has the ability to access it. Some reasons for this could include socioeconomic status such as families who do not have the financial ability to purchase the technology, a range of physical or educational disabilities and in the case of rural schools, the physical location, lack of technology available in the school and the lack of available access to high-speed internet connections. At Frell Public School, we believe that students should have equitable digital access to assist them in their learning. But what do we need and how do we go about it?
What are the Technology Issues we need to consider regarding Digital Access in Rural Schools and are they in place at our rural school? Wireless Communication and High Speed Access (National Broadband Network) The National Broadband Network is expected to deliver high speed broadband connections to individual schools. The Hon Peter Garrett AM, MP in a media release on 29 Oct 2010 stated that the NBN will benefit country principals and teachers as it will “ensure they have equitable access to quality online professional learning resources”. One-to-one computing program (Laptops for Learning program) The laptops for learning program provides laptops for students in year 9 and teachers without charge. It provides professional learning, curriculum support, technical support and wireless networks. (NSW DET, 2009). The goals of this program include: Improving student learning and academic achievement Facilitating a learning environment that demands higher-order thinking skills Fosters collaborative inquiry-based learning Provides more equitable access to a broader range of digital educational resources Prepares students to be able to compete in technology-rich workplaces (NSW DET, 2009a) These programs provide the students and teachers mobility and accessibility at school and home letting the students take control of their own learning. While this program is not available to students in primary schools, the same principle could be applied during in-class learning. The availability of technology in the classroom at any time would benefit the students to be able to advance in the 21 st century. Researchers have suggested though that one-to-one computing programs are “only as effective as the teachers who apply them” (Stansbury, 2010).
What is Equitable Digital Access? Knowing that digital access is the ability to have full electronic participation in society, then equitable digital access is the ability for all regardless of differences of any kind to have that same participation in society.
Who has the right to Equitable Digital Access? Do all students have the right to Equitable Digital Access? The Educational Cyber Playground (2011) promotes that Digital equity is achieved when all students regardless of race, sex, economic difference, physical and mental disabilities have quick, easy, and appropriately functional access to technological equipment and the Internet both in and out of school, as well as the expert guidance required to ensure effective use across a range of functions. Universal access to ICT and the Internet is seen as a necessary to avoid social divisions and to open up opportunities for all by ensuring that future ‘knowledge economies’ includes everyone (HM Treasury, 2000).
What tools are required to gain Equitable Digital Access for all students? Among the basic tools such as computers, internet access and software, there are some students within rural schools that have certain special needs that require special tools so as to give them equitable digital access. These tools such as laptops, ebooks, websites and webquests, gifted and talented programs, touch screens, specially constructed furniture and the ability to enlarge texts as well of the use of a computer microphone that is used in conjunction with a program such as “DragonSpeak” to write (convert sound to text) without the use of a keyboard can be a critical piece of a student’s development so they can improve and succeed in the future. Here at Frell Public School, we have five students who fit into this category. One student needs enlarged texts, one student needs specially constructed furniture so as their wheelchair can fit at the computer table as well as a convert sound to text software. There are also three students that are suitable for a gifted and talented program.
Effectiveness of Digital Access in Rural Schools Online learning and the use of a wide range of emerging technologies can greatly enhance a student’s learning experiences in rural schools. The Western NSW Region Virtual Selective High School Provision, ( xsel ), connects students from across the region into a selective strand covering English, Mathematics and Science using sophisticated technology and personal contact to deliver the curriculum. Bill Adams (NSW Dept of Education and Training, n.d.), xsel manager and principal has said “live in the bush and get the best that we can possibly offer and get a challenging curriculum”. Minister for Education and Training, Verity Firth (NSW Dept of Services, Technology and Administration, 2010) said: “[The xsel program is] a great example of technology changing education for the better and creating new opportunities for students in regional and rural areas.”
Technical Issues: Technology has always had its difficulties, especially when trialing new concepts. According to the ABC News (25 November 2010), “concerns about the reliability of the National Broadband Network have been raised by the first school to be connected”. This school, situated in Tasmania, reported that they are struggling with connection speeds because they are only a third of what was proposed. The proposed speed of 100mb per second was only available on the day of the launch. Congestion on the lines has been noted as the contributing factor, but with no real success of fixing the problem. Efforts are still being extended to resolve any current and future difficulties. This is also a problem for xsel. Videoconferencing relies on fast broadband and some schools have had problems with video dragging and slowing of the conferences. Skills of the Teachers: The Digital Education Revolution has prompted teacher re-training in NSW state schools to help them integrate with the incorporation of IT and digital media in their educational field. The director of the NSW Department of Education and Training’s Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre has stated that “at the beginning, many teachers were unsure what to do with the equipment..now the teachers are not a passive consumer but a co-creator…the teaching style has changed and the teachers are now making the students active contributors” (Banks, 2011) .
Does the effectiveness of digital access regarding the technical issues and the skills of the teacher help or hinder the students in becoming good digital citizens? (Audience thoughts on this?) By having digital access, students are connecting, creating and collaborating. This brings opportunities and challenges to this generation as cyberbullying and damaging digital footprints are becoming commonplace in this technical world. Students need guidance from teachers and parents so as to make safe, responsible and respectful choices. Teri Caouette (2010) has stated, “Teaching digital citizenship (and having digital access) is critical to youth development, improved student achievement and ensuring continued access to the advantages that their digital environment provides”. The technology must be in place and in good working order so as the students can have a safe harbour and the ability to learn to be good digital citizens.
The NSW Department of Education has implemented a program that will allow schools to take virtual excursions anywhere in the world, beam experts into classrooms for real-time lectures, communicate with peers in other parts of the state, and significantly expand subject choice by providing classes online through videoconferencing . It is called the Connected Classrooms Program and will provide the department's staff and students with new opportunities to connect with each other across enhanced technology facilities for sharing resources and data collaboration. It is expected to be completed mid 2011 and consists of three projects: Learning Tools Project to provide tools that support the ability to create, store, edit, reuse, manage, view and deliver digital learning content to staff and students across NSW. It will provide a secure individual online working space for all students and teachers, a collaborative environment for the discovery and sharing of digital learning content, upgrade emails and give online access to student reports. Interactive Classrooms Project equipping every NSW public school with an interactive classroom, enabling direct video links to allow online field trips, allowing experts into classrooms, supporting increased use of ICT within quality teaching, enhancing opportunities for collaboration and providing necessary infrastructure. Network Enhancement Project The two key objectives is to enhance bandwidth capacity and reliability and enable interactive environments. This information can be found at https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/about-us/how-we-operate/connected-classroom
Conclusion: Where do we go from here? With technology being an important aspect of society and to the future of all students, is it therefore critical that all students are given equal and appropriate opportunities for equitable digital access to online learning in our rural school? All of the aforementioned government initiatives are available to all schools and a range that are specific for the rural school. Some may be still in their infancy or are only in the trial stage, but with an enthusiastic school community and the desire to have a school digital citizen policy that includes an equitable digital access section that will benefit all students, and assist them in their learning we will be able to lead students successfully into an ever growing 21st century technological society.
Garthwait, A. & Weller, H. (2005). A Year in the Life: Two Seventh Grade Teachers Implement One-to-One Computing. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37(4). Accessed 19 Apr 2011 from http:// eric .ed. gov / ERICWebPortal / recordDetail ? accnu =EJ690978 Hill, R., Owens, I., Beynon-Davies, P. & Williams, M. (2004). Beyond Access: Bridging the Digital Divide. [pdf]. Accessed 21 Apr 2011 from csrc . Ise . ac . uk /asp/ aspecis /20040064.pdf Looker, D. & Thiessen, V. (2003). The digital divide in Canadian schools: factors affecting student access to a use of information technology. [pdf]. Accessed 21 Apr 211 from citeseerx.ist.pu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1122301&rep=repl&type=pdf
Is Any Access Good Access? Equitable digital access in rural schools
Is Any Access Good Access? Equitable Digital Access in Rural Schools by Petra James
Photo property of Paul What is ... Digital Access?
<ul><li>Wireless Connection </li></ul><ul><li>One - to - One Computing Program </li></ul>
Questions on Issue & Suggested Readings <ul><li>Does everyone in our school have equal opportunities to access technology? </li></ul><ul><li>Do our students, especially those with special needs, have the opportunity to be digital citizens? </li></ul><ul><li>Will the programs and initiatives available to our rural school and the adoption of a digital access policy assist teachers and students in their learning? </li></ul><ul><li>Suggested Readings </li></ul><ul><li>A Year in the Life: Two Seventh Grade Teachers Implement One-to-One Computing </li></ul><ul><li>by Abigail Garthwait & Herman G. Weller - </li></ul><ul><li>University of Maine </li></ul><ul><li>Beyond Access: Bridging the Digital Divide </li></ul><ul><li>by Rebecca Hill, Ian Owens, Paul Beynon-Davies & Michael Williams </li></ul><ul><li>The digital divide in Canadian schools: factors affecting student access to a use of information technology </li></ul><ul><li>by Dianne Looker & Victor Thiessen </li></ul>
References Slide 1 Photo: Property of Sujin Jetkasettakorn, accessed 18 Mar 2011 from http:// www . freedigitalphotos .net/Images/Education_g314-Green_Grass_Blue_Sky_And_The_School_Bus__p32574. htm Slide 2 Ribble, M., Bailey, G. & Ross, T. (2007). The Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship in Digital Citizenship in Schools, pp13 - 37, International Society for Technology in Education, University of Kansas, USA Photo: Property of suphakit73, accessed 18 Mar 2011 from http:// www . freedigitalphotos .net/Images/People_g349-Girl_Playing_With_Her_Laptop_p31069. html Slide 3 NSW Department of Education and Training (2009). Digital Education Revolution - NSW Policy. Accessed 20 Mar 2011 from https :// www . det .nsw. edu .au/policies/technology/computers/141/PD20090395. shtml NSW Department of Educaiton and Training (2009a). One-to-one computing - literature review. Accessed 19 Apr 2011 from https :// www . det .nsw. edu .au/media/.../about...program/.../lit_review.pdf Garrett, P. (2010). $16 million for a digital revolution in the classroom. Media Release. Accessed 20 Mar 2010 from http:// www . deewr . gov .au/Ministers/ Garrett /Media/Releases/Pages/Article_101101_110738. aspx Stansbury, M. (2010). One-to-one computing programs only as effective as their teachers. eSchool News, 16 Feb 2010. Accessed 19 Apr 2011 from www . eschoolnews .com/2010/02/16/11-programs-only-as-good-as-their-teaches/ Photo: Property ofNuchylee, accessed 17 Mar 2011 from http:// www . freedigitalphotos .net/images/ Telecommuncations _g177-Satellite_Dish_With_Blue_Sky_p26269. html Photo: Property of ABC News, accessed 17 Mar 2011 from http:// www . abc .net.au/news/stories/2010/11/25/3076326. htm Slide 4 Photo: Property of Xedos4, accessed 18 Mar 2011 from http:// www . freedigitalphotos .net/images/Internet_g170-Earth_p22862. html Slide 5 Educational CyberPlayground (2011). Digital Equity and Gender Equity. Accessed 19 Apr 2011 from http:// www . edu - cyberpg .com/Teachers/ Digitaldividequity . html HM Treasury (2000) Britain and the Knowledge Economy Speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Smith Institute in London. 16 February 2000. Accessed 19 Apr 2011 from www . hmtreasury . gov . uk /newsroom_and_speeches/press/2000/press_19_00. cfm Photo: Property of Nuttakit, accessed 18 Mar 2011 from http:// www . freedigitalphotos .net/images/Computers_g62-Blue_Access_Button_p28423. html
References cont. <ul><li>Slide 6 </li></ul><ul><li>Photo: Property of Scott Chan, accessed 18 Mar 2010 from http:// www . freedigitalphotos .net/images/Workshop_and_DIY_g191-Tool_Basket_p27762. html </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 7 </li></ul><ul><li>NSW Department of Education and Training (n.d.). CCP Technologies increase learning opportunities for gifted and talented students [video]. Access 21 Mar 2011 from https :// www . det .nsw. edu .au/about-us/how-we-operate/connected-classroom </li></ul><ul><li>NSW Department of Services, Technology and Administration (2010). Virtual school breaks new ground. Accessed 20 Apr 2011 from http:// www . braoadband .nsw. gov .au/news-events/featured/virtual-school-breaks-new-ground </li></ul><ul><li>Photo: Property of Michael Franchi, accessed 18 Mar 2011 from http:// www . ntnews .com.au/article/2010/12/10/200061_ ntnews . html </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 8 </li></ul><ul><li>ABC News, 2010, First school superfast broadband ‘not reliable’, accessed 18 Mar 2011 from http:// www . abc .net.au/news/stories/2010/11/25/3076326. htm </li></ul><ul><li>Banks, L. (2011). Digital Education Revolution prompts teacher re-training. Computerworld - the voice of IT management. Accessed 20 Apr 2011 from http:// www . computerworld .com.au/article/381838/digital_education_revolution_prompts_teacher_re-training/ </li></ul><ul><li>Photo: Property of jscreationzs, accessed 18 Mar 2011 from http:// freedigitalphotos .net/images/Education_g314-Global_Education_p22935. html </li></ul><ul><li>Photo: Property of Paul, accessed 18 Mar 2011 from http:// freedigitalphotos .net/images/Internet_g170-Under_Construction_p21140. html </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 9 </li></ul><ul><li>Caouette, T. (2010). Digital Citizenship in Maine Schools. Maine Learning Technology Initiative. [Blog]. 7 Dec 2010. Accessed 21 Apr 2011 from http://maine121.org/author/ teri </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 10 </li></ul><ul><li>Department of Education and Training (n.d.). Connected Classrooms Program. Accessed 20Mar 2011 from https :// www . det .nsw. edu .au/about-us/how-we-operate/connected-classroom </li></ul><ul><li>Photo: Property of Nine News. Accessed 21 Apr 2011 from http://news. ninemsn .com.au/national/796157/ lenovo -wins-contracts-for-school-laptops </li></ul><ul><li>Slide 11 </li></ul><ul><li>Photo: Property of Renjith Krishnan, accessed 18 Mar 2011 from http:// www . freedigitalphotos .net/images/Social_Networking_g354-Social_Network_p25773. html </li></ul><ul><li>Side 12 </li></ul><ul><li>Garthwait, A. & Weller, H. (2005). A Year in the Life: Two Seventh Grade Teachers Implement One-to-One Computing. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37(4). Accessed 19 Apr 2011 from http:// eric .ed. gov / ERICWebPortal / recordDetail ? accnu =EJ690978 </li></ul><ul><li>Hill, R., Owens, I., Beynon-Davies, P. & Williams, M. (2004). Beyond Access: Bridging the Digital Divide. [pdf]. Accessed 21 Apr 2011 from csrc . Ise . ac . uk /asp/ aspecis /20040064.pdf </li></ul><ul><li>Looker, D. & Thiessen, V. (2003). The digital divide in Canadian Schools: factors affecting student access to a use of information technology. [pdf]. Accessed 21 Mar 2011 from http:// citeseerx . ist . psu . edu / viewdoc /download? doi =10.1.1.1122301&rep= repl &type=pdf </li></ul>