Bringing technology into the classroom awakens students to the world outside of it. A case study indicates that when technology is effectively implemented in schools, students become more engaged and are more likely to graduate; they attend more classes and gain marketable tech skills.
Today is Digital Learning Day, and it’s rightly underscoring those benefits. But in the day’s conversations about technology in the classroom, we must remember to talk just as much about the problems this digital learning push could cause if unfairly applied. A digital divide currently stands between our country’s rich and poor students, and it’s a divide that’s perpetuating the already-dangerous inequities these groups find in post-high school educational and career opportunities. Digital learning holds promise for our students, but in many ways it will be doing harm if problems of technological access aren’t solved.
Many teachers in low-income schools say they see the impacts of the digital divide all around them. In a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center, nearly 40% of these teachers say their school is “behind the curve” integrating technology as a learning tool, while only 15% that teach high-income students said the same thing. Also, more than 50% of teachers in low-income school’s report that a lack of resources among students to access digital learning is a “major challenge.”
That roughly translates into 5 million households with school-age children that don’t have high-speed Internet access at home, and that low-income households – particularly those that are black and Hispanic – are disproportionately represented in that number.
The limitations that come with that unequal digital access extends far beyond students’ classroom time. A student who hasn’t grown up with the Internet is likely to be excluded from employment in the tech sector, one of the most lucrative industries. And for a variety of reasons, that’s just what we’re seeing: a USA Today analysis in 2014 found that within seven Silicon Valley companies, only 2% of employees were black and 3% were Hispanic.
In other words, many members of the population that would most benefit from high-paying tech jobs are unlikely to get there, because of an experience (or lack of) that started back in grade school.
So how can we start to narrow this gap? Fortunately, Digital Learning Day 2016 is focused around exploring answers to that question. Throughout the day, live Twitter chats, webcasts, and Google Hangouts will engage experts in the topic of digital equity. A Federal Communication representative will talk about the agency’s proposal to support broadband access for low-income households and school districts serving poor populations will talk about various way in which they’ve tackled the digital divide.
Teacher training in digital tools will need to keep pace with these other forms of support, and groups like Code.org, a nonprofit founded in 2013, offer technology trainings to teacher and their students.
The promise of digital learning is real, and I know that every single professor at the University of San Francisco believes in it just as much as the next. But we need to insist on making sure that that promise is used not as a wedge to widen the gap between rich and poor students, but as a step in self-advancement – one wide enough to reach all students.
Read Article (Richard Greggory Johnson | huffingtonpost.com | 02/23/2016)
No one entity or individual can successfully take-on the Digital Divide, no matter how sincere or well-funded the effort. This cause requires everyone to step-up, to make a difference. As important as Digital Literacy, Digital Inequality, Diversity and Technological unemployment are, they are only categories within the Great Divide.
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