The Digital Divide Within Formal School Education: Causes and Consequences


Download article in Learning to Bridge the Digital Divide (.pdf) | By Richard L. Venezky | Published in Learning to Bridge the Digital Divide, 2000

The digital divide in formal schooling is not simply an equipment differential that can be overcome with further selective investments in hardware, software, and networking. Instead it derives from both within school and within home differences that extend to learning standards as well as support. Student self-learning ability, and in particular, student ability for independent learning, is an additional factor. National policies that attempt to close the digital divide for schooling must attend to all of these contributing factors to be successful.


There are differences across even the highly industrialised countries in computer ownership and in use of the Internet, factors that impact schooling and learning. Within the European Union these differences may, in time, become important, especially as students become more mobile and courses and programmes more global.


Efforts to eliminate digital differences need to continue along all fronts. Assistive devices, including speech recognition, can further connect the disabled with ICT. Also, a redesign of both hardware and software to appeal to a greater variety of women and girls can help recruit more females into the fields of science and technology. Moreover, the education field can give more training to teachers, more technical assistance for parents, low cost communications to school children in remote areas, and more academic supports for students from high poverty and language minority backgrounds.


The digital divide in formal schooling is not a single problem that can be fixed with a programme of massive school aid and technological supports. Instead it is, in part, a function of a lack of specific types of resources and in part of chronic differences that will not yield to any single remediation. These latter problems are a continuing reminder of the basic inequalities of most modern societies. ICT, if appropriately deployed, could contribute in more than a small way to alleviating these problems; employed differently may only exacerbate them.


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