As Thornburg (2013b) stated, not only has the cost of flash drives dropped dramatically over the years, but their storage capacity has increased from MBs to GBs. However, considering the increasing usage of cloud storage, it is not surprising. Where a mere few years ago, cloud storage was seen as a trend, currently it has practically become a necessity replacing the need for flash drives (Thornburg, 2013b).
Google Apps are a user-friendly suite of cloud-based applications that Google offers to schools and educational institutions. Although, Google Drive is a great alternative to conventional flash drives. It allows access to documents from any Internet-connected computer without having to worry about software versions or compatibility. Since Google stores, all files centrally collaboration and management have been simplified allowing authorized users to monitor and edit documents. Files can be easily transferred or shared between users without technology conflicts creating a more collaborative teaching and learning environment. It also features communication and collaboration apps including a number of collaborative tools from an online word processor, a cloud-based presentation tool, and spreadsheets (EdTechTeacher Inc., 2016).
As Thornburg (2013b) stated, “…for this to work, one other trend needs to truly take hold – that os universal access to broadband Internet access.” (page 3). Reliable broadband Internet access is only part of the challenges that can be associated with using Google Apps in the classroom. Inequalities in education have existed over the decades despite the national educational policies and initiatives developed in the United States. The technology gap or “digital divide” in school systems was considered another component to the inequality in education. ‘First order’ digital divide is a gap in the physical access and application of computers and the Internet divided along demographic and socioeconomic lines. As a result, technology usage was higher among Caucasian Americans and upper-income households compared to African Americans and Latino Americans and lower income families (Valadez & Duran, 2007).
Mardis, Hoffman, & Marshall (2008) stated access to technology in schools does not always result in use, nor does use always result in enhanced instructional practices or learning outcomes. Bridging the ‘first level’ digital divide did not guarantee computer usage. The increase in computers and the Internet in schools has not decreased the gap leaving the ‘second level’ digital divide. Despite the training teachers have had; integration of technology in the classroom has made little progress. Research has indicated teachers with a majority population of Caucasian students are more likely to use computers and the Internet to engage students in creative, critical thinking lessons and activities. However, teachers with a high percentage of minority students are more likely to use computers and the Internet drill and practice activities and software application lessons.
The digital divide is not just the result of a failure of access to technology but a result of a misdistribution of skills, training, and opportunities. Teachers play a crucial role in extinguishing the digital divide and should take an active role in improving the conditions for students in the classroom by thinking more practically about how technology can contribute to student learning. School systems need to provide adequate teacher training on how to use computers and the Internet in more progressive pedagogically sound strategies to enhance teaching and learning for all students.
Adams (2008) reported, “the migration of online educational needs to tools like Google applications, coupled with the realization that today’s twenty-first-century students are digital natives who live their entire lives exposed to current technology, forces educators to find ways to use technology to enhance traditional curriculum” (p.96). As a result, educators need to find ways to use technology to enhance traditional curriculums. One effective, beneficial tool is the Web 2.0 tool, Google Apps. Google Apps includes several applications, Gmail, Docs, presentations, notebook, personalized homepage, Web pages, calendar, blogger, and talk. Educators must address the gap between students and teachers that occur cross-generationally in this technology age.
Image 1 Retrieved from http://edtechteacher.org/gafe/.
Adams, D. (2008). Gaga for google in the twenty-first century advanced placement language classroom. Clearing House, 82(2), 96-100.
EdTechTeacher Inc. (2016). GAFE [page]. Retrieved from http://edtechteacher.org/gafe/.
Mardis, M. A., Hoffman, E. S. & Marshall, T. E. (2008). A new framework for understanding educational digital library use: re-examining digital divides in the U.S. schools. International Journal on Digital Libraries, 8(2), 19-27. doi:10.1007/s00799-008-0035-z.
Thornburg, D. (2013b). Current trends in educational technology. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.
Valadez, J. R., & Duran, R. (2007). Redefining the digital divide: Beyond access to computers and the internet. The High School Journal, Feb/Mar 2007, 31-44.