Digital Divide

In our most recent reading of Chapter 10-1, our question asks us, “Beyond simply providing access to computer hardware and software, how should educators and policy makers concerned with closing the digital divide proceed?”

Jennifer S. Light says that, “For instance, some researchers approach the digital divide as a purely racial issue, while others combine race and socioeconomic status in their analysis.” She also says that especially in the United States, we don’t pause before assume that the digital divide will shrink if we just make it more readily available to people; that we think that educationally, socially, and economic inequalities will be eliminated. She also brings forth statistics that show that back in the 1970s and 1980s when handheld calculators were brought into the classroom. People thought that if would greatly increase performance  on standardized testing among all students. The results were quite the opposite. “Inequalities in outcomes for students, what really matters, did not substantially change, despite access to calculators.”

The question to be asked then is, even if we continue to increase access to computers and to technology as a whole, will that do anything to help close the digital divide, or is it simply that some people just don’t want to deal with technology?

My conclusion is that you cannot force people to go and learn new things about technology if they don’t want to. However, allowing more teachers and students to use media in the classroom setting ,instead of telling them not to, is a step in the right direction.

As Light says, “Historically, powerful political and commercial interests have shaped the ultimate form uses of technology. This profit orientation helps to explain why cable and other media have not realized their potential as broadly educational tools, particularly for self-improvement beyond the classroom…Without more prominent contributions from the education community, there is little reason to believe that the trend will be reversed.”

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