Closing The Digital Divide Thesis Statement

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Education and the Digital Divide

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Education and the Digital Divide

Closing the digital divide involves many components, starting with the education program and teachers. While schools are integrating new technologies into their programs, teachers are supposed to keep up with the latest technologies and use them in their curriculum to teach students. According to a U.S. Department of Education Report (1999), only 24 percent of new teachers felt sufficiently prepared to integrate technology into the curriculum they were using (Brogan, 2000). The problem is, many teachers did not grow up with computers and are not receiving the training they need to operate them (Brogan, 2000). Starting work as early as 7 a.m. and leaving school as late as 5 p.m. to go home and do even more work, leaves teachers lacking the time to learn new technological skills. Many schools offer training programs for teachers. For example, the Palm Beach County, Florida school district teaches Web basics for teachers at middle schools and magnet schools (Brogan, 2000). This is a great idea because it is giving teachers the opportunity to learn about technology and it is showing that the school district is interested in helping its employees become better at what they do.

Andy Carvin states “ internet access in schools isn’t worth a hill of beans if teachers aren’t prepared to take full advantage of technology” (2000). Schools spend a lot of money on computer hardware and software as well as other technologies without realizing that many of their employees are unprepared to include them in their teaching and use them to their advantages. Educators often use technology as a classroom management tool rather than an educational one, allowing computer time as a reward for good behavior (Clark & Gorski, 2001). The problem with this is that students learn to use the computer for games and such because it is their reward instead of using it on their own time for educational purposes. This is teaching them the wrong idea. Margaret Honey, director of the Center for Children and Technology in NYC said it best, “The bottom line is, you don’t just put technology into schools or into homes and expect miracles to happen. The technology is only as good as the program that surrounds it” (Meyer, 2002, p.2).

“Education is probably the most important issue that affects the ability to benefit from technology.

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Unless people can read and understand what they find on the Internet, all the computers and networks in the world won’t be of much use” (Arrison, 2002, p.2).
Literacy is a major problem around the world. One in four Americans are illiterate (Carvin, 2000). Forty four million Americans do not have the reading and writing skills necessary to take advantage of many opportunities, including the use of technologies (Hudman, 2002). Literacy has to be tackled at the most basic level in order to afford more people the opportunity to use technology effectively (Carvin, 2000). Teaching people to read should be the number one priority over computer training. Lavonne Luavis, president of Latino Link suggests, “What hurts Latino’s and African Americans is poor education, it’s not about Internet access; if people don’t know how to read and write, that’s a huge problem” (Nickell, 1998, p.2).

The Digital Divide and Minorities

The digital divide is the latest challenge in multicultural education’s struggle toward closing the larger gap in equity (Clark & Gorski, 2001). Many people believe that the "Digital Divide" does not exist such as Secretary of the State Colin Powell, who states, "I think there is a Mercedes divide, I would like to have one, but I can't afford one" (Hamilton, 2001, p.4). Black colleges believe in the digital divide and are trying to close this gap between them and other colleges. They have provided access to computer networking campus wide. Many of the campuses have built computer labs fully equipped with brand new laptops. Black colleges are also teaching computer learning classes to both students and teachers. This will not only benefit the students but the teachers as well, enabling them to become better educators. A few teachers are even giving out assignments as well was projects that require computer usage. Some black colleges are even go as far as hosting conferences about the digital divide on their campuses to try to educate other colleges and universities. Black colleges are doing as much as possible to increase their advancements with technology. In the past two years, African Americans have been entering the digital age at a faster rate than any other ethnic group (Cochran, 2002).

“Students of color, students who speak English as a second language, working-class students, female students, and students with disabilities are most often encouraged to use computers and the Internet in what is commonly termed a “skills and drills” manner” (Clark & Gorski, 2001, p.3). “Computers are most often employed by white students, native speakers of English, upper-middle class students, and students without disabilities to cultivate creative thinking abilities “ (Clark & Gorski, 2001, p.3). Minorities seem to have the most trouble catching up with today’s technology.

By 2000, 49.6 percent of the worldwide Internet users were first language speakers of English despite the fact that they make up only 5.3 percent of the world’s total population ((Gorskil, 2000). What about the other 94.7 percent of the world? This is a problem in that Internet producers are not making programs for non-native English speaking people. This is why so many people across the world are without computers. They do no understand English, so how can they use a computer written by English speaking people. Many minorities don’t have access to computers and if they do, many are unable to read. Many families are unable to afford computers or cannot find ways of transportation to facilities that have open computer labs. Because of these reasons and more, when whites and African Americans do not have a computer in the home, whites are still more likely to use the computer (Conyers & King, 2002).

Digital Divide and Jobs

By 2000, only 22 percent of households with annual incomes of less than $15,000 had home computers; 86.3 percent with incomes of more than $75,000 had them (Clark & Gorvski, 2001). Many in the high percentile even have multiple computers in their household. In 1999, 39 percent of classrooms in school with high concentrations of poverty had Internet access while 74 percent of classrooms in schools with lower levels of poverty had already had Internet by this time (Clark & Gorvski, 2001). This shows schools with less poverty stricken students seem to be able to afford more computers and Internet access.

These days it is becoming almost mandatory for people to have access to online resources to look for jobs, to participate in civic activities, and to further their own education (Nickell, 1998). Many of today’s jobs require working with computers, and for people without this knowledge, the jobs become scarcer. “Over 60 percent of today’s jobs require technology skills. Lack of access to the tool’s of today’s workplaces leads those without that technology to be stuck in place, to never be able to make enough money to afford the technology and training they would make employment in areas requiring the use of technology even possible” (Riverdeep, 2002, p.1).

Those that have technology can use the technology to make more money and buy more or better technology (Riverdeep, 2002). Technology is a wonderful thing when everyone has a chance to experience it. No one person should be segregated from technology; everyone should have an opportunity to use it. Computers can be very helpful. You can do a wide variety of activities on the computer such as shop, talk, write letters, and even find directions to places. There are a million possibilities.

Dyslexic students can use visual and auditory support mechanism offered by computers to help them learn, students with remedial reading skills can find text-to-speech programs to help them improve their word recognition skills, and software that employs extensive audio features can help second language learners master vocabulary, grammar, and subject matter (Brogan, 2000). Web skills that children acquire in the classroom even the elementary school classroom could one day translate into high paying jobs (Brogan, 2000).

Conclusion

The purpose of this research paper was to explore the ramifications of the digital divide upon a diverse population. We have seen how the digital divide affects teachers, students, and minorities as well as people in the community. Ramon Harris, director of the Technology Transfer Project at the Executive Leadership Foundation concludes, “Most of us are still thinking that the digital divide is about computers, but it’s not just about computers, it is about information technology-who has access to it, who owns its, who can exploit its full potential, who profits from it, whether educationally or economically. Money is an issue, not the issue” (Hamilton, 2001, p.6). This is very true, just because one owns a computer, does not mean they take advantage of every aspect it offers. Sometimes the people who go without a computer are doing so because that is there choice. They rather not get involved with the whole Internet ordeal and email. They want their lives to remain simple.

Access to information should be provided in every classroom, library, and anywhere else people from all backgrounds (Bolt & Crawford, 2000). In the eyes of Suzanne Damarian, “ The need to address issues of equity is primarily a call to reassert our ability to do so in the interest of assuring that all students will grow up living fully with the information age” (2000, p.21). In the near future, everything will be powered by computers or may involve some type of technology usage. It is essential for the children of this generation to have access to computers and learn how to use them appropriately. They will be thrown into the workforce one day, and without the proper knowledge of technology, they will not prevail. “The Internet has the potential to empower its users with new skills, new perspectives, new freedoms, and even new voices, those groups who remain sequestered from the technology will be further segregated” (Carvin, 2000, p.2).

References

Hamilton, Kendra (2001). Historically black colleges strive to bring campus communities to Technological speed: But are they catching up? Black Issues in Higher Education, 18(2), pp. 30-33. Retrieved September 26, 2002, from Eric/EBSCO host.

This journal article is about how black colleges are trying to catch up to other colleges by closing the digital divide. Some are succeeding while others are still working at it. They are working to help both students and teachers to be more technologically advanced.

Damarin, Suzanne K. (2000). The digital divide versus digital differences: Principles for equitable use of technology in education. Educational Technology, 40(4), pp.17-22.
Retrieved October 7, 2002, from Eric/EBSCO host.

This journal article is about how there are definite digital gaps in the United States starting with the “haves” and “have-nots”. This also explains that not only is there a digital divide but there is also a divide in differences which people often over look.

Carvin, Andy (2000). Mind the gap: The digital divide as the civil rights issue of the new Millennium. Multimedia Schools, 7(1), pp.56. Retrieved November 20, 2002, from Eric/EBSCO host.

This journal article is about the ever-growing gap between people and communities who have access to technology and those who don’t. It explains ways of tackling the digital divide through schools.

Brogan, Partricia (2000). A parent’s perspective: Educating the digital generation.
Educational Leadership, pp.57-59. Retrieved November 20, 2002, from Eric/EBSCO host.

The journal article is about a lady and her perspective on children, hers included, and their knowledge of technology. It explains how children can help others and teachers with their knowledge and how teachers can become better educated.

Clark, Christine and Gorski, Paul (2001). Multicultural education and the digital divide: Focus on race, language, socioeconomic, class, sex and disability. Multicultural Perspectives, 3(3), pp.1-9. Retrieved November 20, 2002, from Eric/EBSCO host.

This journal article is a seven part series focusing on the digital divide and examining it from a multicultural perspective.

Bolt, David B. & Crawford, Ray A. K. (2000). Digital divide: Computers and our Children’s future. New York, NY: TV Books LLC.

This book examines the digital divide in different components such as education, race, gender, and employment. It is for anyone with questions about the digital divide and the future of technology.

Arrison, S. (2002, March 13). What digital divide? Retrieved October 7, 2002 from, http://news.com.com/2010-1078-858537.html

This article explains what the digital divide is and whom it affects. It also explains that many times the “have nots” are really people who choose not the be computer friendly and choose not to get involved in such things as e-mail and chatting online

Riverdeep (2002, January 11). Bridging the digital divide. Retrieved October 10, 2002, from http://www.riverdeep.net/current/2002/01/011402t_divide.jhtml

This article explains what the digital divide is and gives a teacher questions to ask their students about the digital divide. It gives statistics and asks every day questions.

Gorskil, P. (2000). The digital divide in 2000: A fact sheet. Retrieved November 18, 2002, from http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/go/multicultural

This article gave many statistics in different categories like race, gender, and class.

Nickell, J. (1998, July 29). Wired news. Retrieved November 18, 2002, from http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,14069,00.html

This article talks about Latinos and African Americans and their lack of technology and why it is like that.

Cochran, J. (2002, April 17). The digital divide narrows: Technology and psychologically solving the Internet gap challenge. Retrieved November 20, 2002, from www.abcnews.com

This article is a news report of a man interviewing a lady who thought she was a computer dummy. It is about her story.

Meyer, Lori (2002). Digital divide. Education Week, pp.1-4. Retrieved November 21, 2002, from http://edweek.com

This is a newspaper article that is about the digital divide and technology in schools.

Young, Jeffrey R. (2002). Expert say technology gap among colleges perpetuates ‘Digital Divide’ in society. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp.35. Retrieved November 21, 2002, from Academic search/Lexis Nexis.

This newspaper article is an interview with a former U.S. assistant secretary of commerce and his views on the digital divide.

Hudman, Jennifer (2002). New Website provides resources for empowering poor Communities: 50 million Americans face online content gap. Business Wire. Retrieved November 17, 2002, from Lexis Nexis.

This newspaper article is about The Children’s Partnership with the Markel Foundation that launched a new online resource that provides communities with information and tools to fit their needs.

Conyers, John and King, Mel (2002). Closing the digital divide. The Boston Globe, A15. Retrieved November 17, 2002, from Lexis Nexis.

This newspaper article gives statistics and explains about congress and the digital divide.



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