Final Creative Project

Final Project

This project is a virtual representation of the technology-equipped classroom and the inequalities that lie hidden in it. My research on the digital divide does not necessarily lend itself to a visual format – most of it is numbers, statistics, and demographics. The information, however, is incredibly important. Modern technology is often portrayed as “the great equalizer,” widely accessible and immune to human biases. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. While there are many positive ways in which digital media and technology can be used, it is vital to acknowledge the ways in which it is still lacking and the areas in which it must still advance, which is what I wanted to address in my final project. As we think about the future of technology, we must consider its effects on all people, and be conscious of the ways it can be used to either reinforce or combat white supremacy.

This classroom was made using Google SketchUp, a program that allows you to design and create 3-D models, as well as access models other users have shared. Using this program, I created the classroom, then added desks, chairs, computers, and a SmartBoard. This classroom would be a fairly technologically advanced one, equipped with personal laptops for students to use, and it should be noted that many classrooms do not have access to even this much tech. I created the model so as you “walk” around the classroom, or move through the 3-D replica, you begin to see the facts about inequality, which you couldn’t see from the outside. I wanted this to be representative of the way that we don’t always see the biases and negative sides of technology, and how you often have to look deeper to understand the real implications. The project isn’t meant to be negative or dishearting – I truly believe in the power of media and technology to be a positive force in education, and to make a real difference in the way that knowledge can be accessed by marginalized groups. However, before we get to this point, we must first be aware of the shortcomings, and I hope that my project can bring awareness to some of these issues.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1rMYD96pBOvtpqdF2F3K7IOsLi54NJx5a

 

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Final Self-Assesment

Self-Assesments

Creating a website for myself has been an interesting experience. I didn’t necessarily use it as much as I originally thought I would, but I definitely understand the basics of using WordPress more than I did before. I do believe that if I was a position where I wanted to keep a website that I regularly updated and used more in depth, I would be better equipped to do so because of having worked on this one. As someone potentially going into a career in media studies, a website like this could certainly be useful for things like presenting a portfolio and having an online presence, especially as someone who doesn’t have a presence on social media. Over the course of the semester as I added posts, I began to categorize them, and eventually put the different categories on the main menu so they could be accessed more easily instead of having to scroll all the way back through the home page. In the end, it ended up being a more simple website than I had originally envisioned, but it is functional, which is really more important, at least for the purpose of this class. I also realized that the date the website displays for the post is not always correct, which is confusing and somewhat concerning as the assignment is for the posts to be up by a certain date. This is an issue I am still looking into.

 

Rough Draft

Final Project

Technology has become an essential part of the curricula of every school across the United States. In many schools, almost every aspect of education has been digitized – grade books are online systems, lessons are created on the computer and delivered via powerpoint, homework and supplemental exercises are completed on websites, Other classrooms are filled floor to ceiling with tech–interactive whiteboards, tablets, and laptops, used in day to day activities. However, as digital media and technology proliferate, it is vital to consider the question of access. Access can mean physical availabilities of media, which is determined by things like use of technology in the home and quality of schools, but it also must take into account a student’s ability to use the technology, which can be shaped by amount of media literacy and previous exposure to technology. Both aspects of access are determined in part by race and socio-economic status.

Failing to consider questions of access causes education systems can become oppressive and a reflection of white supremacy. Paulo Freire explores these concepts in his work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire contrasts this “banking” method with a “problem-posing” method of education. In the latter, the dichotomy of the teacher-student roles are up-ended, essentially, both parties assume both roles, the teacher and student teaching and learning with one another. Freire sums this method up saying “Whereas banking education anesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the latter strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality” (81). By presenting information fully in context, and addressing problems and creating solutions, education is suddenly relevant; meaningful and fulfilling to the student. This model is incredibly important in present society, where schools are too often another means of oppression that uplifts privileged students and leaves behind those who are disadvantaged. Instead, problem-posing education fully involves every student. While memorization of simple facts may only feel relevant to a select few students, critical analysis of one’s world and one’s own existence is universal. This method is also the only hope for liberation. An oppressed person will struggle to move towards liberation until they have a true understanding of their character, specifically the duality that comes with being oppressed. Traditional styles of education give students neither the means nor the motivation to reflect inward and discover the internalization of oppression. They also almost never consider the structures of oppression that govern our world, nor question institutions such as capitalism or the flaws in our democracy. They maintain these standards, instead placing the blame for oppression on the oppressed. The method Freire suggests, however, has no need to uphold these hierarchies without question, because unlike some current methods, it is not itself just an extension of oppression. Instead, “In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation” (83). Students and teachers alike have freedom, freedom to question and transform their realities. Freire’s concepts can be related directly to media access through….

 

Rough Draft

Final Project

For my creative project, I am going to create a virtual 3-Dimensional representation of a classroom and the technology most commonly used in the classroom. Each piece of technology represented in the classroom will correspond to information and data I have collected through my research on the inequalities related to the usage of these technologies and digital media in education.Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 4.09.35 PM.png

Prototype of model of classroom

 

Because my project is very research heavy, I think having an interactive component like this will make it more interesting and accessible. It brings the facts to life in a way they do not within just a research paper. I have been working on gathering research for classroom technologies including but not limited to SmartBoards, desktop computers, laptop computers, cell phones, as well as specific programs such as Kahn Academy, Quizlet, Brainpop, etc. These will be represented in my creative project with virtual models.

Annotated Bibliography

Final Project

Annotated Bibliography

 

Gorski, Paul C. (2009). “Insisting on Digital Equity Reframing the Dominant Discourse on Multicultural Education and Technology” Urban Education. Vol. 44 No. 3.

Gorski discusses the ways that multicultural education is often brushed over when it comes to issues of digital of equity, and taken at a superficial level instead of truly addressing the ways different students have very different access and relationships with technology. He claims that all media education must be undergirded by critical thinking about inequality, refuting the idea that the Internet is an inherently equalizing and all-accessible resource. He analyzes statistics on discrepancies in the availability of technology in schools primarily serving white students and schools primarily serving students of color, as well as access for students with disabilities, females vs. males, and students of different socioeconomic status. These kinds of figures will help my understanding of my topic and how to think critically about the way I represent digital inequality.

Herold, Benjamin. (2107). “Poor Students Face Digital Divide in How Teachers Learn to Use Tech.” Technology Counts 2017. Vol. 36, Issue 35, pp. 5-6, 8-11.

This article focuses specifically on the inequality in technology training for under-resourced schools and their more privileged counterparts. Training includes both media literacy for students and professional development for teachers on how to effectively use digital media and technology in their classrooms. This article is important to my research because it is critical to consider not just physical access to things like computers and broadband, but the ability to use those resources. A student may theoretically have access to the Internet, even at the school or at a public library, but if they do not have the training or media literacy to effectively use it, they are still at a disadvantage. The same is true of teachers–without the professional media training, they cannot effectively incorporate media into their curriculum in a meaningful way.

Kiss, Marissa, Lynn, Randy & Witte James. “The Internet and social inequalities in the U.S.”   The Digital Divide, edited by Massimo Ragnedda and Glenn W. Muschert. Routledge,  2013, pp. 67-84.

Kiss, Lynn, and Witte examine the digital divide from the point of view of cultural sociology. This means looking not just at the data or numbers, but considering how patterns of human behavior and different culture affect Internet and technology usage. They analyze the differences in lifestyles, communities, and Internet usage patterns of culturally different groups of people. Both social class and race can have a profound impact on what technology a person accesses and how they use it. Understanding these cultural perspectives can help us understand the way that different children are likely to interact with different media and technology in their school and classroom.

Monroe, Barbara. Crossing the Digital Divide: Race, Writing, and Technology in the Classroom. New York, Teachers College Press, 2004.

Monroe’s work focuses primarily on what she calls “contrastive rhetoric and alternative discourses,” around media literacy, essentially, looking at issues we see every day from different perspectives and analyzing the points of view that are often overlooked, specifically, the ways students of color interact with technology and the Internet in schools. She examines the way that minority students, including those of low socioeconomic status and those for whom English is not the first language, are often left behind when it comes to access to technology outside of school. Her analysis is hopeful that media does have the potential to be a positive resource for all students, regardless of their differences, but contends that we must acknowledge the present inequities before this potential can be realized.

Wessels, Bridgette. “The reproduction and reconfiguration of inequality: Differentiation and class, status, and power in the dynamics of digital divides.” The Digital Divide, edited by Massimo Ragnedda and Glenn W. Muschert. Routledge, 2013, pp. 17-28.

This article is important for contextualizing the digital divide within our society. It places the conversation about inequalities in digital media and technology within the framework of capitalism, examining these inequalities both within the United States and in a global context. This kind of background knowledge will help me write my essay from a more well-rounded, critical viewpoint. It also analyzes the way that the digital divide has evolved with the rapid changes in technology, and with the increased globalism of the world. The interactions of the economy and technology have critical impacts on the way media had disseminated, and the way it has entered classrooms. It is very important that class and capitalism are considered when we think about the ways that institutions and students interact with digital media and technology.

Without a Net: The Digital Divide in America. Directed by Rory Kennedy, Moxie Firecracker Films, 2017.

This is a film that explores the digital divide specifically within public schools. Public schools see some of the greatest inequality in technology, as they are more often under-resourced and serving underprivileged students. It brings together the issues of access, media literacy, and teacher training to present a holistic view of the way that technology-related inequalities play out within schools. I believe this source will be helpful as it provides a visual representation of the issues I will be discussing in my paper. It also includes personal narratives and stories from students and teachers directly affected by this digital divide.

 

Personal Essay

Final Project

Fredericksburg City, where I was born and raised, has one elementary school, one upper elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. Every child who lives in the city, save the few whose parents have the money and opt to send them to private school, goes to the same school, regardless of their academic performance or which neighborhood they live in. My senior year, most of my class had known each other since kindergarten. My connections to the school go back long before I was even born – in the 60s and 70s, my grandmother was a biology teacher at the high school, and my father was part of the first integrated kindergarten class and walked across the same stage I did at graduation. My mother now works at the high school, where my brother, all my cousins, and a variety of aunts and uncles went. Being so deeply connected to the school deeply affected the way I viewed it, and my feelings about education in general. Unsurprisingly, education was the top priority in my family. My brother and I were taught not just prioritize learning, but to be passionate about it. As a child I was, for the most part, enthusiastic about the education I was getting. Beginning as I moved through high school, however, and reinforced as I moved into higher education at Emory, I began to understand the shortcomings of my school system and so many like it. The lack and improper distribution of resources, the tracking that led to semi-segregated classes, the “temporary” trailers that went up to accommodate for lack of space and never came down, and the revelation that our superintendent made over $200,000 a year while teachers worked two jobs and struggled to buy supplies for their classrooms out of pocket are issues I witnessed in my own school system that are all too common in schools of all sizes.

One of the issues that truly came into perspective for me when I came to Emory was that of digital media and technology use in schools. I grew up in the in-between generation of the internet and mobile tech devices: their proliferation came about essentially during my lifetime. As digital media technology grew up with us, it slowly became integrated into more and more aspects of our lives, including our schools. My relationship with digital media a little different than the average kid: my family, to this day, doesn’t have a television in the house. When I was very young, that meant my brother and I had essentially no access to digital media; it was read a book or go outside. As computer and then phones became more accessible, however, this began to change. We had the advantage of the fact that my father has worked in information technology his whole life, first doing IT for the Navy, then for a tech company, and during my life, at the city’s public library. Because of this, he was ahead of the curve on understanding and access to the internet and modern digital devices, and through his job, he often got to bring home computers or other devices that we could use. In my elementary years, the attic of our home doubled as a “computer room” which housed nothing but a desk, an office chair, and a very bulky desktop computer, on which I couldn’t access the internet, but played games on DVDs.

The technology we had in schools was similarly limited, most classrooms equipped with nothing more than a desktop computer and an overhead projector. Our elementary school had one computer lab, a glorified trailer built just outside the school that was always stiflingly hot. As we moved up through the years, the technology in both my home and school became increasingly advanced, and increasingly involved in the curriculum. By eighth grade, my family had a laptop, I had acquired, to my great delight, a flip phone, and my school had multiple computer labs and even a digital art class. Fast forward to my sophomore year and I and almost everyone I knew had iPhones and most classrooms were equipped with SmartBoards and the school even had a few portable carts of laptops teachers could reserve to use in their classrooms. This meant that technology became an increasingly integral part of schoolwork. Every student at the school was required to take personal finance, an online class at some point during their four years. Common assignments included typed papers, PowerPoint presentations, and even videos. Almost all lesson plans were presented in a digital format, through a combination of PowerPoints, videos, and online resources. English and history teachers taught us how to do research using Google Scholar and online encyclopedias, while math and science teachers gave assigned us practice problems online. All these make the assumption that students have regular access to the internet and computers.

Unfortunately, this is not true not only for my high school but also for many like it. While the national percentage of families who have a computer at home is estimated to be around 90 percent, these statistics can be misleading. Only about 55 percent of families that make less than $30,000 a year are estimated to have computers in the home (Pew Research Center). For a school like mine, where more than 50 percent of students are on free and reduced lunch, these numbers are significant. This means that while wealthier students can simply go home and complete assignments, their poorer classmates have to stay long hours after school or at a public library to finish their work, or are unable to do the work at all. When the fact that kids of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to have to work jobs after school or take care of younger siblings, this becomes a serious issue of grades and success in school.

There is no simple solution to these problems, as the use of digital media and technology is an important, often beneficial, and completely unavoidable part of schools. However, acknowledging and working to remedy this problem is an incredibly important step to leveling the playing field for students of different socioeconomic classes and bringing equality to our education system. After I graduate from Emory, I hope to work in education, either as a teacher, a policy maker, or both. I want to use my experience, both from my personal K-12 schooling, and what I learn about both digital media and education to help contribute to finding this solution, whether it be just in my own classrooms, or on a much wider scale.