Weirdly I find myself disagreeing with this -or at least I’ll say the article seriously misses the point. The educational divide is caused by multivarious complex and intertwined causes. Even if we could insure that needy families had instant access to a PC and internet, I don’t believe the divide would be narrowed one jot. Far better that educators understand and are sympathetic to the fact that such families exist and need support in so many ways. One way may be to offer alternative support for internet access where absolutely required for school work. The real issue here is about nurturing curiosity, aspirations and enthusiasms in educational activities rather than giving them one, albeit quite powerful tool on which they can do so many things but for which education would, by default, be low down the list. We know the desire to learn needn’t be inversely proportional to social standing. My wife has seen kids at night in the Middle East standing on street corners under the road lights so they can read their school books, and I know others have seen even more remarkable learning examples. And that’s what we need to garner in this country. The PC in childrens’ bedrooms doesn’t really help in this respect. Does it?
Thanks for your comments Daniel. I think schools and local communities will need to be very creative in the coming few years to try to ameliorate some of the economic shortfalls. Some schools may yet consider your option of funding home access.
Thanks for your comments Col. I guess in such as short article as a blog post (I keep mine to bitesize) it is difficult to articulate fully the complexities of the ‘digital divide’. However, I have previously written on many of the dimensions you mention including the psychological divide (the wills and will nots, including technophobia) and the skills divide (the cans and cannots). Those who are enthusiastic and curious, I agree, will be the ones who will achieve higher grades.
And yet it is dangerous for us to ignore the fact that economic divides cause social inequality. They always have done. This means that children whose parents cannot afford an internet computer at home will not participate fully in all that learning has to offer, and will also miss out on the cultural richness the social web provides. I think that is a travesty.
I’m an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Plymouth. I chair the Plymouth e-Learning Conference, convene the University’s e-learning research network and co-ordinate technology mediated learning for the Faculty of Education. I serve on the editorial boards of ten international journals, including ALT-J, Digital Culture and Education, and IRRODL and I am co-editor of Interactive Learning Environments. I’m also the chair of the UNESCO funded IFIP WG 3.6 (Distance Education) and a Fellow of the European Distance and E-learning Network (EDEN). My research interests include e-learning, distance education, creativity and Web 2.0 social software. Oh, and I’m @timbuckteeth on Twitter.