Have you ever wondered if ed tech is increasing the digital divide?
Educational technology has improved schools in countless ways, but it doesn’t come without drawbacks. One of these is the digital divide. Is ed tech increasing the digital divide? I watch social media closely and it’s my job to share some of the hot topics on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other outlets that teachers, principals, students, and parents are contributing.
The digital divide is the difference between the amount of access people have to technology, with some groups having nearly unlimited access to technology and the Internet, while others have little or no access. There are many factors included in the divide such as availability of wi-fi and online access, understanding how to use technology, having access to a device that can connect to the Internet, and resources available that can help someone work through a technological issue just to mention a few. The more the world relies on technology, the bigger the divide becomes.
The schoolroom isn’t an exception to this. MindShift posted an article from the New York Times on how the digital divide is affecting students as schools become increasingly more reliant on technology. The area the article focuses on is homework. As more and more homework requites Internet access, students without decent online access are struggling to complete classroom requirements. The article discusses students who do their homework on the school sidewalk, tapping into the school’s wi-fi on the family iPhone because they don’t have the data plan at home to support their homework requirements, along with and other similar situations and stories.
Schools and students have found ways to work around the divide. Schools have added wi-fi to buses, letting students take longer routes if they need to so they have longer access to wi-fi. Students have also visited fast food restaurants and other places with wi-fi in order to work around their low access at home. The government is also trying to step in, but there are skeptics seeing how similar efforts to lessen the digital divide by the government have been unsuccessful and often abused in the past.
Obviously, the solution isn’t to stop using the Internet or technology. Progress can’t and shouldn’t be stopped. Technology has helped the classroom in uncountable ways, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t drawbacks we should keep in mind. While dealing with the issue on a large scale might be out of our individual reach, we can help students on a one-to-one level. If you see a student struggling with online access, try to arrange something with them to help out.
What are some ways you would help a student struggling with online access? Do you think the digital divide will get worse as we rely more on technology, or that others will catch up?
Tori Pakizer is the Social Media Editor at SimpleK12.com. She writes regularly about the use of educational technology in K-12 classrooms, and specializes in how teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media. You can follow Tori and SimpleK12 on Twitter @SimpleK12. If you have ideas for using social media in schools, please send your information or tip to firstname.lastname@example.org.