Digital Citizenship:
            are you a digital citizen?

Introduction to Digital Access

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        Digital Access is a key component in understanding digital citizenship. Today's society is vastly changing and as a result so is the educational world and the way our students are instructed. Technology is evolving and appearing in all aspects of society and it has become an emerging component of instruction within the classroom. Students are learning in new ways that were unimaginable when parents and teachers were students in the classroom.  As the technology appears within the classroom and in the world around us, it is crucial to identify the importance for all students to be participants in this digital society. As educators and parents, it is our duty to ensure that all students have equal opportunities in terms of technology access and use within the classroom as well as the opportunity for all to be involved in today's digital society. Outside of the classroom, technology opportunities are rapidly emerging. From the computers at the local library to the internet access on your cell phone to the internet capabilities through today's video gaming system, students are immersed in access to technology. The key to this topic is recognizing that in order to develop 21st century skills in all of our students, we must take action to provide opportunities for all of our students.  

What is Digital Access?

        Digital Access is defined as "full electronic participation in society" (Ribble, 2007). As a parent it is important to understand this key component so that you can guarantee that your children are provided with equal opportunities. Within this topic, there are two major issues that parents should be aware of including equitable access and assistive technology for those students requiring accommodations.

Overview

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        Educators and parents alike want what is best for their students. Both stakeholders desire to achieve the same goal: preparing their students to become successful citizens in today's society. In order to do so in today's fast paced world, it is imperative that we understand equitable access. Students deserve an equal opportunity to have access to technology. Talk to your students about technology use in school. Talk with other parents about technology use. Talk with your child's teacher about technology use. Equitable access refers to the opportunity for all students to have equal access in using technology. While we must recognize that not every district, school and classroom may have the exact same opportunities available due to limited financial resources and so forth, the opportunities that exist for one child in a classroom should exist for the other children within that same classroom. Encourage your students to participate and use that technology when it is available. In addition, it is important for the parents to provide that access outside the school when possible. Whether that means taking your children to the library or to a relative's house, provide them with supervised and educational opportunities to engage in and participate in today's emerging technologies. Although the technology may be unfamiliar to you, learn about it with your child. They can surprisingly teach you a lot about today's technology. By providing them these opportunities and working with them, you allow them to become productive and successful digital citizens in our digital world.  
        As important as it is to be aware of equitable access, it is also essential to understand that student learners have different needs. Some students require glasses, while others require an agenda to keep organized. Other students have special diets or prefer to sit near the front of the classroom. Accessing technology often involves providing accommodations for some students. Educators and parents must be aware of those learners' needs and provide them with the services necessary for successful use of technology. For example, some students with vision impairments may require a magnifier to view the computer screen more easily or they could use a text to speech program to aid them when using a computer. Physical disabilities of students may require the use of other assistive software such as a switch or modified keyboard. The key point to understand is that all students should be provided with an opportunity to use technology effectively and successfully. In understanding this point, be sure to teach your children that not everyone will use technology in the same way and the importance of not treating others differently because of the way in which they must access technology. Use the resources below, search the internet or discuss with your child's teacher about available technology in your local community and about available assistive technologies. Provide these assistive technology opportunities to your students at home if possible so that your children can become accustomed to and successful with using them in their daily lives, both at home and at school.

Resources

Use the following resources for further information regarding assistive technology:

Links to Free Software - This web resource provides a list of various assistive programs available to download for free including: Balabolka, Word Logic Predictive Keyboard, Natural Reader, WordWeb, ReadPlease 2003, Rough Draft, and Cayra.

Freedom Scientific Products - Freedom Scientific develops products that provide equal access to technology use for those students with vision impairments or learning disabilities.

AbleNet - This company provides products and services for adults and students with disabilities such as communication aids and access aids for successful and meaningful lives at school and at home.

Vendors for Software and Assitive Technology - This lnk provides a comprehensive list of companies that develop products such as software and assistive technology.

Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative - This program connects Delawareans who have disabilities with the tools they need to be successful and productive citizens. 

Use the following resources for available technology in your local community:

Georgetown Public Library - There is a Children's Early Literacy Computer at the Georgetown Public library available for young students with programs covering several subject areas. The programs can be played in Spanish or English. Contact the library for more information.

Rehoboth Beach Public Library - At the library in Rehoboth Beach, patrons with a Delaware library card are able to access the wireless internet for free. Contact the library for more information.

Javabyte Cafe - This internet cafe in Rehoboth Beach provides internet access to its customers. Call for more information.

WiFiCafeSpots - This resource provides a map identifying the local cafes with free wireless internet access. Use this map, to help locate these cafes in your local community.

A Glimpse into a Teacher's Survey - Digital Access

        This survey was designed for educators to evaluate their beliefs and current concerns about digital access within the classroom. Feel free to take this "Digital Access" survey from a parent perspective and/or ask your child's teacher to participate in the survey. Read a summary of the current results below.

Results from Digital Access Survey

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        According to the responses, it appears that there is a wide range of understanding of digital access and technology use within the classroom. However, it is apparent that teachers believe 100% of their students are emerged in some form of technology use throughout their lives. Most classrooms are similar in terms of number of students and number of computers in the classroom. The most common form of technology use within the classroom is the computer, while several teachers mentioned other emerging technology such as iPads, Smart responders, Smart Boards, and flip cameras. Another noteworthy point is the response to the question involving equal access for students and teachers. According to the responders, 71.4% believe all students have equal access while 28.6% do not. On the other hand, 100% of the teachers believe that all teachers have equal access. Finally, the most informative responses came when the responders shared their concerns. Training, lack of working technology or available technology and the integration of technology use daily were the main concerns about the teachers.  It is evident that students use technology and most teachers want to use technology with their students, but without the training and properly working technology, issues in terms of equal access and technology use will continue to impact the classroom.