Bridging the Digital Divide in Our Schools

Laura Chris Green, Ph.D.

We cannot achieve excellence in education without equity. Every student needs adequate access to instructional resources and support services in order to achieve academically. Nowhere is this truer than in the area of instructional technology. Students who do not have access to computers and the Internet (among other technologies) will get further and further behind their peers who do. They will miss the instant links to information, entertainment, and communication with others that luckier students have. Their school reports will lack the latest data and the professional look of high resolution graphics and desktop publishing. And these students potentially will miss out on the 70 percent of jobs that require moderate or high amounts of computer knowledge, all of which pay well (Linn, 1999). They probably will end up in that 10 percent of low-paying jobs that do not require technical expertise.

This article summarizes the most current data about the digital divide regarding those students who need the most support – those who are poor, minority or limited-English-proficient (LEP). It looks first at the data for the U.S. population in general, because having access to technology in the home is as important as having access at school. This article presents data regarding access in school, focussing on quantity issues in terms of hardware, software, and Internet access as well as on quality issues in terms of how technology is used with these students and how teachers are prepared for technology integration. It concludes with recommendations on how to lessen the divide based on a review of the literature and the author’s numerous years of experience in working with bilingual, English as a second language (ESL), and mainstream program teachers on integrating technology into instruction in high poverty and high minority schools.

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