A study by Pew Research surveyed teachers on the use of digital technology in the classroom and at home. It revealed surprising opinions from teachers about their students. While most teachers agree that the internet and digital devices help students learn, but there could be a larger concern at hand.
In the study, 81% of teachers expressed that students have access to the proper digital tools in school. That means, most teachers, those with and without their masters in education, believe almost all students have access to technology in schools. However, for schools that are not funded well or lack investment in technology, a divide begins to show. Clearly, the students at schools investing in technology are believed to be at an advantage (and rightfully so).
Technology At Home
But, what about at home? Okay, so there might not be enough computer labs or laptop carts at the high school, do they have the tools available at home? About 72% of teachers believe that most or almost all their students have access to technology at home. These students are also believed to have an advantage over students lacking in the proper tools at home.
Here is the good news. If most students have access to technology at home, and there are some that do not, there should be enough capacity to make up for it in school. So far, we are doing pretty well.
Varied Access Creates Digital Divide
Teachers are still concerned about student access to newer digital technologies. While some students are quick to show the the latest iPhone or tablet in their backpacks, a minority of other students do not have access to the newest devices for media monitoring. Teachers believe this creates a digital divide in schools.
Dropping Prices Helps Accessibility
Is this a legitimate concern? Sure, most would agree that some privileged students get the new toys first. But overall the cost of devices are dropping, creating more access to everyone. Even more importantly, all these devices access the same digital content online. It does not really matter if one device is a little faster than the others, the access is there.
Digital Tools Causing Greater Disparities
Surprisingly, a whopping 84% of teachers agree that digital tools are causing greater disparities between students. Others might think that digital tools for classroom learning are actually closing the gap between between students, providing access to everyone. They would cite examples of the democratization of learning like college courses being uploaded online for free or concepts readily available on wikipedia. In the past, students had to have access to libraries, tutors or learning centers to access the same information. That required increased family support, time and resources after school. Today, students just need access to the web, leveling the playing field for everyone.
One unexpectedly positive influence on the digital divide is the widespread use of smartphones. Smartphones have helped to bridge the digital divide because they provide internet access to marginalized communities. These communities were previously at a significant digital disadvantage. Recent studies indicate that smart phone owners in certain groups use this breakable technology as their primary method of accessing the internet. These groups include young adults, minorities, those with no college experience and those with low household income levels. Thankfully, the digital divide is one area that smartphones have actually improved.
When looking at the recent data released by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, it becomes shockingly clear how much the digital divide is effected by one’s geographic location. Internet adoption for educational purposes has become commonplace in highly-populated urban cities, like New York, New Jersey, Seattle and Los Angeles. However in rural, southern cities and towns, adoption rates are still incredibly low, with less than 60% of schools having technology in the classroom in states like Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina. Clearly, the digital divide has uncovered another problem area: the urban/rural divide.
What do you think? Was the original teacher survey on digital tools too small of a sample? Would you agree that digital divide is greater now? We would love to hear from everyone.
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