Balancing technological change with the socioeconomic status of the community: The importance of resilience in school culture.

Community, culture, and environment.

Despite a healthy decile rating from the Ministry of Education, there are considerable gaps between “the haves” and “the have nots” that my school endeavours to bridge in a variety of ways on a daily basis. We have a discrete foodbank for hungry students; a multitude of clubs and support groups, which are often student-led; we have an outstanding pastoral guidance suite that provides holistic support for all students who need help.

The school’s vision on being a community of lifelong learners who are empowered, engaged and successful drives our culture. Staff and students alike promote respect, resilience, reflection and responsibility through their interactions. There is a strong school-wide focus on inclusion and celebrating diversity. Gluing this environment together is the popular school-wide theme of mana wāhine that encourages students to become young women of courage and service to others.

What happens when we do not get it right?

The introduction of BYOD (“bring your own device”) classes undermined our aforementioned utopia. Concealed beneath they hype that occasionally clouds new educational initiatives, BYOD revealed – with startling lucidity – the socioeconomic divide between rich and poor. Some rightly labelled it as discriminatory. APA (2016) state that students from higher socioeconomic status enjoy higher educational achievement. It is no surprise that the educational achievement of the BYOD classes are better than their “pen and paper” equivalent.

Did the school set out to discriminate by implementing BYOD? Of course not. Rather, this issue of inequity was an unfortunate by-product of an initiative intended to enhance learning culture.

So, what went wrong?

Arguably, more thorough planning and foresight would have enabled the school to avert the issue in the first instance. Evidence of the digital divide in society is well documented (Zickuhr & Smith, 2012). Moreover, a school up the road faced a community revolt after telling parents that they had to fund the cost of a device for their child to support their learning at school. Perhaps, instead of a thorough preparation process with careful consideration for how the initiative might affect our culture and environment, other issues, like trying to sort out decent Wi-Fi, and new pedagogical strategies that accompany BYOD distracted us from what seems like an obvious issue in hindsight.

Resilience matters.

Yet, the school culture is resilient. When measured against the norms of improving schools outlined by Stoll and Fink (cited in Stoll, 1998), I can honestly say we do pretty well against the 10 indicators. Albeit, some indicators are more evident and stronger than others listed. Staff are encouraged to take risks and learn from making mistakes. Though we did not get the implementation of BYOD right initially for our community, the school has funded devices to loan students who cannot afford to buy one to reduce inequity. This demonstrates commitment to inclusive education and commitment to improvement to support all learners in our community.

In summary, having a responsive school culture is important to help resolve inequity caused by socioeconomic status. What I hope this reflection iterates is a simple, but important caveat for others: When launching new initiatives, carefully consider the impact change might have on your community and culture. Do not get caught up in the ‘hype’.

References

APA. (2016). Education and Socioeconomic Status. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/education.aspx

Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Understanding-school-cultures/School-culture

Zickuhr, K., & Smith, A. (2012). Digital differences. Retrieved from http://www.english.illinois.edu/-people-/faculty/debaron/482/482readings/PEW_Class.pdf

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5 thoughts on “Balancing technological change with the socioeconomic status of the community: The importance of resilience in school culture.”

  1. A complex issue here. Ultimately all the planning in the world will still leave you open to issues such as this. Having said that a lack of planning can be far more hazardous. Can you tell me what could have been done differently with the benefit of hindsight?

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    1. Hi Chris, thanks for the reply!
      Well, in regards to the bigger picture, starting with a policy might have provided some much needed foundational guidance around a vision for BYOD, which would have been nice. On a personal level, reaching out to other school communities (local or otherwise) who had experience with BYOD could have helped in a number of ways from navigating schoolwide to classroom level issues. Also, after learning about simple tools, like Puentedura’s SAMR model, through The Mindlab course, I think this could have helped a range of us looking to implement BYOD courses more effectively. Being able to measure whether or not the technology was adding value on a progressive scale is, to my mind, an easy way to ensure that how BYOD is being used by teachers is actually adding value to the learning experience. With regards to the divide BYOD illuminated between rich and poor, we could have fund raised or secured more funding to create a more equal footing for students locked out of BYOD classes because of financial reasons.
      What are your thoughts on BYOD? Did its initial roll out at your school have a similar unintended effect(s)? Does your school have a policy on BYOD? Are the ways in which teachers are using BYOD consistent and does this matter?

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  2. Certainly consistency is our issue. Some early adopters jumped in both feet while laggards have resisted all BYOD opportunities. We have similar issues in the classroom. I lot of work was done to introduce BYOD but this was not well followed up and business as usual took precedence as the year progressed. Issues such as students forgetting devices allowed some teachers an opportunity to fall back on traditional book work while others struggled to make full use of the technology due to wireless issues or time and assessment constraints.

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  3. We have also moved into BYOD and there are the same problems with the economic divide. However, even bigger problems for me in my senior class have been the physical and philosophical divides and these relate more to using digital technology to flip classrooms. I have two students who live in the far reaches of the Sounds and simply do not have the internet access (yet) to participate fully. Their parents are also more alternative in their lifestyle and place less emphasis on technology as well as having less disposable cash for purchasing devices. For the school in general the Computers in Homes (https://computersinhomes.nz) initiative has helped give students greater access.
    Just as your school has, our school has had a number of initiatives. We, also, have a discreet foodbank and there has been a student-lead breakfast club. Unfortunately, what I am seeing is that the people who need the most assistance see it as shameful to accept help. The people turning up to breakfast club and the people participating in Computers in Homes are not necessarily the students who need the most help!

    BYOD has had its own issues. The biggest difficulty for me has been in the use of cell phones as the device. I am very pro the use of devices as a normal part of our learning, including effective use of social media. However, the biggest issue is the genuine addiction students have to social media. Watch this interview with Simon Sinek to understand what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ev7GXzFTPg.

    Sinek links the instant gratification from the digital world (shopping, movies etc) and the regular dopamine response to texts and facebook messages to the difficulty students have in developing real, trusting, lasting relationships and to students having the patience to work towards something meaningful that is not instantly available.

    The problem is, how do we manage this better? Sinek recommends distancing from devices to engage better with the world immediately around us, and he makes a good point about the need to overcome what has literally become an addiction. We also need to get the students to engage globally, collaboratively and creatively (the main thrust of our MinLab course) – and the use of devices to provide the digital access is essential. The balance is definitely difficult to find.
    Any thoughts?
    Janet

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    1. Well I watched Sinek’s talk in the link you provided and found it extremely powerful. So thank you for sharing that ! I think he articulated the complexities that exist in the relationship between millennials and technology really clearly. Never really knew the extent to which the instant gratification accelerated addiction so that was interesting to discover and it makes a lot of sense.

      Our students would definitely benefit from a programme that dealt with some of this issues, like low self-esteem and the absence of meaningful relationships, that tech addiction can cause.

      Do you have any thoughts on how to establish more balance for our students? I find that my students aren’t up for the conversation – I get stonewalled often if I point out the school’s cell phone policy. They don’t even want to know that tech addiction can have significant ramifications and it feels like they think they know better. I think they quite often see teachers who try to separate them from their beloved cell phones in a negative light, when all we are trying to do is help them. But I suppose, if you try and take a drug addicts crack away, they wouldn’t like you very much either! I clearly need to change my approach in how I deal with the cell phones on desks issue during my classes if they are not being used for learning. Do you think it’s worth showing students Sinek’s video? Would it make a difference?

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