INTO Highlight a new Digital Divide
The December issue of the INTO’s magazine is an edTech special with a number of articles on various aspects of technology in education. I was struck by the cover page headline: The Great Digital Divide. Up until recently, the digital divide referred to the gap between the generation that grew up with technology and those who did not. In schools, there was a whole generation of teachers who had never turned a computer on! It’s amazing to think that in less than ten years, this has changed completely where it would be highly unusual to find a primary teacher in the country who didn’t used technology in some way in their teaching.
The digital divide that is being referred to by Sheila Nunan is access. She refers to access to decent broadband, access to funding and access to resources. The divide seems to be between what can be accessed in schools as opposed to what can be accessed in our homes. For example, in most urban areas, 120Mb broadband is easily accessible, whereas the maximum broadband speed offered by the DES to primary schools in around 7Mb (although in some cases this has risen to 32Mb, still well below what is needed) Most children have access to wifi at home and up to date hardware. Schools have received little funding for ICT and it is still not uncommon to find computers that are over ten years old and rare to find any of the latest hardware.
Despite this, as usual, teachers have taken things into their own hands and the magazine highlights a number of these. For example, there are great Fís, Twitter, #EdChatie and Internet Safety. Primary schools are doing some amazing work with ICT despite the limitations and there are hundreds of examples of amazing work that are happening in schools everyday. The first step that the government need to take is to match our colleagues in second-level schools with 100Mb broadband. It was good to see the INTO dedicating some of their issue to technology in education and I hope they will apply pressure on the government to plug this new digital divide.