Pete Roythorne gets to grips with bridging the digital divide
No matter how confident you get with the use of ICT in the classroom, there's one thing that will not go away - the so-called digital divide.
While the percentage of school children with access to home computers and broadband internet connections is growing, there are still those that have no such benefits. These children will always be disadvantaged as we continue with plans to further embed ICT in our education system.
According to the latest figures quoted by the e-Learning Foundation, 1.4 million children don't have access to a computer outside school and 2.5 million don't have access to the internet.
A 1:1 pupil to computer ratio is fundamental to the Government's plans for ICT in the curriculum.But what's the point of having all this clever technology if not everyone has access to it? This will only lead to more children being disadvantaged.
People are pinning their hopes on many types of technology to address this problem - whether that be the use of handheld devices (www.handheldlearning.co.uk) or developments, such as the $100 laptop conceived by Nicholas Negroponte, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (laptop.org). However, as yet nothing has clearly come to the fore.
There are lots of schemes to help parents afford PCs. One such programme in Manchester enables families to buy reconditioned PCs for about pound;100, and some tower blocks have free wireless broadband. There are also schemes involving parents paying what they can afford to help their school's laptops fund.
To find out what you can do to help, contact your local authority or discover what other schools are doing locally. You could also: * set up a computer loans system; * offer a computer leasing service; * use fundraising events to help buy more computers; * run after-school and lunchtime computer clubs to help those that don't have home access; * open a community ICT centre; * join the e-Learning Foundation (www.e-learningfoundation.com), a charity targeting the magic 1:1 ration. It has launched Equity (Equal Opportunities in IT for Young People), a nationwide campaign to increase awareness among schools of the practical steps they can take to address the problem.
There are also options for recycling or reusing older computers. Computer recycling organisations such as Free Computers for Education (www.free-computers.org) or Recycle IT! (www.recycle-it.ltd.uk) can be a good source of cheaper computers. Alternatively, you might want to look at setting up links with local businesses for sponsorship or to receive their older machines.
The digital divide matters, because good access to ICT at home has been proven to influence educational outcomes.