What is the Digital Divide?
The digital divide is the uneven availability of digital access and the proper skills needed among the members of society especially when focusing on education.
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The divide has come down to the "kind" or "type" of technology being accessed by different groups. Not only dealing with inequalities of different minorities but also inequalities of people with disabilities, 27% of adults living with disabilities are less likely to to go online (1). These are all issues when technology is present but there is still some rural areas of the country with little or inconsistent internet access. The digital divide is now focusing their efforts to entering into digital "literacy."
The digital divide is admitting that there is an unbalanced distribution of technology in different schools, understanding that not all students are going to have the same exposure on a multitude of levels. Strictly availability, families view of technology, and the type of skills achieved when technology is present.
In today's modern age, more children are have smart phones and use them as their internet source. This cause problems considering the limiting factor with a phone when compared to the versatility of a computer. On a phone updating a status is possible but updating a resume or filling out an application is nearly impossible. This is an example of availability of mobile technology but not the proper devices and skills. Another point with technology skills is just because someone knows how to use Facebook and twitter does not mean that they are proficient in modern technology across the board, such as being able to create a website.
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The summary of this whole digital divide issue is availability which in recent studies have some has more or less been achieved and now the efforts are being focused on the "kind" of access.
Why is it important to teachers?
The digital divide is important to the education system and specifically teachers because it is causing an even greater inequality between students even when "equal" when all of the students with technology. It is becoming more and more evident with the newer technologies that there is a gap or a divide between students within the country as well as around the world.
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This is an issue that is affecting all school age children. What schools systems today are running into is that each child has his or her own availability and skill set to technology. This creates a challenge for teachers in their classrooms to create a equal twenty first century classroom with a diverse class of students and their own personal skills, their access and the teacher's promotion into and with technology. To see some data on the use of technology among youth. Specifically some interesting data from this article is that 95% of teen 12-17 have adopted technology when compared to adults ages 30-49 at only 87%(2). This even shows that there is a gap between adults and children in their own generations on digital usage and skill set.
Not only the students are effected by the digital divide but how the teachers may and may not be able to run the classroom is effected. Not only on how to run the classroom but how can a teacher level the road? How can one teacher try to help the weak technology one while challenging the prior digital literate children. This is a careful equilibrium which is why this topic is so important to educators of the twenty first century. Some interesting statics on the amount of technology users throughout the world throughout recent history. For example the amount of users in 1995 only 0.4% of the world's population compared to the massive gain in 2013 at 38.8% of the world's population are using technology (3). Clearly technology is expanding and it is time for the education system to look at the new emerging technology issues and find solutions. Technology has spanned the test of decades, is not going away and cannot be ignored in the schools. This main issue is the digital divide and is important to teachers to find new solutions to close the divide for students.
(1) Digital Differences
(2) Digital Divides and Bridges: Technology Use Among Youth
(3) Internet Growth Statics