The Educational Digital Divide – A Research Synthesis of Digital Inequity in Education

Digital equity is a central element of the field of Educational Technology. EdTech’s promise is the development of learning potential in all fields through resources enhanced teaching and learning. However, without equitable access to technology, its uses, and its effects, EdTech actually deepens and broadens the effects of digital inequity. Thus, it is imperative for all us in the field – students, teachers, parents, administrators, policymakers, leaders – to ensure our technology and our learning are positioned to help everyone, especially those who need it the most.

As I talk with people throughout my work, whether in connections with ISTE or Ministries of Education or districts or individual schools, the need for digital equity is consistent. People are talking about and putting a lot of money and effort behind it.

However, I have found there is a lack of understanding the full scope and impact of digital inequity. I have found that most people try to overlay our understanding of the Digital Divide on Education thinking there is a parallel effect. This is not true. The short term and long term impacts of inconsistent access to technology is deeply rooted in social and economic reproduction. Most people see this simple as an issue of having and using.

So, I wrote an article titled: The Educational Digital Divide – A Research Synthesis of Digital Inequity in Education.

Sadly, I submitted the article for publication and was rejected. Admittedly, some of the accompanying research is 5+ years old. Yet, I do think there is merit to the article and I thought my website would be the best forum for publication.

Here is the abstract:

“The Educational Digital Divide describes the differences of access and usage of technology for learning that result in social inequity. Most prevalent between socioeconomic groups, the divide has three levels – access, classroom use, and student empowerment – each the product of the level below. In the first level, inequity is felt in computer, Internet, and software access across the institution, then moves to learning practices in the classroom and ends with students themselves. However, simple equity of technology access will not eliminate this divide as students need to use and leverage technology in similarly transformative ways to enjoy equal benefits.”

The Educational Digital Divide - A Research Synthesis on Digital Inequity in Education - Matt Harris.Ed.D.[PDF] The Educational Digital Divide: A Research Synthesis on Digital Inequity in Education – Matt Harris, Ed.D.

Please feel free to download the article and republish it. I only ask that you respect the copyright and provide me attribution if you choose to use it (or any part of it) or refer to it in your own work.

If you would like to discuss The Educational Digital Divide, please contact me through the channels listed on this site.

2 thoughts on “The Educational Digital Divide – A Research Synthesis of Digital Inequity in Education

  1. Thanks for the interesting article, Matt! I think your article correctly summarises the situation in the USA. However I have yet to see anyone address the issue here in Asia where, I believe, we both live as Expats. I’m an American teaching EFL in a public secondary school in Hong Kong. I teach in a very low SES school and most my students are immigrants from China. I am the only non Chinese in the school. I feel the digital divide acutely.

    For instance, as a public school teacher not only do I not have much technology in my school. I also don’t have PD funding or leave to attend conferences to regularly update my technology skills so that I can initiate changes with the limited technology I actually have in my school. There is nothing of quality organised by our local education bureau. If I want to attend a conference I need to take sick leave and fly somewhere for PD. Even on the rare occasion when there is a conference here in Hong Kong, like there is this weekend, I don’t have $500 out of pocket to attend and I don’t have the luxury of having a substitute teachers to cover my lessons when I phone in “sick”. My colleagues will need to give us their planning period and cover my lessons. I read that 70% of the attendees at the #21CLHK conference are International Schools and 9% from public schools. Respectfully, isn’t that imbalance adding to the very digital inequality you eloquently address in your article? I wonder if influential speakers at these conferences could perhaps initiate steps to put presentations or articles online or appeal to the organizer to offer discounted tickets to public school teachers? That seems like something concrete that could be done to begin to address the digital divide between international schools and public schools right here in Asia. What do you think?

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