Digital Divide

Definition: 

Technology is an amazing tool used in all aspects of our daily lives; however as with anything “new”, resistance arises. Digital divide is defined as “an economic inequality between groups, broadly construed, in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies” according to Wikipedia.

Problem and Solution:

Many factors contribute to digital divide, those being primarily economics and education.  As I was reading various articles during this project, I was immediately inundated with statistics.  Children whose family income is under $20,000 are less likely to have access to technology outside of school.  Those children who are from homes where the annual income is greater than $75,000 have a distinct advantage over those with less.  Regardless of the economic status of their families, students who are provided with real-world learning situations will benefit from the integration of technology in school.  So where does the real problem arise?  Maybe we should look within ourselves.

Being an educator is not an easy job.  The stresses of daily classroom life can quickly overwhelm even the most seasoned teacher.  The children in our schools are often victims of circumstance, but we must ask ourselves, “What can I do to make a difference?”  First off do not be afraid to take learning to the next level.  Learning never stops.  The next level is simple, actively participate.  Yes, stepping out of the box is spooky but just take that step.  Start small by learning how to integrate text, photos, video, and audio into daily lessons.  Will there be speed bumps?  Absolutely!  Some of the best lessons learned are from mistakes.

As educators do we always continue to better ourselves for the benefit of our students or do we become complacent?  Ask yourself, “Am I an integral part of the digital divide?”  Find ways to break this trend.  Teaching is a consuming occupation both physically and mentally.  Exercise is the answer.  By continuing to improve our skills through professional development we will slowly begin to fill the divide and even out the inequality.  On-line classes provide one solution.  Readily available and usually adaptable to any schedule, the only barrier is the individual.  Once skills have been mastered, share the knowledge with other teachers and staff.  One of them may be inspired to follow in your footsteps.  Collaboration is a valuable tool to diminishing our contribution to this issue.  Will it completely solve the problem?  Probably not, however if educators do not actively engage themselves in finding a solution it will only fester.

Are teachers the only catalyst in digital divide?  No, many other factors weigh in.  Household demographics, geographic location, race, physical and mental disabilities are also major parts of this equation.  Challenge yourself to become part of the solution and not another wedge in the divide.  Don’t resist change.

Reflection:

I honestly did not know where to begin with this project.  After reading numerous articles and journal entries, my head was spinning with statistics.  Narrowing my focus down was difficult since I could go in many different directions.  I actually drafted and smoothed up two presentations and then after a rather difficult and frustrating staff meeting, created a third.  The first two were filled with statistics and solutions that I really had very little control over.  The third and one listed above however is a different story.

Nothing frustrates me more than those who will find fault with every new idea presented.  I understand that not everything is perfect but if you allow yourself to get stuck in a rut, life will pass you by. The same goes for education.  Technology is happening now!  We must educate ourselves in order to educate our students.  If one is unable or unwilling to authentically utilize technology in the classroom, then what good are we doing our students?  We become part of the divide and help facilitate the inequality.  Aren’t the other contributing factors enough?  I quit and I can’t are two of the easiest phrases to use.  I challenge my students to say “I won’t quit” and “I can”, shouldn’t we do the same?

As you can probably tell, I get angry with people who find fault with everything and do nothing to find a solution.  So, I will continue to learn, share with my colleagues, and keep my comments to myself.  I will integrate as much as possible into my classes being careful to not step over the line.  My students deserve every opportunity I can provide them with and that includes taking them into the 21st century, not living in the past.

Annotated Bibliography: 

Gibbs, M., Dosen, A., & Guerrero, R. (2009). Bridging the digital divide. Urban Education, 44, 1, 11-29.  doi: 10.1177/0042085908318528

I was fortunate to locate an article that reflects what I have witnessed during the past five years I have been teaching.  Coming from a twenty-two year career in the Navy, I am very familiar with training and the importance of it in the daily performance of a job.  I have been more than a little frustrated at the lack of professional development.  This article confirms the importance of professional development and the effect it has on students.  Training must be made available for educators of all levels of experience.  Schools where technology is not readily available and maintained are contributing to the digital divide.  The purpose of Bridging the Digital Divide Programs is to help begin to fill in the gap that exists in our schools.  By increasing both teacher and student access to the internet, all will benefit greatly.  Teachers must take the time to attend workshops in order to gain necessary knowledge to share with the students.

Livingstone, S., & Helsper, E. (2007). Gradations in digital inclusion: children, young people and the digital divide. New Media & Society, 9, 4, 671-696.  doi:  10.1177/1461444807080335

Focusing on internet access, both in the classroom and at home, this article states that middle-class children have obviously more access than their less fortunate peers.  Limited access accounts for the major factor in lack of use. Another factor to consider is that many parents are concerned with internet safety and impose strict parental controls.  Many parents are also deficient in the skills necessary to assist their children with internet usage.   In order for children to become proficient users of the internet, it is important for them to have authentic access.  The classroom provides an equal opportunity for students of all socio-economic groups’ access to technology.

Images are from Clipart

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