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A Question About Equal Access

I am currently serving on a committee where I am the only public school K-12 educator. The other members are college educators. The educators on this committee are spread throughout the U.S. During a recent teleconference, we were discussing mobile devices and one of the participants made the statement that within six months every student in school will have a mobile device. I was taken aback by that statement because I had hoped to use Poll Everywhere in my math class but not enough students have access to the Internet through a mobile device. I also mentioned to the committee participant that my school does not have wireless access. He seemed genuinely surprised. Additionally, I did not think that within six months all of my students will have a mobile device. I asked the question, "How can we deal with equal access?" My question was not addressed.

I spoke to Joanna Goode, CSTA Teacher Education Representative, about his statement and her response was that if it is question of owning a mobile device or putting food on the table, the family will choose not to purchase the mobile device. I also read an article in our local paper (the Orange County Register) which reiterates Joanna's comment.


The family that is highlighted in the article had given up nearly all of their technology because they just could not afford it.

I really thought my colleague's comment was isolation until I read the Winter 2011 issue of OnCUE, a publication for members of Computer Using Educators (CUE). In his article Mobile Devices and the Future of Learning David D. Thornburg states: "Educators are starting to realize that every child is coming to school with a powerful mobile device. If this is not true in your school, it will be in six months." Thornburg does not address Equal Access. I assume he did not feel he needed to since every student will have a mobile device.

In another article in the same publication, Tm Landeck makes the statement: "Of course this requires that all students have a cell phone, but then what happens when a student's cell phone is dead, forgotten at home, or they just don't have one?" That is a question I really needed an answer to, but his article never gave an answer.

Equal access is something I deal with in my computer class. I have students that don't have computers at home or have a computer at home and no Internet access. Is my school that unique? I supervise the computer lab at lunch and after school to accommodate these students. We don’t have a loaner problem and when I mention it to my administration I receive a negative response.

How do you deal with equal access?

What is your reaction to the statement, "All students will have a powerful mobile device within six months"?

Myra Deister
CSTA At-Large Representative



That statement makes me crazy. I teach at an affluent independent school in the suburbs of Philly, and I have kids without computers or Internet access at home. I do not assign computing homework. I assign reading, but not programming, etc.

I was at another conference this weekend and I mentioned the access issue there--this was about iPads--and it was met with the same kind of blank stare.

I would love for all my students to have their own computers or devices, but even our fairly well-resourced school can't afford to purchase devices for everyone to have and keep. I see the gap widening, and it troubles me. I think it's important to keep raising it as an issue even if not everyone believes you.

My school has an International Baccalaureate magnet program in an otherwise low socioeconomic school, so I see students at all levels of ability and family income. We do indeed have students who lack even basics like a bed to sleep in and I don�t see that problem ever completely going away. However, devices like smart phones are seen as status symbols and are more likely to be at the top of a student�s list rather than the bottom.

There are now 4.6 billion cell phones in the world and the smart-phones are clearly poised to eventually replace them, so, in a sense, help is on the way for students without what we traditionally call computers.

At our school we recently started up what we call the AndSAM project and are developing classroom apps to be used on Android phones. We were able to get funding for a classroom set of Android phones but beforehand we put out the word and were able to get a number of donated phones. Our hope is that as two-year contracts run out, we will receive more donated phones. By making the Android phone a classroom tool, along with donated phones and the smart-phone as a status symbol, I think we are going to overcome many of the computer availability issues.

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