Access at the Crossroads Blog
These blog entires identify best practices to increase success for historically-underrepresented college students including excerpts from my book, Access at the Crossroads. Click here to subscribe to this blog.
by Rae L. Mancilla — August 08, 2014
This commentary questions whether the implementation of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in American schools is a way of bridging or deepening the digital divide amongst students of differing socioeconomic backgrounds. It argues that that digital equity with mobile devices cannot be achieved without individual ownership of mobile technologies and concludes by posing a series of potential means of working toward the goal of ownership in schools.
The digital divide between technology haves and have-nots has been a persistent problem for education recognized on both national and international levels. On the wrong side of the divide are typically minority and low-income students, as well as urban residents who lack access to what are now commonplace technologies (e.g., internet) (Servon, 2002). Achieving equitable physical access to technology is seen as just a starting point in addressing the many disparities that emanate from the digital divide and that pervade students’ technology use, training, and learning outcomes once initial access has been granted (Warschauer & Matuchniak, 2010).
Educators and administrators are increasingly turning to mobile devices as a means of closing this digital gap because they are cost-effective and widely used, especially by students between the ages of 12-17. (Madden, Lenhart, Duggan, Cortesi & Gasser, 2013). Although these figures are somewhat lower for low-income students, the overwhelming growth of student ownership of mobile devices has fueled policies such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in schools, with the underlying goal of helping schools manage budget cuts while still preparing digitally literate 21st century learners (Dixon &Tierney, 2012).
The trade-off of shifting the financial responsibility from schools to students to provide their own devices for learning may seem financially advantageous; however, from the standpoint of digital equity, it is not. Digital equity means, “ensuring that every student […] has equitable access to advanced technologies, communication and information resources, and the learning experiences they provide (Solomon, Allen, and Resta, 2003, p. xiii). Ensuring equity for students of varying socioeconomic backgrounds under BYOD is complex and problematic on multiple levels.
Very basically, students of low socioeconomic status are not often owners of mobile devices, or bring nonequivalent technologies to school. Given the varied nature of mobile devices, it is difficult to equate the capabilities of one device with another. A case in point is comparing a mobile phone (the most commonly owned device) to an iPad; can the learning experiences with these devices ever be approximated? Many schools have also attempted to troubleshoot the non-ownership of devices by allowing students to borrow or rent school-owned devices (Chadband, 2012). However, lending students devices for limited periods of time or only for use throughout the school day denies them the fullness of the mobile learning experience and contradicts the very purpose of mobile learning: mobility.
Research now shows that the use of mobile devices is related to changes in students’ cognition, affecting essentially how they learn (Kukulska-Hulme, 2009). Given that the way students access, process, and interact with educational content is shaped by the technology they have available to them, it is necessary to ensure that all students have the same toolbox to work with. This begs the question: how is it possible for all students to share an equivalent learning experience when owners have unlimited access to tools that borrowers do not?
Finally, individual ownership of mobile devices is a prerequisite when considering the affective (i.e., emotional/relational) dimension of mobile learning. For example, studies on mobile phones show that people develop a relationship with their phones and an emotional attachment that stems from the extensive time shared with them (Vincent, 2006). Therefore, a key element in students’ learning experience with mobile technology is the growth of a mobile identity that occurs over time. This is impossible to achieve when students are required to borrow and return school-owned devices.
Using ownership as the most fundamental and necessary criteria for establishing equity, how then can equitable access be practically leveraged to borrowers in schools? Currently, few models exist to tackle the obstacle of funding one-to-one mobile technology initiatives, with laptops being one of the only examples of how schools have provided access to individual computing in the past. Most of these efforts have been backed by large federal and state monies, such as 21st Century Community Learning Center grants and State Educational Technology grants associated with the Race to the Top Initiative (2009), but have not yet trickled down into mobile devices.
Besides government funding, there are several potential pathways for funding a BYOD program. These include partnering with local businesses to refurbish their used devices, allowing students to lease school-owned devices (e.g., semester or yearly basis), and providing financing plans for families who cannot afford to purchase a device (e.g., layaway) (Intel Education, 2013). Expanding on these alternatives, I call for the development of a sliding scale for families of low to mid-income students to subsidize the purchase of a personal device based on family size and income. This is necessary for students of mid-income families who may not completely qualify for a school-purchased device, but still have a substantial economic need. Additionally, why not consider partnering with nationally-established businesses in the private sector to launch or expand programs such as the Broadband Adoption Challenge (2010), which currently offers eligible families affordable home internet and computer access through participating providers such as Comcast, Time Warner, and many others? Although this program does not cover vouchers for purchasing mobile devices, this option needs to be added for interested families to help bridge the new mobile divide.
In sum, while mobile devices have been foregrounded as a means of bridging the digital divide between technology haves and have-nots, the birth of the BYOD movement in schools is deepening these tensions under a new guise of owners versus borrowers. The issue of digital equity must move beyond providing physical access to technology through schools’ lending libraries of mobile devices. Achieving an equitable mobile learning experience requires unrestricted access to mobile devices (i.e., device ownership) that facilitates the development of a relationship with the device itself and a customized and transportable learning experience across educational contexts. The personal nature of mobile devices sets them apart from conventional computing and requires the re-thinking of how to be equitable with BYOD through creative models that blend federal, state, and local support for leveraging mobile technologies in schools.
- Chadband, E. (2012, July 19). Should schools embrace “Bring Your Own Device”?. NEA Today. Retrieved from http://neatoday.org/2012/07/19/should-schools-embrace-bring-your-own-device/
- Dixon, B., & Tierney, S. (2012). Bring your own device to school. Retrieved from http://blogs. msdn. com/b/education/archive/2012/08/15/microsoft-bring-your-own-device-in-schoolswhitepaper. aspx.
- Intel Education (2013). K-12 Blueprint: Funding a BYOD (bring your own device) program. Retrieved from http://www.k12blueprint.com/funding
- Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2009). Will mobile learning change language learning. ReCALL, 21(2), 157–165.
- Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Duggan, M., Cortesi, S., & Gasser, U. (2013). Teens and technology 2013. Pew Internet & American Life Project.
- Servon, L. (2002). Bridging the digital divide: Technology, community and public policy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
- Solomon, G., Allen, N., & Resta, P. (2003). Toward digital equity: Bridging the divide in education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
- Vincent, J. (2006). Emotional attachment and mobile phones. Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 19(1), 39–44.
- Warschauer, M., & Matuchniak, T. (2010). New technology and digital worlds: Analyzing evidence of equity in access, use, and outcomes. Review of Research in Education, 34(1), 179–225.
Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 08, 2014
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17639, Date Accessed: 8/19/2014 2:12:11 PM
Integrated Learning Course for Entering SSS College Students. University of Minnesota (approved Validated Practice 8/10/14) In 1972, the TRIO program leaders at the University of Minnesota developed the Integrated Learning (IL) course to meet academic and transition needs of their Upward Bound (UB) students. These courses were offered during the UB summer bridge program for its students who were concurrently enrolled in academically-challenging college courses following graduation from high school. Later, use of IL courses shifted from the UB program to the college-level TRIO Student Support Services program. Long before the widespread use of learning communities within higher education, the IL course is an example of a linked-course learning community. A historically-challenging course like an introductory psychology is linked with an IL course. The IL course is customized to use content of its companion class as context for mastering learning strategies and orienting students to the rigor of the college learning environment. For the past four decades, the IL course approach has assisted TRIO students improve their academic success in the rigorous academic environment as well as acclimate to the social climate of the University of Minnesota (UMN), one of the largest universities in the United States. UMN is a Research I Intensive public university with highly selective admissions and high expectations for students by the course professors. Two quasi-experimental studies examined the possible benefits of the IL course. One was in connection with a General Psychology course. The IL course students earned statistically significantly higher final course grades than nonparticipants. Another study with a General Biology course replicated the results of higher final course grades for the IL course students. The IL courses fostered not only higher final course grades, but also expanded positive study behaviors and their metacognitive skills necessary for academic success. [Click on this link to download this best education practice.]
By Daniel Solórzano, Amanda Datnow, Vicki Park, and Tara Watford with Lluliana Alonso, Virginia Bartz, Christine Cerven, Nichole Garcia, Karen Jarsky, Nickie Johnson-Ahorlu, Makeba Jones, Maria Malagon, Jennifer Nations, Kelly Nielsen, Mike Rose, Yen Ling Shek, and Susan Yonezawa.
Within the context of the country’s economic downturn and its need for greater postsecondary participation, Pathways to Postsecondary Success: Maximizing Opportunities for Youth in Poverty was designed to provide scholarship and policy recommendations to help improve educational outcomes for youth in low-income communities. This final report of the five-year Pathways project provides findings from a mixed-methods set of studies that included national and state analyses of opportunities and obstacles in postsecondary education (PSE) for low-income youth, detailed case studies of approximately 300 low-income young adults preparing for or pursuing PSE in three California counties, and the development of a set of indicators to monitor the conditions in community colleges. This project was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Key Findings: What Matters Most?
Our study revealed five key things that matter most for understanding and improving low-income students’ success in postsecondary education.
1. Student Voices Matter. Having numbers that show how many students enroll and persist in postsecondary education is important, but unless we understand from students why these outcomes occur, we run the risk of misunderstanding patterns and implementing ineffective interventions. Hearing student voices is essential to understanding their pathways to and through postsecondary education.
2. Diversity Matters. Low-income youth are a diverse group with a wide range of experiences. Paying
attention to the similarities and differences in this population of students can help us better plan college success initiatives.
3. Assets Matter. Deficit approaches blame low-income students for their lack of success, or they blame educational institutions for failing students, often without recognizing the challenging fiscal, policy, and practical constraints they operate within. In work designed to improve student success, it is essential to focus on both student and institutional assets. Our research uncovers the remarkable strengths students bring and the many positive programs that exist in educational institutions. This asset-based approach helps us understand how to design programs that better tap into and foster students’ strengths in order to support college success.
4. Connections Between K–12 and Higher Educat ion Matter. Postsecondary success is not a story that begins once a student sets foot on a college campus. High quality K–12 schooling and a host of college preparatory resources and activities must be provided in order to ensure college-going success for all students.
5. Institutional Supports and Conditions Matter. To ensure that low-income students’ college aspirations are affirmed and their academic needs are met, institutional supports are essential. As students persist to and through college, they face critical transitions along the way, and certain conditions function as a “guard rail” for keeping them on the path towards college completion.
In sum, low-income students are a diverse group who bring many assets to the educational enterprise. Their talents need to be fostered in order for them to realize the gains that education can bring to them, to their families, and to society as a whole. Supporting low-income students in postsecondary education requires an institutional commitment to their success, high quality curricula and instruction, ongoing advising and mentoring, integration of support services and resources, and streamlined pathways to completion (West, Shulock, & Moore, 2012). To support student success, four provisions—maps, compass, fuel, and tools—are necessary to help students understand their pathways and stay on track as they navigate their college experience. We observed many positive examples of these elements in our research. The challenge is to make these conditions a reality for more students.
By Christine Cerven, Vicki Park, Jennifer Nations, and Kelly Nielsen. Community colleges play a central democratizing role in the U.S. postsecondary education system. These institutions pride themselves on a long history of open admissions policies that uphold their mission of serving all segments of society. Indeed, if not for community colleges, the overall higher education system would enroll far fewer racial and ethnic minorities and fewer first generation, low-income, and immigrant students (Bragg & Durham, 2012). Community colleges serve a diverse student population; 16% of these students are single parents, and a majority of that group are single mothers (Goldrick-Rab & Sorensen, 2010). Of all household types in the United States, those headed by single women continue to have the highest poverty rates. In 2010, 32% of households headed by single females were poor, compared to 16% of those headed by single males and 6% of married couple households (National Poverty Center, 2013). Thus, it is reasonable to assume that lowincome single mothers who enroll in community colleges may face a range of challenges as they persist to degree or transfer. Open access policies are not enough to ensure low-income single mothers complete college. For many students, open-access policies make it easier to attend college. However, these policies are only the first step; they do not ensure that these students will persist and complete their goals. For students with limited means, multiple taken for-granted needs must be met in order for schooling to become a realistic part of daily life. For low-income single mothers, these needs include stable housing, steady employment and income, reliable transportation, dependable childcare, and assurance that the basic needs of family members are being met. Only after these necessities are in place can other endeavors such as education become a possibility.