Whose job is it to address the undergraduate tech skills divide?

I confess that I am guilty of thinking of the majority of my students as “digital natives.” While I try to be mindful of issue of access because I am teaching in a public school system, thinking of my students as from post-computer (and these days, really, post-internet) generations, often causes me to make assumptions about how skilled they should be with the basic tech we use in the academic environment, which to me includes email, Word, Power Point, and–if they are not first semester freshmen—Blackboard. But as both the pieces by Maura and Mariana Regalado and Lee Skallerup Bessette note, even when students are surrounded by tech they don’t always know how best to use it.

Leaving aside the first digital divide—the problem of access, a socio-economic issue that feels outside the scope of this class—what do we think our responsibilities are in relation to the second digital divide, skilled versus unskilled tech users in our classrooms? If your course is not geared toward learning a particular technology or software (and is not a hybrid or online course), is it up to you to provide computer help? If for example, you ask for a PowerPoint presentation do you need to provide a lesson on basic PowerPoint skills? What about a Blackboard, which they may not have encountered outside of school?

The Smale/Regalado presentation asserts that a student’s experience with technology in school affects their academic and professional lives so addressing inequities is “especially pressing for traditionally underserved students, who will potentially graduate with less experience than their more privileged peers (who both began college with more tech experience and had more tech access in college).” So, who do we think should be addressing them, and how?

4 thoughts on “Whose job is it to address the undergraduate tech skills divide?

  1. pthielman

    @Aleksandra Kaplon-Schilis
    Aleksandra, your point about teacher tech skills is well taken. The undergraduate school I teach at holds plenty of faculty tutorials on Blackboard, for example, and I’ve been to some. It is sometimes troubling to see how far behind some of the professors are with a technology that runs CUNY-wide (and in other systems as well). Not to mention that it is a small group that self-selects and decides that these skills are worth taking the time to develop.

    I would hate to think that teachers should be forced to “test in” to a school or school system, something that seems to me to be problematic for adjuncts in particular because that could put unreasonable onus on them to learn several different programs. But I also agree that preparing learners for the world outside the classroom is a serious aim of any educational environment and teachers do have some obligation to be conversant with the same basic tech tools that they want their students to use.

    Comment Tags: tech skills divide

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