Is there a digital divide in our schools?
This is an important question that has to be addressed by the leaders in school districts throughout the nation. Before we get into the importance of the digital divide in schools, what is the digital divide? A digital divide is the gap between different demographics and regions in the world that have access to technology and those who doesn’t. According to the Pew Research Center, 75% of American homes have internet and broadband access. This is a great improvement over the last 20 + years. For every student to be successful for the 21st century global economy, we have to address two questions:
1. How do we assist those students who don’t have internet access to obtain the proper access to broadband?
2. How to we teach our students how to use the technology as a way to create and not just to consume (entertainment)?
ISTE Standard # 1 “states that we have to make sure that every student is an empowered learner”. According to Mary Beth Hertz who is an art/ technology teacher in Philadelphia, there is an entertainment vs empowerment divide. Today, most students have smartphones, partially due to accessibility; with cellphone providers providing unlimited data for cheaper prices than ever before, the access is there. In addition, schools are pushing towards 1:1 initiatives to create equity in technology, but is this enough? Are we simply putting a device in front of a child and assuming they know how to use it?
There is a difference between using the device and using the device to empower learning and to teach students how to be creators and innovators! As educators in the 21st century, it is our duty to make sure that we are including digital citizenship in our curriculum and providing our student the tools to not only use their devices as entertainment, but to create and innovate.
In addition, school leaders have to recognize that putting a device in front of a child is not enough and not every student “knows” how to use the device. Once school leaders recognize that there is a new digital divide, we can take the proper steps to address it.