This is what happens in an urban public high school when I assign homework that involves technology.
Many of my students use their phones to do their homework.
Google is at the center of my writing program. Students draft, collaborate, revise, and proofread using Google Docs. It’s been great.
But as Google Docs gets better and migrates to mobile devices, and as my students remain stuck in poverty, the cell phone has become their de facto computer.
My students hold their phones close and focus on the tiny print. They tap away for hours. They squint their eyes to figure out whether they have one or two spaces between words.
It’s not a pretty sight. But it’s a necessary one when their Internet at home is intermittent and when the library is closed or too far away.
Some teachers would argue that requiring students to do homework using technology is inequitable. After all, it places some students at an unfair disadvantage. But the answer to the digital divide is not to give up on the use of technology in learning. Schools must do better in addressing the needs of students and their families to ensure that all students have access.
Unfortunately, in the meantime, my students — despite my support in providing free computers this year — will continue tapping away on their phones, pretending they’re computers.