Understanding Digital Divide
Living in the 21st century where technology is constantly integrated into our daily lives, it is essential for humans to stay in contact with this tool so as to reap the benefits it brings. However, a minority of people face issues in gaining access to technology, due to several reasons, such as affordability. Hence, a digital divide occurs, between people who own technological devices and people who are unable to own one. This digital divide can exist “between socio-economic groups”, or between developed and developing countries (Rouse, 2014). Thus, such divide in the digital world is also experienced by students in their classrooms.
Digital Divide in Australia
In the recent statistics collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 14
% of Australian households do not have Internet access in their homes (ABS, 2015). Although a significant number of people are detached from technology, teachers are making assumptions that every child in their classrooms is “digitally fluent” (Howell, 2013, p.57), and this is a dangerous one. Students from the lower socio-economic backgrounds are usually unable to own a technological device due to its high cost. As such, they will not be able to acquire the relevant technological skills at home. However, teachers may fail to realise the existence of such scenario, and they assign homework with the presumption that all students “have unrestricted access to the internet” (Ewing, n.d.).
Strategies to Tackle Digital Divide in Classrooms
Programmes such as the One Laptop Per Child project are implemented to expose children in the developing countries to the technology available for educational purposes. On an individual level, it is necessary for teachers to help students develop their competence in technology through incorporating the use of digital devices in lessons. This can be done by conducting lessons in the computer laboratory, and getting students to access the materials using the computer. Other approaches such as allowing students to access the computer laboratories after their lessons, or exploring the educational applications available on the internet with them, can ensure that all students are engaged in similar learning experiences. Therefore, the digital divide can be narrowed and student can attain the technological skills necessary in future.
The founder of One Laptop Per Child project, Nicholas Negroponte, was invited to give a speech on his project at Ted Talk, where he talks about the process of the birth of his project, and the criticisms faced in initiating the project. Watch the video below to know more about it:
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2015). Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2014-15. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8146.0
Carter, M. (2014, July 31). World of Digital Divide [Image]. Retrieved from https://meganellencarter.wordpress.com/
Ewing, S. (n.d.). Australia’s digital divide is narrowing, but getting deeper. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/australias-digital-divide-is-narrowing-but-getting-deeper-55232
Howell, J. (2013). Teaching with ICT: Digital pedagogies for collaboration and creativity. Victoria: Oxford University Press.
Rouse, M. Digital Divide. Retrieved from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/digital-divide
Shin, T. (n.d.). The Digital Divide [Image]. Retrieved from http://famousbloggers.net/digital-divide-infographic.html
Xirruswifi. (2016, June 20). World of connectivity [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.xirrus.com/bridging-digital-divide/