What is the Digital Divide's Impact on Learning
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES, 2007), school Internet connectivity has grown from 35% in 1994 to 100% in 2005, while classroom connectivity—what counts most for instructional purposes—has increased from 3% in 1994 to 90% in 2005. While these increases in access to the Internet are significant and laudable, a study conducted in 2004 and published by A Nation Online revealed that Asian American and Caucasian households were more likely to be online than black households who in turn were more likely to be online than Latino households. Until meaningful ways to bridge this digital divide are identified and implemented, the positive impact of technology on learning will be limited to those with the greatest access.
In an article titled “The Gap” (2006), Carvin states that 2006 marks the ten-year anniversary of the digital divide.
Rewind to 1996: Middle-class Americans were just beginning to explore the possibilities of the Internet as a tool for education, civic engagement, and entertainment. Yet less affluent citizens, lacking the necessary skills and exposure, did not enjoy the same access to these opportunities. (p. 1)
His research data support this conclusion. Carvin found that nearly nine out of 10 households in which someone has attained graduate-level education were online. In contrast, less than one in five households (16%) of people without a high school diploma had Internet access.
This gap in access to technology is seen throughout the research literature. Wilhelm, Carmen, and Reynolds (2002) present a bleak picture of this lack of access:
In 2001, 83 percent of non-Hispanic white children lived in households with computers, compared to only 46 percent of black children and 47 percent of Hispanic children....There are similar gaps in access to the Internet at home. Based on data collected in 2001, 50 percent of non-Hispanic white children were able to connect to the Internet at home, compared to only 25 percent of black children and 20 percent of Hispanic children. (p. 4)
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