January 19, 2000 2 min read

Digital Divide: The economic and cultural promises of today’s dazzling computer and Internet technologies aren’t necessarily made to everyone in society.

Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, for example, show that the age-old inequities of wealth and education are still serving to give some groups preferential access over others, an issue that President Clinton has said he will emphasize on a “new markets” tour of economically depressed areas this spring.

The issue will also be explored in “Digital Divide: Technology and Our Future,” two hour-long television programs scheduled to air on Public Broadcasting Service stations beginning Jan. 28 at 9 p.m. (Check local listings.)

The first hour in the series, “Computer Classes,” will look at computer training offered in schools. The program offers portraits of individual students and interviews with their parents and teachers as well as technology experts. It also focuses on the great differences in quality of computer-based education in schools.

While some schools stand as lighthouses of technology use, with the latest equipment and excellent teacher training, that situation is not typical. Even schools with computers often have out-of-date technology or teachers who haven’t been trained adequately to use the technology, much less integrate it into their curricula, the program shows.

It also asks whether “wired” students are being taught to use computers in ways that enhance, instead of replace, traditional learning skills.

The second segment, “Virtual Diversity,” examines computer access beyond the classroom and the resources in homes and in the community that might help disadvantaged young people keep pace in the digital age.

The program visits local initiatives in New York City, California’s Silicon Valley, and Austin, Texas, that are designed to help children bridge the gap. It also explores the alienation that some girls and minority children feel toward technology, due to such factors as the dynamics of classrooms and the content of software.

The executive producer of the series, David Bolt, has produced many television and multimedia programs and has worked for the George Lucas Educational Foundation, among other groups.

Public-television stations, community organizations, and schools in many localities are expected to hold related events in collaboration with area technology centers and other organizations, according to PBS.

Mr. Bolt has said he intends to produce more programs on the digital divide in the coming year.

—Andrew Trotter

A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2000 edition of Education Week