Considering this, I realize that while my students typically come from very affluent backgrounds with no shortage of technology, they suffer from being on the wrong side of the digital divide. This is especially true when it comes to technology used for something other than gaming or social interaction. It often seems to me that as soon as a new technology comes along to help educate students, they develop a mental block that prevents them from being able to intuitively “figure it out” in the same way they process a game or a social media site. In order to bridge this divide so that students have access and knowledge, teachers must push students to think more, to research more, to be more willing to experiment. Knowledge comes best when gained authentically through an active experience rather than taught in a sterile environment and learned passively.
Of course, if the technology is not available, then it becomes even more of a challenge to limit the effects of the digital divide. When a school has the available resources, it can “allocate resources by allowing students to take home digital devices, thus providing family members with access to computers and software (Hohlfield, 2010).” In these cases, schools should also consider the allocation of personnel to assist families with the technology, as again, it is not enough to have technology if one does not know what to do with it. Without the additional instruction that may available to students from a higher socioeconomic background whose parents use technology frequently, students from a lower SES will remain in place. This was found to be true in a study cited by Barron, which stated, “Even when children have similar levels of home access to computers, those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to experience educational gains from the resource than children from lower SES backgrounds (2010).”
So what is to be done to ensure an equitable access to technology that also bridges this new definition of the digital divide? In my mind, the answer is clear: teachers must keep doing as they have long done. They must do their best to help students fight their own dragons by equipping them with the most powerful sword of all: knowledge. While it is clear that “that there must be ongoing work to address both the digital divide and the newer “app gap” to ensure that the benefits of this exciting new educational content reach those most in need (Rideout, 2011)”, teachers must continue to educate all students on the best uses of technology. As students experience more, do more, and create more, they will also learn more and thus ensure their eventual success.
Barron, B. (2009, July 24). Predictors of creative computing participation and profiles of experience in two silicon valley middle schools. Computers & Education, (54), 178-189.
Common Sense Media. (2011). Zero to eight children's media use in America. Common Sense Media.
Hohlfeld, T. (2010, February 05). Connecting schools, community, and family with ict: Four-year trends related to school level and sense of public schools in Florida. Computers & Education, (55), 391-405.