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Exploring the digital divide amongst schools requires that we examine the access the students have to technology. The placement of technology in a school can greatly influence access to it. If computers are connected to the internet but are in an inconvenient location, the availability of the equipment to students and teachers will be limited. Therefore this is an important issue for teachers and students.
From the survey conducted for the local school we find an unreasonable amount of computers were provided to staff rather than students. 30 computers were provided to staff members and 22 to students. Having looked at the student-teacher ratio we find that the ratios do not fit the number of computers being given.
From survey A we find that computers in the local schools were solely provided in computer labs. Placing computer equipment solely in labs has been a major obstacle to improving equity and access. There is a fundamental problem with computers and other technologies being located in a lab where students have limited access to the equipment.
In many schools we find that computer labs are a common approach to facilitating students with computers. This setting ensure easier maintaince and most likely easier for teachers to teach computer skills to students however problems do arise from this. Students of today need regular access to computers and unfortunately computer labs are to conducive for the students of the 21 century. (Wolsey, 2009)
Schools need to be acquainted with the fact that using technology in isolated classrooms is one thing and using technology as a potent force in transforming an entire education system is another. All schools that choose to make technology part of their reform strategies face several challenges. These important challenges concern physical infrastructure, funding, equity, and ongoing maintenance.
a single IT class constitutes only a small portion of a student's educational experience.
In most cases we find that students become frustrated when they enter other classrooms without technological activities. Most, certainly do not find it worthy of, to invest the time to learn computer skills such as keyboarding and Internet searching only to have them fall into disuse in the following year. (Means)
Ideally, schools would want computers in classrooms so the technology becomes a ubiquitous part of the school environment. Allowing students to have access to computers throughout the day can help promote the use of technology becoming a seamless part of the learning process. Although access to computers in a classroom is beneficial, it is not always possible to provide computers to all students. Schools that are dealing with students between the hundreds and thousands cannot afford this high expenditure cost. Thus and ideal solution would be to facilitate a centralized area common to students.
Nevertheless students were granted access to computer labs anytime of the day. This is important as we have verified that availability is not a problem. Students are allowed to come and develop their skills when ever free.
The international schools had an adequate amount of computers available to students. Recently thin clients were deployed in one of the international schools allowingââ‚¬¦ââ‚¬¦.
Although the learning process of the technology benefits the students it can be vitally as important for the teachers. Teachers can and do have a profound effect on the students learning process. Therefore teachers having computers when they need them can be equally as important.
From survey A the researcher found that a reasonable amount of computers were issued to staff members in the local schools. As for the international schools, most teachers were equipped with their own computers.
Zambia has the highest internet connectivity which costs as high as $6000 per megabit, prices which is double the cost of internet in other places in Africa. (Sinyangwe, 2009)
This creates a huge problem for schools to set-up a reasonable connection that can facilitate everyone. Although all schools were connected to the internet survey shows that many did not consider their internet connectivity reliable. One downfall of the unreliable internet is being unable to make use of online education.
Online education and distance learning have given a new dimension to the field of education and higher learning. Today, students do not necessarily need to be physically present in classrooms. Many educational institutes offer online courses to their students. Most of the schools and colleges offer online assignment submission facilities. Students can submit their homework and test assignments through the Internet. Many universities offer online education programs wherein the students can interact with their teachers over the web, access reference material from the University website and earn degrees online! (Oak)
However although the internet was unreliable the international schools had made us of an intranet as means of communication between student and teachers
Providing Technical support
Timing is everything, particularly when it comes to technology. "Real learning takes place (or stops) when actually trying the new skills," states McKenzie (1998). "The best way to win widespread use of new technologies is to provide support, assistance, and encouragement when needed. Therefore Technical support is required.
Technical support is the support provided by an official or an external professional with the appropriate technical skills. (Glossary Term T-Web Hosting Glossary) Technology integration in the classroom will never be satisfactorily achieved; you would not want to be left hanging with 30 students wondering why nothing is working the way it should. (Bailey & Pownell, 1998). When teachers are trying to use technology in their classrooms and they encounter difficulties, they need immediate help and support. "Helping technology users while they are actively engaged with technology at their work location is probably the most meaningful, essential and appreciative support that can be provided," advises Brody (1995, p. 137).
Frequent occurrences of a server being down, printers jammed, or insufficient computer memory will not only disrupt instructional and administrative activities but also may undermine the entire technology program. According to Technology and Education Reform, a U.S. Department of Education report by Singh and Means (1994), "If technical problems arise frequently and teachers have to wait hours, days, or weeks to get them resolved, they will abandon their efforts to incorporate technology." (Gahala, 2001)