Mastering the Technology of the Mind
Recent research by Jane Margolis and Mark Warschauer regarding why certain groups are under-represented in computing suggests that it is a social issue as much as it is an access issue. Much has been written regarding the achievement gap between African Americans and their counterparts.
In virtually every metric of educational achievement African Americans are behind. In this knowledge-based economy, this concern has moved forward with concerns regarding digital equity, and the digital divide, the gap between African Americans and their contemporaries in terms of adoption of technology.These problems begin with the mindset that many African American students adopt as young students. The first piece of technology that students must master is their mind. They must master their thoughts and protect them from the toxic messages of under achievement they may have received from well-meaning teachers, students, peers and leaders.
Before African Americans, or any group for that matter, deals with the programming of their most important technology, their minds, it does not matter how much reform is put in place or how much money is spent on equipment and programs. Here are a few of the ways we are planting the seeds of educational technology incompetence.
Let’s stop referring to our students using labels. A few that are particularly disturbing to me are at-risk, under-performing, under-achieving, disadvantaged, and low-income. We don’t label the teachers. Why label the students? After all, isn’t this all about the students? If we simply must label students, although I’m not sure why we need to, why not give them an empowering moniker such as improved, developing, or performing-at-his-or-her pace?
If it is known that students learn in different ways, should not our approaches to educating them be varied as well? These labels send messages to the students. They become thoughts as well as beliefs and soon the students themselves begin to question their own abilities. If you label and program them to fail and underachieve, that is exactly what they are going to do.
All students need to affirm and be affirmed. It would also help if they could connect with the idea that they can be innovators and producers of technology. Students who are of minority ethnic groups need to be able to see and identify with people who look like them as engineers, computer scientists and technologists. There is much in the literature regarding how well students perform when teachers have higher expectations of them.
It has been reported recently that minority students and women are discouraged during their college years by instructors from pursuing careers in science. The word discourage consists of the prefix dis- which means to remove and of course the word courage. Discourage means to remove courage. Obviously, this does not seem ideal that instructors are removing courage from students who wish to enter the science fields.
But this makes my point precisely. The first thing that must happen to improve this situation is that students must be ENCOURAGED. Courage is defined as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. The key words in this definition are quality of mind. This is where the difference is made in the mind. This is where the change needs to take place, not only with the students but also as mentioned above with those whom have been entrusted with the awesome responsibility and privilege of educating our youth.
Programming for Success
The first piece of technology that needs to be integrated by student and teacher is the technology of the mind. Parents, teachers, leaders, and the students themselves need to practice being mindful of their thoughts and words.
Any idea, thought, or practice that is not uplifting or encouraging needs to done away with. Teachers need to replace thoughts such as “I’m not computer literate” with something more positive such as “I have not learned this technology yet, but I will learn it to be a better model for my students and a more effective educator.” There is no technology or social media that can do this for you. But if the mind is programmed first the rest will follow.
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