Instructional Media and the Digital Divide

Divide.pngI taught briefly at a language school in Cambodia, which made me reflect on my use of instructional media and technology in the classroom. I was conducting a class in which the textbook reading was about relationships between people and animals. The night before, I happened to stumble on the most amazing relationship between humans and animals: the African hero rat which clears land mines and can detect tuberculosis. You can find out more about these incredible animals here. I was so excited about showing my students this incredible animal. Then, I realised I had no way of doing that since the classes had no SmartBoards, no computers, no screens. In previous teaching positions, I used SmartBoards and all of my students had a smart phone or tablet, so I could really bring technology into the classroom. In Cambodia, however, the scope for technology is so limited.

Teaching in a place with such limited resources has enabled me to reflect on the role of technology in the classroom, and how the learning and teaching process can be enhanced by using instructional media. It also made me realise how dependent I have become on technology, because it is so useful. I need to consider the digital divide and how this may affect teaching in the future. Of course, it is also necessary to ensure that technology is used in a way that is suitable and augments the lesson. I should not use technology for the sake of using it. I need to ensure that my material is well structured and well developed and that the instructional media used are appropriate for the lesson.

I never realised how reliant I was on technology in the classroom. Even simple things like developing presentations using PowerPoint or creating worksheets with Word became a challenge. I didn’t even have an overhead projector in my classes, never mind a computer screen! I could use my own computer to create work sheets, but getting everything photocopied was a mission compared to my previous positions. I felt like I was reduced to using the bare bones. I’m accustomed to using the Internet continuously, too. If I’m explaining something, and I’m not getting through to my students, I’m used to quickly finding a picture or a video to illustrate my point. I use Google Translate all the time as well, since I can’t speak the languages of the students I teach, and having my phone to translate is essential at times.

Technology can revolutionise education, and our access to information, which can transform our lives. It frightens me how far ahead those with access to technology are over those who do not have access to even basic things like a computer in the classroom with a projector. This gap is only going to increase. I know technology isn’t the only aspect of learning, teaching, and experience, but we are becoming increasingly reliant on all kinds of technology. We must consider ways to reduce the ever increasing digital divide, and how to use technology to build these bridges.

Check out the assignment on which this reflection is based.

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