The Second Digital Divide – a Gap in Media Literacy

I loved our readings this week – I feel like I’ve been waiting to talk about issues of equity and access since the beginning of the course! I’m wondering, though, how best to address these issues in writing this week – I feel like the ideas and worries are so big, and the solutions so elusive, that I don’t even know where to start. The idea of the second digital divide – the notion that it’s not just the access to technology, but the ways in which we use the technology that is creating a rift between the haves and have-nots – was really salient to me, and rang true to me in a way that few of our other readings have. As you may know from my past blog posts, I’m a big proponent of media and information literacy, which not only encompasses how we locate and evaluate information, but how we use it – and accompanying media tools – thoughtfully and effectively. This second digital divide is essentially a gap in media literacy, which can be traced back to the the quality of an individual’s learning experiences with computers (both at home and in the classroom).  Thus I’m puzzling this week: how can we address this is schools?  When I think back to my own students, I had those who were in both camps, and those who were somewhere in-between – and meanwhile, I only had three computers in my classroom, and only myself to oversee students in the lab. Students did have a technology special once a week, but I don’t know that that’s necessarily enough – and that still isn’t giving students sustained time with technology, let alone time to work with the single adult in the room. None of this is to mention the kinds of programs students are using in school – which vary wildly depending on school budgets, philosophies, etc.

I know I haven’t fully fleshed out the issue (not by a long shot) – and I apologize for not presenting it better – I’m rather swamped this week and I think my brain is starting to short-circuit! All the same, I’m wondering if other people are thinking about this as well? Help me work through the muddle!

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5 thoughts on “The Second Digital Divide – a Gap in Media Literacy

  1. Merisenda Bills says:

    I’m also a huge proponent of media literacy. These access and equity issues are something I struggle with a lot. I remember going to ed tech conferences and being totally blown away with products/ideas, and then subsequently being disillusioned/disappointed upon realizing my district wouldn’t be able to afford it or our infrastructures wouldn’t be able to support it. Or, even if you did – if you didn’t have the support behind it, it’s really hard. It’s incredibly frustrating because not only are my students academically behind, they are also not learning the necessary skills for navigating all this technology.

    I think there needs to be more of a movement to update the networks and infrastructures in schools, and creating some sustainable model to help these districts continue the growth. The technology on its own isn’t enough.

    In my ideal world, there would be an open K-12 digital literacy curriculum. Students would be appropriately engaging with technology and building their skills. Students really need to know how to critically think about the media they’re consuming, and also have the tools to create their own messages/media. It would be so neat for them to have a portfolio that tracked their project throughout the years.

    Maybe universities with computer science/tech students can build some partnership with surrounding schools to help provide that tech support/setting up the infrastructure – it could be part of their own ‘problem based learning’ haha. Maybe more companies can donate technology.

    I don’t know. I just feel that there is plenty of funding/resources somewhere, and it’s a matter of being able to use some of that to build low-income schools and communities.

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  2. Pingback: Technology, Access, and Equity | My Life at Harvard

  3. I definitely agree with you Lindsey, media literacy is definitely a big part of the puzzle when it comes to technology use inequity. Reading your blog post also made me think about the same media literacy issues with teachers I worked with. I think teachers also get stuck in this idea of “consuming” technology rather than creating or adjusting it for their needs. Teachers sometimes resign themselves to think of Ed Tech resources for what they are made to do rather than what they can be augmented to do and miss out on some instructional capacity that way.

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  4. Hey Lindsey! I’ve been doing some research in another class (T525: Potentials of Online PD) and came across this article by Yoram Eshet, who has written quite a bit on the topic of digital literacy/the digital divide. Thought you might dig it in light of your thoughtful blog post! Here’s the citation:

    Eshet, Y. (2004). Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital era. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13(1), 93-106. Norfolk, VA: AACE.

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