Monday, February 3, 2014

Ipad for every student in school will solve the 'deficit' problem? I wish it was that simple!

If the solution to ‘bridging the gap between rich and poor schools was as simple as giving every student (particularly those in lower decile schools) an I pad, then I would say---go for it. It would be a magnificent and relatively cheap way of solving an issue that has perplexed us for generations. I reluctantly have to point out that it is not that simple. Schools struggle to get students to bring bags with their books and other ‘necessaries’ each day in lower decile schools as it is. How many teachers can tell stories about providing kids with books (sometimes out of their own pockets) only to see that the next day the said ‘giveaways’ no longer exist. It is a continuing frustration for teachers to observe the gains being dissipated in such a manner. It all goes back to the old ‘cultural capital’ paradigm, in which so many students start on the back foot and never quite bridge the gap.
Yes, you will hear many stories of students who have broken the mould, sometimes through good teaching and excellent backup from parents but the more usual story is one in which schools battle to narrow the gap. The issue is intergenerational, described by poverty in all of its forms. Teachers and other commentators have argued about ‘what to do’ for as long as I can remember and I am not one who wishes to locked into ‘deficit theory’ but the sad fact is that schools can only be effective if the partnership between school and home (along with other factors) is a strong one. There have been real gains for the students in schools who have developed positive relationships with their community and I applaud those schools that have successfully gone down that pathway.
I am not against ‘giving all students’ I pads, but I am concerned that it becomes a ‘one stop solve the entire problem’ issue, sometimes cynically exploited by politicians. Let’s always keep the bigger picture in focus when discussing how to narrow the gap between those who have and those who are missing out. There is no one answer.
WE must never give up, and keep looking for newer ways of helping all students and there will always be so-called’ new strategies, often under a new name for an old programme, which is touted as the latest ‘solution. I am sure many ‘older teachers’ will know exactly what I mean. In the meantime, keep those I pads safe, because like the books and freebies of old, they have a way of ‘disappearing’ as fast as they are given out. Maybe there is a half way position whereby the I pads are kept at school, until schools are sure that the items will be used for the purposes they were given!