Exploration of the Digital Divide: Phase 1

// Posted by on 04/21/2014 (6:24 PM)

Over the course of the semester, we have continuously observed and discussed how influential and, often times, imperative technology is in our current society.  Our culture is undoubtedly a digital one as the Internet and new technology are deeply ingrained into almost every aspect of our lives.  What I would like to continue to investigate for my final project is the role of technology in education, primarily in AmericaStudents in impoverished neighborhoods and who attend public community schools do not have even the most basic access to technology and the Internet.  Without technology, many of them are never able to learn what most of us take for granted: how to save a word document, how to choose a font, or how to properly format an essay.  In short, they are devoid of a kind of “common” knowledge that is seemingly necessary for survival in our digital age.  In turn, it these young adults are thrown into a world with a significant disadvantage.


-Considering the data above, is is apparent how low-income individuals have significantly less Internet access than their wealthy counterparts.  Without Internet access, these individuals tend to use the Web  for mostly entertainment purposes rather than online learning & educational opportunities.  

After many class discussions and course readings we have done throughout the semester, it has become apparent just how large of a gap there is in our society in regards online access.  This can be seen in especially in K-12 educationTechnology and the Internet have become so connected to our everyday lives, it seems almost impossible to successfully function in our world without them.  More than eighty percent of the Fortune 500 companies require online job applications, and even national chains like Foot Locker no longer allow potential employees to apply in person. With companies quickly beginning to digitize their application processes, it is/will continue to make it incredibly difficult for individuals without access to the Internet or a computer to have a fair chance of employment.

Furthermore, how is this affecting students’ education?  Without access to technology or the Internet, there is a world of knowledge and research that is completely absent from school curriculum.  The majority of students in high-poverty neighborhoods and schools do not have access to technology or the Internet at home or at school, let alone the mere knowledge of how to properly utilize the digital tools of the 21st Century.  Is this fair?  For me, the answer is no.  Most of the kids living in low-income households have parents who are working two or three jobs to make it by.  They are at an immediate disadvantage to their more affluent peers as they are not exposed to the many learning opportunities that other students have access to from an early age.  For many, technology is exciting, especially in education and something that needs to be incorporated into every classroom in America.

The knowledge of how to use technology and the Internet have indeed become a form of modern literacy and will only continue to become even more so.   High school students that do not have the opportunity to learn how to use it and feel comfortable in doing so are deprived of knowledge and opportunities that the majority of our generation has already developed.  Furthermore, this lack of access limits students from a whole world of knowledge and research that the Internet supports.  It seems as though doors are closed to them before they even know they exist.  I feel that, being a college student who has had unlimited access to technology and the Internet for the majority of my life, it is my responsibility to explore and understand the inequality that exists in our education system.  I think that a large part of my generation is ignorant to the fact of how many kids are without these digital privileges and how lucky we are to have had access to these mediums throughout our education.

By focusing on this particular topic, I hope to learn more about this issue and widen my perspective as well as help to educate my classmates and peers.  Phase 1 explores various opinions and stories on the “Digital Divide” in American Education and I would like to  further explore the technological gaps in our educational system and research more about the statistics and movements to make access to technology in schools a staple.  In Phase 2, I would like to continue to explore the ways in which technology affects students in the classroom.  Does it truly make a difference?  What methods are being used in high-poverty school districts?  What is realistic when thinking about changes we make in the future?  If we consider the ability to know how to use technology as a form of literacy, there all endless questions that arise.  Should all schools be required to provide their students with certain technology and access to the Internet?  What effect does it have on them if they do not?  Is it a human right for underage individuals in America to have this basic access?  For my final project, I will consult a variety of sources to delve deeper into the complexities and questions that this topic poses.

*A single assignment I would like for all of you to complete is to write a small piece on whether or not you think basic access to technology and the Internet should be considered a human right for students in grades K-12 in America.  If you do, please also include how you would contribute to solving the problem of the “Digital Divide” in the American education system (it can be anything you want…A small or big idea!)  I want to post your responses on my blog so be thoughtful & creative!

In responding to this question, keep in mind all of the way in which technology & the Internet effects one’s technical skills, web literacy, economic skills, and self-confidence!

**Email me your responses and any additional feedback you have on my blog so far (link below):

(Also, for some of my posts you need to click on the title to see my full entry…don’t know why)

Sources for Graphs:


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Emily said...

I am a bit torn. I don’t know if access to technology and the internet should be considered a human right, but maybe it should be thought of as a civil right. When it became apparent that so many people don’t have access to the internet, I think of it more as the government not ensuring all us citizens to have the ability to participate in issues of our country. Not having access to internet hinders their ability to do so. It’s almost a form of discrimination against poorer people because not having access to the intent now has the potential to interfere with every aspects of our lives (especially obtaining a job) which obviously further perpetuates the entire problem. Furthermore, it 100% interferes in every way that you mentioned: technical skills, web literacy, economic skills as well as self confidence. If you don’t have access to internet, you cannot achieve web literacy→you cannot develop proper technical skills to obtain a job and therefore your situation seems helpless. If you cannot obtain a job, self-esteem definitely plateaus and the stress booms. It’s a deathly cycle. However, if there was a way to grant all access to every citizen would the government do it? It would cost tons of money and there are very remote areas in our country that even if they wanted access they couldn’t have access without establishing an intricate electrical system. My only current solution is to make the government pay for it…. Which I know may involve an increase in taxes….

// 04/21/2014 at 10:07 pm

Molly said...

I definitely think that basic access to technology and the Internet is a education essential at this juncture. I think technology has consistently become more and more integral in the classroom and I worry that if kids aren’t introduced at an early age and learn how to use it, they will be at a great disadvantage. In order to contribute to finding a solution to the “digital divide” I think its something that at this point only the government has the power and financial means necessary to facilitate these changes in classroom. We need the government to step in, establish rules and distribute funds in order to make classrooms, especially in the public educational system to help them all function at the same level, with the same tools nationwide. Education is SO important, and the foundation to the future of our country and I do not think socioeconomic status should be the reason any child misses an opportunity or is disadvantaged. I also think this digital divide in the classroom illustrates a small but SIGNIFICANT part of a greater issue we are seeing in America. The growing socioeconomic divide in general is extremely debilitating in more ways then one (health care, education, employment etc.) and is something that needs more attention on the political agenda.

// 04/21/2014 at 10:26 pm

Alexandra said...

I think your project dives into a very interesting topic, one that is greatly going to affect future generations of students. The integration of technology into the classroom setting has been happening gradually ever since I can remember. From having to take computer class to learn to type in elementary school, to using Smartboards in middle school, to my first personal laptop, and then having to take a freshman “technology” class in high school. Technology has been a present force throughout my entire education.

I agree that those who are unable to gain access to the same technological means are greatly disadvantaged due to the expectations that teachers and the education system has to today of what student’s should be able to do. I think if I told a teacher today that I couldn’t complete my assignment on time because I couldn’t gain access to a computer, they wouldn’t believe me. And honestly, that wouldn’t be true. There are computers in our school library and in public libraries, but the level of convenience provided by a personal computer is so much greater than that of a public computer is incomparable. I agree that this is a major issue in the field of education, but honestly I do not believe it is a human right.

If you read the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the language just does not lend itself to concepts of technology. The Declaration calls for all humans to be born free and equal in dignity and right. Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security. I think that the inclusion of Internet access among these rights we hold sacred is a disservice to our nation. This sounds to me to like a step toward the blending of technology and human beings. As we move into the future, we need to separate the idea of individuality and human beings and the necessity we place on technology. While I do think that the technology is quickly being engrained into the educational system and that the inability to gain access to technology is incredible damaging to our culture and society, I do not think that this is something we can claim as a human right, or even imagine implementing as a human right.

// 04/22/2014 at 12:44 pm

Kevin said...

I believe that this digital divide has great affects on education because individuals who do not have home access to internet are at a major disadvantage to those who do. And furthermore, since most college applications are completely online in this day and age, individuals without basic computer knowledge are almost immediately disqualified from being able to apply to most colleges. In fact, we are even beginning to see this in more mainstream, non-academic jobs. FootLocker, for example, does not accept in store applications. Instead, all applicants must apply from a portal online, which places individuals who have not been educated in computer technology at a great disadvantage.

However, when you asked the question, “is this fair?” I found myself at a loss regarding how to answer at first. This is mainly because I think that within a capitalistic society there are always going to be people who are worse off than others. So although it is not favorable for these individuals, I can’t necessarily say that the right to internet access is an inalienable right. Thus, no, it is not “fair” that some people have lesser opportunities to become computer literate, but access to technology is not necessarily a right.

As a result, I suggest that we make efforts to provide cheaper internet services to a larger range of people. Take a look at the article I found below, which discusses how greater competition within cable companies would produce cheaper internet that would be accessible to more people.

I think this study aligns well with Alexandra’s in the sense that we see once again how prices need to be driven down for more people to get a “fair” opportunity to become computer literate. However, as the article I attached suggests, we will never reach that point if we do not find a way to create greater competition within cable companies pricing.

// 04/24/2014 at 12:08 pm

Eliza said...

While reading the first section of your Phase 1, I had no idea about the statistic regarding Fortune 500 companies. The fact that eighty percent of those applications are online is completely unfair to me. I take the stance that the Internet is not a human right, however in order to further your career access to potential job opportunities needs to be fair. Foot Locker cannot just abandon the “in-person” application process. That is eliminating many job applicants from the running.
I believe that all schools above 5th grade need to have computers present in their schooling system. The world we live in today, these students are at incredible disadvantages not having access to the Internet when several other students their age do. I agree with your argument that technology makes things that much more exciting. If you give these kids something fun and interactive to do to learn certain lessons, they will retain it so much more than having a teacher stand there and yell at them about it. I believe it should be a right to grant access to let every education system no matter their location with Internet and computers. These children need computers in this day and age to have opportunities in the future and make it the brightest it can be.

// 04/26/2014 at 10:51 pm

Claire said...

I think this is an incredibly vague area. What constitutes technology? Is it the internet? Ipads? Cellphones? There is no doubt that will holding the latest technology puts students at a disadvantage from other students however it is still unclear to me where we draw the line and say it is a human right. We also need to determine at what age technology becomes a right. Is it unfair for all kindergarteners to not have computers or can we wait to provide that to them when they are in middle school. I think we need to focus on the deep-rooted issue in the U.S’s education system, mainly the poor quality of the teachers and lack of focus on science and math before we can start to determine which technologies are a human right. This is a relevant and important issue in today’s society and it is unclear what consequences the digital divide will have U.S society today. It should definitely be on every educators mind however with so many issues in today’s education I do feel providing the same materials in school should be first.

// 04/28/2014 at 12:33 pm