Up & Coming Weekly

January 26, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 15 of 24

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM JANUARY 27-FEBRUARY 2, 2021 UCW 15 Teaching technology in 2021 with the digital divide by DR. WILLIE LOCKETT Attention to online learning escalated during 2020, when students experienced increased online and virtual learning as a result of needed alterna- tive instruction due to the pandemic. For instruc- tors who teach a subject that requires a hands-on approach (such as digital media, gaming or digital technology), the aspect of "teaching technolo- gy" was also an important consideration when delivering online or virtual instruction. Distance learning, however, is not a new concept. In fact, broadcast, filmstrips, video tape and television were used long before some schools were forced to provide online or virtual learning. During years 1932-1948, Joseph Maddy taught thousands of string (music) students by using the radio to broadcast lessons to a wide audience. The University of Nebraska utilized filmstrips to provi- de students with a visual representation of the pro- per techniques to correctly hold and play musical instruments. "These filmstrips would aid students located outside of the geographic location of uni- versity." (Deverich, 1999) Advances in technology led to the development of film and videotape. Several music pedagogues, such as Wasson (2002) and Schonberg (Arnold Schonberg Center, 2007), produced film or videotapes for distance learning. Television provided an even broader reach for students needing instruction due to wide market ability (School District of Philadelphia, 1994). Two forms of technology propelled e-learning to new levels; the computer and the Internet provided dis- tance learning to primitive places with electricity but no running water (Justice, 1964). One author explained digital divide this way: "The digital divide focuses on the fact that the Internet has developed unevenly throughout the world, causing some countries to fall behind in technology, education, labor, democracy, and tou- rism." (Wikipedia, 2020) Digital divide refers to students without proper computer equipment, Wi-Fi, internet, or band- width; students may experience digital divide (such as sudden lost connections) when forced to share bandwidth with other family members wit- hin a household to complete online training. How are such concerns addressed from an instructor's perspective? MIT 120, Introduction to Audio Concepts, is an audio technology class which requires high school students (High School Connections) to have audio software downloaded on their computers and access to headphones and digital console. This face-to-face class needed to be converted to online/virtual. However, some students enrolled in MIT 120 were victims of digital divide. The Cumberland County School System loaned Chromebooks to students to assist with online learning. Chromebook computers are sufficient for limited computer operations, but for MIT 120, stu- dents needed the ability to install proper software in order to successfully engage in the class. To solve this dilemma, Audio Tool (free software) was used, which allows students to create files with audio/sounds, upload files, and send files for view- ing and grading by the instructor via an "invite." Students caught in the digital divide can expe- rience difficulty when attempting to complete online learning tasks as a result of lost connections caused by drained or insufficient bandwidth or Wi-Fi. At FTCC, however, our instructors work hard to find solutions to help students succeed in all areas, including the online/virtual classroom. During this new year, we invite you to experien- ce the many ways FTCC can serve your educatio- nal needs. Stay connected to something positive this new year. Learn more at w w w.faytechcc.edu. EDUCATION School choice could see gains in new legislature by DAVID BASS As North Carolina celebrates National School Choice Week Jan. 24-30, the cause of educational freedom could see advancement during the North Carolina General Assembly's 2021-2022 session. School-choice advocates are coming off what turned out to be a breakout year for their cause, as millions of parents nationwide f led their locally zoned school option for alternatives. Here in North Carolina, around 381,000 students are enrolled in schools of choice, including 150,000 in home schools, 127,000 in public charters, and 104,000 in private schools. Some lawmakers are hopeful that renewed calls for civility and bipartisanship will translate to less rancor over issues like school choice. "Leaders on both sides of the aisle know how devastating the last year has been on our students and bipartisan discussions have already been taking place to determine how we get students back in the classroom where they belong," said Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, who chairs the Senate Education Appropriations Committee. "We need to listen to each other," Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham, the Democrats' new leader in the House, told Carolina Journal. "Several educa- tional approaches can exist at once in our state — they always have. We need to understand that. We have a constitutional duty to public education, but we need to explore every option for greater innova- tion in order to serve all of our students." A rare example of bipartisan agreement came in September when state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a COVID-19 relief package that streng- thened several parts of the state's school-choice apparatus. The measure raised the income cap for fami- lies to qualify for the Opportunity Scholarship Program to $72,000 a year for a family of four. Lawmakers also eliminated the cap on Kindergarten and first grade student eligibility for Opportunity Scholarships. This will open the pro- gram to as many as 800 new students, according to the school-choice advocacy organization Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. The relief package also earmarked $6.5 mil- lion to fund the wait list for North Carolina's two school-choice programs for students with special needs — the Children with Disabilities grant and Education Savings Account. Looking ahead to this session, school-choice advocates are seeking to increase the maximum tuition reimbursement (currently set at $4,200 a year) for the Opportunity Scholarship Program. They also aim to combine the Children with Disabilities grant and Education Savings Account into one program to ensure adequate funding and reduce wait lists. "Last year, around one in five children were enrolled in a school of choice," said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. "School building closures, compulsory online learning, and inexplicable reopening plans will likely force even more parents to seek alternatives in 2021." Gov. Roy Cooper has made defunding or elimi- nating the Opportunity Scholarship Program a key part of his past budget proposals — most recently his budget from August that would have cut $85 million from the scholarship program. "This session, we are likely to see a continued campaign by Gov. Cooper to phase out school choice and use it as a wedge in debates with the legislature," said PEFNC President Mike Long, "but we strongly believe his efforts will be unsuc- cessful." In statements on their education priorities for the new session, Democrats have largely emphasi- zed rural broadband and teacher pay as two key goals. "We've had the band-aid pulled off and we've seen the raw absence of broadband in many areas of the state," Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, the Democrats' leader in the Senate, told Spectrum News 1. "Since last March, we've been trying to educate our kids basically virtually, and we know for a fact there are serious problems in many parts of the state with being able to do that." "We need to supplement teacher pay," Reives added, "especially with what teachers and staff have been going through, putting themselves at risking during the pandemic." Stoops emphasized that overcoming learning losses due to school shutdowns in 2020 should top lawmakers' agenda this session — and that expanded school choice is a key to accomplish that goal. "There is no greater priority than providing remediation to students who received substan- dard instruction during the pandemic," he said. "Lawmakers should create programs that allow parents of struggling students to access a voucher or education savings account to use at the public, private, or nonprofit educational provider of their choice." DR. WILLIE LOCKETT, FTCC Computer Information Systems Program Coordinator. Comments? Editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. DAVID BASS, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200.

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