South Carolina is near the back of the pack when it comes to households with home computers. A U.S. Census report released Monday of data collected in 2011 shows that more than 21 percent of South Carolinians do not have a home computer.
Dr. Edwin Dickey, Instruction and Teacher Education Director at the University of South Carolina College of Education says it is helpful for children’s learning to have access to the internet at home, however it does not have to actually be from a computer. Dickey says the report also indicates that many state households have use of smartphones with internet access.
“My conjecture is we shouldn’t be beating ourselves up necessarily just because we aren’t high in numbers in home computers, because I think the economics of our population makes the purchasing of a smartphone a better decision for technology than a computer.”
Nationally, South Carolina ranks significantly lower than others in home computer use, behind Mississippi and New Mexico. South Carolina is ahead of West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. However in the U.S., 48.2 percent of the 243.7 million people who are 15 and older have a smartphone and South Carolina’s average number of smartphone users mirrors the national average.
Dickey says using technologies like computers and other forms of electronic media allow youngsters to learn at their own pace. Dickey says in his field of mathematics, some teachers teach their way and others have figured out how to make the learning real for students. He says that is where technology can be an invaluable learning tool.
“Meeting the students where they are and letting them go through their own strengths; that’s where I see the importance of having access to technology” says Dickey, “possibly computers, but certainly the more innovative and more intuitive technologies that we are starting to see emerge now.”
Dickey says teachers struggle to overcome, yet, teach with current technologies and media which use short phrases and sound bites.
“The big challenge, says Dickey, is how do you create what I call the “intrinsic motivation” within the media to keep the child’s interest so that they will maybe spend an hour with a math problem because the things that matter don’t get done in two-minute sound bites.”
As information technologies evolve, Dickey envisions a classroom 20 years from now where youngsters are not sitting in a desk passively learning from lectures and the teacher will have a different role.
“Our classrooms are going to have the teacher increasingly be the manager of the learning and not the disseminator of the learning; and we’re going to see kids actively involved in tackling problems instead of passively listening.”