Who Counts as “Today’s Students”?

I was intrigued at first by the tweets.  MiddleWeb distributes great information about teaching in the middle years:

So I clicked through.  @CherylTeaches asks great and important questions about when we do and don’t use tech in schools, but her experiences didn’t resonate with what I hear from many teachers.

She wrote about how, when given choices in schools, her students often choose something other than technology.  She goes on to wonder if “we”, meaning the profession for whom she’s writing, overestimate the extent to which students find technology engaging.

She sounds like a terrific teacher and and I want to be as  clear as I can be that this post is not about her as a teacher or disagreement with anything that she said about tech in schools.

It’s just that I am so troubled by the language that we use to evade talking about social class and education.

The tweet promises news about “today’s digital students’.  The author writes about “today’s students” and then writes sensitively about what she sees in her students.

We don’t learn until the biographical statement at the end that this teacher currently works in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  Her students live in a community in which the per capita (not household) income is  $104,920 .  Bloomfield Hills ranks within the top five wealthiest communities in America. 

I began my teaching career in in Appalachia, in Jackson County, Kentucky.  When I was teaching there, it was one of the poorest school districts in the country. Today, the per capita income for the county is $10,711. 36.50% of children under 18 live below the poverty level.

I’m trying to imagine any circumstances in which a teacher in Jackson County Kentucky could write a piece for a major, excellent education group like MiddleWeb that was framed as being about the experiences of “Today’s students”.    I’m trying to imagine this teacher then offering advice about how teachers in other places might think about using technology, based on her experiences with some of the poorest children in the country.

It would never happen.

Teachers working with the wealthiest families in the country no doubt bring their full energies to the challenges of working in such communities.  It is great when they listen to their students on reflect on how to best serve those children.

But in these times of growing and serious digital divides in which high and low income children use computers in very different ways,  offering advice to teachers about “today’s students” based on the children of the wealthiest people in the country –who have out-of-school access to any tech device they might wish to have — is troubling at best.

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