Not many people can imagine going through school without a pen or pencil. These are essential tools to receiving an education. In today’s wired world, a computer is also a vital tool in education. While everyone can afford a pencil, not everyone can afford a computer. This puts some students at a severe disadvantage when it comes to receiving a good education. No one should have to receive a second class education simply because they come from a low income family. This is essentially what the digital divide does. This is also why the digital divide must be narrowed, to ensure that everyone is capable of receiving the same education.
The Digital Divide at Home Computers are used in numerous ways by students. They are used for research, data organization, and most commonly word processing. Of course, these tasks can be accomplished without the use of a computer. However, it is much quicker and much easier with the aid of a computer. Imagine how long it would take to write up numerous drafts of an essay without the use of a computer, hand writing page after page. Spreadsheets and databases make the organization of data several times faster than trying to do the same work by hand.
This is what many students from low income backgrounds have to do. According to “Falling Through the Net”, a research project published by the U. S. Department of Commerce, only 19. 2 percent of households with a total income of less than $15,000 per year have access to a computer at home. Compare this to the fact that households having family incomes over $75,000 own computers 86. 3 percent of the time. This equals quite a few more hours each year organizing data and composing papers for students from low income backgrounds. Research is also done much quicker with a computer.
The internet has given students a world full of information at their fingertips. This means no more long hours sitting in a library, searching for books, and photocopying pages. This comes out to large amounts of time saved, for those with internet access at least. When considering, though, that only 25 percent of households with an income under $25,000 were online in 2001 while 80 percent of households with incomes over $80,000 were online, it seems more like time wasted for those without access than time saved for those with (Warschauer 289).
The Digital Divide at School The digital divide is not only in the home but in the schools. While classrooms with a high number of poor students have internet access 60 percent of the time, up to 82 percent of classrooms with lower levels of poor students are wired for internet (Reid 5). If low income students are unable to access computers from home or from school they are at an even greater disadvantage. With little to no exposure to computers, low income students not only have to work harder to achieve the same results in school, but will also suffer in the workplace.
Few businesses do not require at least basic computer skills for employment, yet these students do not have a chance to pick any up. The Digital Divide at Colleges Some may argue that computers are a luxury through high school, but few can argue against the necessity of owning a computer in college. Yet 75 percent of HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) students do not own a computer (Dervaries 6). This means that there are students in college who are still using poster board, glue, and magic markers to put together a presentation.
At the same time, in a more affluent area, there are middle school students learning to use PowerPoint. While most colleges have computer labs for student use, they are not always convenient to use. Many college students have to work while they attend classes and have little time to make it to a lab. In fact, some have suggested that the gap between technology at elite colleges and minority-serving colleges actually helps widen the digital divide (Irving 48).
The reason most low income households cite for not having a computer or internet access in the home is cost (Dept. of Commerce 2000). It is not fair that students from these families should have to suffer because of their parent’s financial situation. These students should not be subject to the assignments, grading, or time constraints of students with access to technology. As long as they are, school will get harder and harder for them. If something is not done soon to close this divide it will just continue to widen.