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By Brandon M. and Reid C.

The twenty-first century, or as some may call it the “age of technology” has been greatly influenced by the use of computers, and more specifically the Internet. The ability to access a computer and the Internet is crucial at this present day and age, because we as a society have begun to learn, communicate, and ultimately operate through computers and the Internet. However, not everyone has access to this technology. Unfortunately, underprivileged members of society do not have as much access to computers and the Internet, as opposed to wealthy, middle-class, and young individuals who do. This is known as the digital divide. The digital divide is influenced by several factors. A primary issue influencing the digital divide is its affect on education in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Individuals living in poorer neighborhoods are truly limited to their full potential, because Internet access is not as obtainable as it is elsewhere. Students living in these areas are thus not able to take part of the incredible educational, and social experience the Internet has to offer. How is an individual going to pursue their educational endeavors, or be involved with the wonderful things society has to offer (news, education, helpful tools, entertainment, exclusive events, exc.) beyond the newspaper or occasional book or magazine, when something so vital to present day society such as the Internet is not easily attainable. Ultimately, individuals living in underprivileged neighborhoods are not as motivated to do well in school as those in privileged neighborhoods, because they cannot afford the resources necessary to do so.

A primary factor influencing the digital divide in poorer neighborhoods presently, is the sole fact that professors use it as a tool to upload, and share important assignments, dates, and tests that essentially contribute, to the student’s overall success in the class (grade/gpa).  Students, who do not have access to the Internet, are not able to retrieve information that is important for doing well in the class itself. These students are basically forced to fail, although most of them are determined to do well in school. Something as simple as accessing a homework assignment online should not prevent a student who is willing to do the work, from doing well in the class. For instance, as a Santa Monica College student, I am obliged (by certain professors) to access and complete assignments through eCompanion, an online course management system that enables student to easily access online content and tools, supplemented by the professor themselves. If I were not able to retrieve this information, it would definitely affect my grade negatively. There are solutions, such as Internet Cafes, or Libraries, however, underprivileged neighborhoods usually do not have Internet Cafes, nor have libraries equipped with efficient computers; and most underprivileged individuals are notorious for residing within their own neighborhood, as opposed to traveling to neighborhoods that are well equipped with these resources.  This issue can only be resolved by making Internet usage free, or by prohibiting professors from posting important information (assignments, tests, and dates), on online course management systems (or elsewhere) altogether.  

Furthermore, hardcover reference books, novels, and textbooks are not something individuals living in poorer neighborhoods can always afford. The Internet offers an array of helpful websites that provide free reference tools such as dictionaries, encyclopedia’s, thesaurus’, and exc., which may physically cost a lot of money. And although, textbooks and novels are not completely free of use online, they are a lot cheaper then they would be if you went out and bought one at a bookstore. The Internet also provides an infinite amount of study guides, and workshops to help students improve their skills and work habits. Unlike most privileged students, disadvantaged individuals living in deprived neighborhoods often have several other obligations (working, taking care of the house, cooking, cleaning, transportation, taking care of siblings, exc.) other than school itself, and do not have the time to manually research all of the information crucial to their academic success. The Internet is without a doubt a quick and easy way to find exactly what you need, a click, and keyboard away.

Additionally, distance education (online classes) is so vital now more than ever, with the extensive budget cuts, tuition increases, and class reductions. How is a student able to receive a good education, when they are not even guaranteed a spot in a class they need? Distance education should always be an alternative choice to a student who does not receive a spot in a class he or she must have. However, if the student cannot access the Internet how are they going to have the same opportunity as the other students who can access the Internet, to complete the desired course online? Moreover, distance education courses allow students who have other responsibilities besides school, to learn at their own pace. Distance education uses technology to empower student learning, and underprivileged individuals should have the same opportunity to partake in these courses, as those who are easily able to.

Ultimately, the digital divide greatly affects education in disadvantaged neighborhoods immensely. Individuals living in these communities are truly limited to their full potential, because they do not have the same opportunities, people who are able to access the Internet have. The Internet is a quick and easy way for students to communicate and share information with their professors, locate necessary information, and finish courses that are important towards their further educational endeavors. Computers and the Internet are extremely advantageous to learning and being successful in school and elsewhere. The only solution to this digital divide between the rich and the poor is to be able to access the Internet free of charge.  When it comes to education, every single person should have the same opportunity as the other.

References:

Block, Judy. "Distance Education and the Digital Divide: An Academic Perspective." Distance Education and the Digital Divide: An Academic Perspective. Web. 24 May 2012. <http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring131/block131.html>.

Choemrayong, Songphan. "Closing Digital Divides: The United States' Policies." Libri. Libri, 2006. Web. 24 May 2012. <http://www.librijournal.org/pdf/2006-4pp201-212.pdf>.

"Digital Divide Changing but Not for Students Torn by It." Media Relations. University of Oregon. Web. 24 May 2012. <http://uonews.uoregon.edu/archive/news-release/2010/4/digital-divide-changing-not-students-torn-it>.

Hoffman, Donna L., Thomas P. Novak, and Ann E. Schlosser. "The Evolution of the Digital Divide: How Gaps in Internet Access May Impact Electronic Commerce." The Evolution of the Digital Divide: How Gaps in Internet Access May Impact Electronic Commerce. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Mar. 2000. Web. 24 May 2012. <http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol5/issue3/hoffman.html>.

Steele - Carlin, Sherill. "Education World: Caught in the Digital Divide | Digital Divide in Education." Education World: Caught in the Digital Divide | Digital Divide in Education. Education World, 2000. Web. 24 May 2012. <http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech041.shtml>.

Trotter, Andrew. "Digital Divide 2.0." Education Week:. 12 Sept. 2007. Web. 24 May 2012. <http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2007/09/12/02divide.h01.html>.