The Digital Divide Goes to School

As of late, I have been enamored with infographics—the epitome of “a picture is worth a thousand words.” So, beginning this week and running indefinitely, I will be posting infographics that have caught my eye and made me think.

The inaugural infographic comes from an information brief from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development with the original link for the pdf here. Take a look and then let’s chat:

Recently, @digitalmaverick posted this question on Twitter, and I think it makes a pretty important point:

In era in which innovation and constant change are the norm with digital technologies, the access to and experience with digital devices, broadband Internet and composing softwares is paramount. In this infographic, ASCD not only proposes the digital divide in terms of individuals, but schools in comparison to, I assume, industry and business.

What does it mean for students’ digital literacy when the most use of the Internet by teachers is assigning homework and practice? I italicized assigning here, because it does not say that students are being asked to do homework digitally. Rather this is the venue to assign homework. What does it mean when 41% of school leaders are reducing funding for professional development and 60% are delaying upgrades? In our book, Developing Writers, we review the mixed reports about digital access and experience, and one particular point seems pertinent here: Wells and Lewis (2006) reported that 1994 to 2005 the number of school classrooms in the US with computer and Internet access increased from 3% to 94%. Still, schools are notoriously print-centric and paper-centric. And with the report from ASCD, it seems that the digital divide between the lives of our students in and out of school is only growing. Compounded to this is the reality that for many students, ASCD reports 32%, school is their one means to digital devices, broadband Internet and composing software. We haven’t even started on equity issues.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a slideshow from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, a project definitely worth checking out, if you haven’t already. It is a nice pairing with the ASCD report to consider the digital lives of youth in and out of school.

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4 thoughts on “The Digital Divide Goes to School”

  1. I think that soon the resistance to new technology will fade as the computeraphobics and technophobics retire away.

    1. Good point, Amy, but by then we will have a new technology to fear. I remember being in either 3rd or 6th grade (I was in the same building for both of those years, so I can’t remember which) and we had a “Say No to TV” Week. Apparently, TV was the end of our young scholarly lives. I wonder if technophobia develops as we tire of learning new things…And in this day and age in our rapidly advancing science and socially-organized media, that is every couple of months!

  2. As a first grade teacher, I have seen even my young students respond favorably to technology. They seemed to come wired to learn this way. I think most teachers are committed to being life long learners who want to keep abreast of advances in technology and ways in which their students could benefit from incorporating new technology into their classrooms. There does seem to be limited training in this area, though, and I would love to see that change.

  3. Haha, I remember the “Say No to TV” campaign. I laugh at the thought! Asking kids (and adults!) to unplug is so difficult now, but increasingly so because much of what is required of their lives includes technology. Embracing this new norm is an important step to helping students navigate technology and finding their voice in the world. What an amazing and powerful experiences we can have through the use of the internet. Connecting to ideas and people different from ourselves is an opportunity I did not have even as a college student (I still consider myself young, but graduated in ’98:). Every bit of research and papers I wrote were through very little use of the internet, if any at all, and word processors were still in great use. But tonight, I connect with people across the country and around the world to share ideas and thoughts.

    I would love to see teachers use the internet and technology in an authentic way–rather than just sharing an assignment through an email and saying they use “technology” in the classroom, but maybe through blogging and commenting and responding to ideas, thoughts, and concepts.

    And by the way, I think that technophobia is the exact opposite of tiring of learning new things. Rather, it is the fear that new things might be required to learn how to use that technology. I am finding with my students and my own children that the internet is a powerful way to learn and grow. Only on my iPhone can I Google where and when the Revolutionary War began and have an answer literally at my fingertips.

    Being able to type and change or edit my words with the click of a button is an amazing experience if you happen to be from an era in which typing your “final draft” was truly the last thing you did on a paper because changing anything at all would require a retype of the entire document. Technology has increased my awareness of my world and my ability to learn and change. I expect it will continue to do so for me and millions of others for years to come!

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