The article For Low Income Kids, Access to Devices Could Be the Equalizer raised the possibility that mobile technology in classrooms could help narrow the digital divide between the nation’s low-income and more affluent students. The article, which included suggestions for educators about how to access devices and what do with them, struck a chord with readers. Many were outraged that some students are missing out on valuable learning resources because of their families’ socio-economic status, while others worried that bringing mobile devices into the classroom – any classroom – invites chaos.
"The internet is the modern day encyclopedia,” wrote commenter Patrick Hopkins, who grew up in a single-parent low-income household, and now teaches in an upper-middle class school district. Hopkins' students are allowed to use their mobile devices in school after registering them with the administration, opening up opportunities for students to direct their own learning and take advantage of the internet's vast trove of information. Hopkins noted many schools don’t have those same advantages, like his alma mater.
“Attending school in a dilapidated building with poor heating, and non-existent cooling systems, coupled with broken windows that were replaced with sheet metal, instead of glass, weighed heavy on a student’s psychic,” he wrote. “Student learning and teacher morale take heavy tolls in these types of environments. Without adequate learning resources and safe and secure learning environments low income student cannot compete in today’s society.” Hopkins points that schools can't even meet these basic infrastructure needs, let alone student access to technology resources.
Many readers commented that all students should be given access to the internet and the devices that supply them, but fewer accepted the assertion made by Michael Mills, a professor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Arkansas, that race plays a role in whether teachers trust students to use devices responsibly.
“[The article] stated that schools do not allow students of color to use their mobile devices because they think they will not use them in appropriate ways. I do not believe this is true at all,” wrote Amanda Phillips. “I think it is our job as teachers to set the ground rules and expectations of using these types of devices in class before they are even allowed to bring them. Each student should get an equal chance to bring and use their device in class; race should have nothing to do with it.”