What is the Digital Divide?

The digital divide is a complex problem that can be examined in a number of realms: it is a divide that exists globally (that is, developing versus developed countries); it is a national divide and it is a divide that exists in Michigan itself—and even, perhaps, within single schools.

It is important to understand that the digital divide has many aspects and does not refer exclusively to access to the Internet. It can be more specifically understood in terms of what kind of access (broadband, dial-up, Smartphone, etc.) and where one has that access (home, school, local library, friend or relative’s house, etc.) It also refers more generally to having physical access to information and communication devices of all kinds.

There are other important aspects to the digital divide: there is the so-called human resources divide which suggests that as important as access to technology is having professionals in place who know how to use it, maintain and repair it. Then there is the skills divide, which refers to the fact that even when two people (or social groups) have equal access to a kind of technology (like high speed internet), they don’t necessarily have the equal skills or technological literacy—they use the technology in different ways which produce different (and unequal) consequences. Finally there is the social or community divide which suggests that for effective use of technology in a community setting to be sustainable, there needs to be widespread support of that technology within the community.

The digital divide disproportionately affects certain groups. In the United States, those most adversely affected by the digital divide are those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, African Americans, Latinos, women, the elderly and disabled Americans. The consequences of the digital divide for these groups of people might well be lack of educational and job opportunities; less access to academic resources, self-improvement and health resources; “capital-enhancing” opportunities; the opportunity to connect with people in their community, to buy cheaper products, to stay informed about the news and to engage in political activity. In short, the digital divide may well serve to perpetuate the many inequalities that these groups already face.

Thinking about this problem raises several crucial questions regarding whose responsibility it is to fix it: is it that of the government, our schools, the market or individuals themselves?

It should also raise in the mind of future teachers concerns about how to address the digital divide. We all want equal educational access for our students: how can we help lessen the inequalities that the digital divide presents?—inequalities that we are bound to face in our schools and classes. What is the role of teachers in addressing the digital divide?

Presentation

Our PowerPoint presentation is available vis download. Click this link to download: Digital Divide Presentation

Resources
All of the resources we used for our presentation are available in this Google Doc: Digital Divide Resources

Group Meeting Information
Whole group met on
9/14 1.5 hour - Initial planning and grouping of topics and who is covering what
9/26 1 hour - whole group recapping ideas and outlining main sections and activities
9/28 1.5 hour collaboration and combining slides
10/1 1 hour run through

Lana and Caroline met on
9/18 2 hours to go over Michigan specific information and Activity

Nadia and Diane met on
9/12/11 1.5 hours

We all sent WAY too many emails.