May 10, 2001
Vol. 20, Issue 35
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There was a time, not long ago, when the so-called digital divide was perceived and illustrated as a huge canyon or a miles-wide river. On the one side stood the technology-rich, happy because they had access to computers at school and home. On the other stood the technology-poor, unhappy because they had no access at all.
At first glance, it’s tempting to conclude that the digital divide is closing, declare victory, and move on to other priorities. space delete. Indeed, some policy analysts—such as Adam D. Thierer, an economist at the Heritage Foundation in Washington—are making such overtures. They argue that even social and demographic groups that were clearly on the wrong side of the divide just a few years ago are no longer as digitally disenfranchised as some technology experts say.
America’s digital divide no longer appears to be the metaphorical canyon it once was, lined on opposite sides by technology haves and have-nots. Today’s divide acts more like a balloon: As the gap in computer access is squeezed in one place, bulging disparities, based on wealth, appear elsewhere.
The digital divide, in its simplest definition, is a matter of dollars and cents: The less money you have, the less likely you are to own or use a computer. space delete xx That fact helps explain why African American, Hispanic, and American Indian students—many of whom come from families with limited means—tend to have less access to computers, and to use them in less sophisticated ways, than their white classmates.
Ashley Weagraff doesn’t worry about the boys anymore. She is the exception. One of the few girls taking technology-related classes at G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton, N.Y., the 15-year-old fought back her initial anxiety and now works well with male students in a computer- enhanced technical drawing, design, and production class.
Students in Tim Comolli’s electronic-arts class at South Burlington High School have won awards for their 3-D graphic designs; they’ve sold computer-generated logos to businesses in their South Burlington, Vt., community; and they’ve taught teachers how to use Internet search engines and sophisticated multimedia software.
In a remote area of New Mexico, Central Consolidated Schools is struggling to get a workable connection to the Internet for all its schools. delete The 7,500-student district with 17 schools straddles a Navajo reservation. The district’s five schools that are not on the American Indian reservation, plus one that is, have a fast and robust connection to the Internet. But 11 of the schools on the reservation have a lousy connection, so slow that it can take half an hour to download a few e-mail messages.
When the topic of the digital divide arises, R. Craig Wood often asks school administrators and teachers to picture what it would be like to surf the Internet with their monitors turned off or without using a computer mouse.
When the first class went to the computer lab, it got what J. David Ramirez considers a “really great” lesson. The students were working in teams and taking full advantage of the computers’ research and graphic capabilities.
To appreciate how wide the digital divide can stretch, you need only wander into teacher Bob Vukela’s computer-applications and business lab at Oliver High School here. You’ll find a dozen students tapping the clunky keyboards connected to Tandy 1000s, computers that are older than most of the teenagers in the room. Unfortunately, Vukela says, his is not the only computer lab in the Pittsburgh city schools sporting grossly obsolete machines.
It is a heady feeling to be involved in a political or social cause at the moment it sweeps the nation. And Mark Diaz knows the feeling.
In some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, professional artists are showing urban youngsters how to use technology to express themselves through video and Web art.
It seems educators may be making more progress in providing access to technology than in figuring out how to use it as a learning tool. At least that’s what middle and high school students are saying, according to a new Education Week/Market Data Retrieval/Harris Interactive poll.
With record gains being made in providing students with access to computers and the Internet, more schools are shifting their priorities toward other areas that have been simmering on the back burner—namely, figuring out how to integrate technology into the curriculum in meaningful ways.
From the prairie lands of the east to the black hills of the west, technology is the great equalizer among schools in South Dakota. spThanks to a multiyear initiative to use technology to help surmount the challenges often faced by the state’s small, rural schools, Advanced Placement courses were offered for the first time this spring—via the Internet—in 26 districts
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)
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