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Granite State Rumblings: Technology in (and outside of) the Classroom, Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

Every Child MattersIt is amazing how reliant we have become on technology in the past decade.  And it is even more amazing how important technology has become in education.  We didn’t take computer classes when I was in school, we took typing.  And I wasn’t very good at it, although I have gotten better as I’ve aged.

But imagine what it is like for kids today. Spidey at 6 years old knows more about apps and my iPad than I do. When I run into a problem on my laptop, I hear, “Grandma, want some help?”  He is fortunate because as he gets further into his public education, he will have a leg up on some other children in his class. He lives in a home where the Internet and devices are available 24/7.

Access to the Internet connects kids to all kinds of information — and for low-income students especially, that access has the power to change their social structure by allowing them to become empowered and engaged, says Michael Mills, a professor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Arkansas.

A Pew Research survey in 2012 of more than 2,400 middle school and high school Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers  shows that, while teachers believe technology has helped with their teaching, it’s also brought new challenges — including the possibility of creating a bigger rift between low-income and high-income students.

Here are a few highlights from that report:

  • A large majority of these teachers (84%) agree to some extent with the statement that “Today’s digital technologies are leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools and school districts.” However, asked whether today’s digital technologies are narrowing or widening the gap between the most and least academically successful students, 44% say technology is narrowing the gap and 56% say it is widening the gap.
  • These teachers see disparities in access to digital tools having at least some impact on their students. More than half (54%) say all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools at school, but only a fifth of these teachers (18%) say all or almost all of their students have access to the digital tools they need at home.
  • Access to devices is noticeably different between higher and lower and income schools. More than half of teachers — 55% — of higher income students say they or their students use e-readers in the classroom, compared with 41%  teaching in low income areas. And 52% of teachers of upper and upper-middle income students say their students use cell phones to look up information in class, compared with 35% of teachers of the lowest income students.
  • Apart from access to devices, knowing how best to use them is also a problem for low-income students. The survey showed that 39% of AP and NWP teachers of low income students say their school is “behind the curve” when it comes to effectively using digital tools in the learning process; just 15% of teachers of higher income students rate their schools poorly in this area.
  • 33% of teachers of lower income students say their school’s rules about classroom cell phone use by students have a major impact on their teaching, compared with 15% of those who teach students from the highest income households.

Teachers of the lowest income students are the least likely to say their students have sufficient access to the digital tools they need, both in school and at home. In terms of community type, teachers in urban areas are the least likely to say their students have sufficient access to digital tools IN SCHOOL, while rural teachers are the least likely to say their students have sufficient access AT HOME.

As there are projects being piloted all across the country exploring the potential of mobile learning, especially as it relates to reaching out to disenfranchised students, the most recent results from Project K-Nect seem that much more relevant.

Project K-Nect is a pilot program that began during the 2007-2008 school year to discover if 24/7 connected smartphones could play a role in enhancing student engagement and learning. The project addressed the need to improve math skills among at-risk students in North Carolina who scored poorly in math and did not have access to the Internet at home. Algebra I digital content aligned with current lesson plans was created and students were encouraged to learn from each other in and out of the classroom. Students did so by using social networking applications on the smartphone, as well as other Internet resources such as algebra.com.

  • By the end of the fall 2010 semester, 89 percent of the Algebra I students reported they are more motivated to learn math compared to 76 percent at the beginning of the semester.
  • 90 percent of the Project K-Nect students in Algebra I and 100 percent of the Algebra II students demonstrated proficiency on their end of course exams.
  • By the end of the fall 2010 semester, 89 percent of the Algebra I students reported they are more motivated to learn math compared to 76 percent at the beginning of the semester.
  • The majority of students reported they are also more comfortable learning math (83 percent), felt more successful (72 percent) and better prepared to take the end-of course exam (72 percent).
  • By the end of the semester, the number of students who thought, “math is easy” more than doubled from 29 percent to 61 percent.
  • Algebra I students expressed an interest in taking additional math classes, including Advanced Placement courses.
  • They also said they are more interested in attending college (56 percent) or pursuing a degree or career that would use their math skills (33 percent).

What’s more, the report states that “students’ increased use of and familiarity with technology through Project K-Nect helps students easily integrate the use of technology to other curricular areas.”

As we hear educators to government officials to industry experts, lament the lackluster abilities and performance of our nations’ students in science, technology, engineering and math (know as STEM education), shouldn’t we be looking at ways to get and keep students interested and motivated in learning?

I haven’t seen one kid yet who isn’t interested in one new app or another on a smartphone, have you? So why not use that to their advantage in the classroom?

Growing Up Granite

It is time to ensure that all 24 State Senators know why New Hampshire needs to raise the minimum wage. HB1403 is headed their way.

Here is some important information to share with them from our friends at the NH Fiscal Policy Institute.

Nearly five years after the end of the national recession, low-wage workers in New Hampshire continue to struggle to make ends meet.  Since 2009, wages for the lowest-paid fifth of New Hampshire workers have fallen by 5.6 percent after adjusting for inflation.  At the same time, the state’s poverty rate – 10 percent in 2012 – remains considerably higher than what it was at the start of the downturn – 7.1 percent in 2007.

One of the factors that has likely contributed to such economic insecurity is the neglect of New Hampshire’s minimum wage.  At $7.25 per hour, it is currently the lowest in New England and has lost substantial purchasing power over the past several decades.

A measure now before the New Hampshire legislature seeks to strengthen the minimum wage and to begin to build an economy that works for everyone in the Granite State.  More specifically, HB 1403 would raise New Hampshire’s minimum wage in two steps:  from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2015 and to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016.  The measure would also require automatic annual cost of living adjustments, based on the Consumer Price Index, beginning in 2017. Read the entire brief here.

In Brief:

  • New Hampshire’s minimum wage has lost over 23 percent of its purchasing power in the last 35 years and is well below what workers need to make ends meet.
  • New Hampshire’s minimum wage is the lowest in New England and will fall even further behind in the years ahead.
  • Raising the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour would directly or indirectly increase the wages of 75,800 workers – or 12 percent of New Hampshire’s workforce.
  • Most of the workers who would be affected are women, adults, and employed at least half time.
  • A $9.00 minimum wage would produce an average wage increase of $870 per year for affected workers and generate $64 million in additional wages statewide.
  • A higher minimum wage could have benefits for the New Hampshire economy: greater consumer demand, reduced turnover, and higher productivity.

 

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About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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