I want to use collaborative technology with students but… they can’t connect at home (part 1 of 4)

In my last post, I pointed to places within the Common Core (CCSS) that beg for teachers to design activities that integrate collaborative technology, especially using the Internet, into lessons for students as early as 6th grade.

I am acutely aware of the impediments to the kind of connected classrooms I imagine, and I’d encourage you, dear reader, to begin making plans to integrate technology instead of excuses as to why you can’t.  This is the first of four blog posts addressing a few of the most common reasons teachers cite as to why connected classrooms are a good idea in theory, but not something they can implement:

Impediment #1:

Some of my students don’t have access to the Internet at home, not even on a smart phone.

I’ve addressed this already when writing about flipped instruction last year.  It is likely that at least one of your students will have limited connectivity.  But it is also a reality that much of what it means to navigate adulthood includes being connected.  The Common App for college admission must be completed online; college classes are online; bills are delivered and paid online; the resale value of your truck is most current online; the department of social services, DMV, and the unemployment office are online; taxes are completed online; your boss sends you e-mails and requires you attend webinars online; and on, and on, and on.  If a student’s family has not prioritized connecting via the Internet in the home or via a smart phone, and that students still intends to participate in society in any meaningful way, he or she will prioritize getting connected.

This is not to say that educators and school leaders who take me up on my challenge to push for collaborative technology integration should not be able to assist in this attempt; on the contrary, telling an unconnected student to just figure it out isn’t the kind of facilitative teaching I stand on.  Teachers and leaders need to familiarize themselves with mechanisms in place by which individuals in their communities can get online for free; if these mechanisms do not exist, it is up to the school-community leaders to advocate for them.

  • Check, don’t assume. Sometimes we think we know about our students lives, but are really only making assumptions.  Survey students and their families to find out what technology and internet availability your students have accessible to them.
  • Find out how late and where in your building students may work online.  Then find out how these students will get home and present that information together.
  • Find out what it takes to get online at your town library.  Better yet, take your students there on a field trip to get library cards and learn about their resources.  At the very least, bring the resources needed to get a library card back to your class.
  • Encourage students to share with you and each other wifi hot spots in the community.  Does your school’s wifi bleed into the parking lot, sports fields,  or playground?  Is there a cafe in town offering wifi access? Does someone in your neighborhood have an unsecured network you can use in a pinch?  Discuss these guerrilla methods of connecting openly, including which probably safe environments in which to work and which will require an adult or older sibling to come with.
  • If a large number of your students aren’t connected, build the critical connected activities into your class time: using the internet to research and produce writing is an important enough skill it gets its very own standard in W6.

Most importantly, stop feeling paralyzed about taking your students online because of a perception that you will leave someone behind; if you are purposeful about scaffolding the experience and building many opportunities to complete the work in the manner you’re requesting it be completed – online – your students will learn to adapt.  I posit that there is much value in learning how to find a way to get connected to accomplish a task.

What other impediments keep you from integrating technology into your lessons?

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