One issue of the digital divide is simple access to digital media devices. For example, a study conducted by Common Sense Media (2011) found that "there is a large digital divide in home computer access among young children...access ranges from 48% among those from low-income families (less than $30,000 a year) to 91% among higher-income families (more than $75,000 a year)" (p. 10). The same study found that this divide is also visible among the parents of these young children: "More than a third (38%) of lower-income parents don't have any idea what an "app" is, compared to just 3% of higher-income parents" (p. 21). Another study by Hohlfield, Ritzhaupt, and Barron (2010) found that community stakeholder involvement in the technology planning process was greater at schools with a higher SES population (p. 398). Community and family involvement is important because, as part of the "spheres of influence" framework, the more that these spheres interact with the third sphere, school, the more positive the outcomes are for the student (Hohlfield et al., 2010, p. 392).
Perhaps a more serious issue of the digital divide is the disparity in the quality and sophistication of tasks with which these devices are being used among various groups of students. Indeed, "examination of the 'digital divide' has increasingly gone beyond the study of differences in physical access to computers to focus on individuals' use of technological tools for empowered and generative uses" (Barron, Walter, Martin, & Schatz, 2010, p. 178). For example, Barron et al. (2010) explain that while students of low SES backgrounds may have spent more time on computers in Math and English courses for drill activities, students of higher SES backgrounds use computers in courses like Science for more advanced computational tasks like simulation and research (p. 179).
There are, of course, some aspects of the digital divide that are beyond the reach of the school. However, schools do have resources at their disposal to address some of the issues of the digital divide. Some schools allow students to check out equipment, such as laptops or iPads, to bring home to ensure equitable access for online assignments. Schools can make a more conscious effort to give students more in-depth experiences with technology, no matter the subject or class make-up. Lastly, schools can offer outreach to parents, families, and the community to educate the larger population about technology use and its important impact on the success of these students living in a digital age.
Barron, B., Walter, S., Martin, C., & Schatz, C. (2010). Predictors of creative computing participation and proﬁles of experience in two Silicon Valley middle schools. Computers & Education, 54, pp. 178-189.
Common Sense Media. (2011). Zero to eight: children's media use in America. Available from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america
Hohlfeld, T., Ritzhaupt, A., & Barrona, A. (2010). Connecting schools, community, and family with ICT: Four-year trends related to school level and SES of public schools in Florida. Computers & Education, 55, pp. 391-405.