Equity Issues
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The challenge is for equity in educational technology.

This wiki page is to address the issue of equity in utilizing technology for educational purposes. Equity, by definition, is not the same as "equality," for that would be an impossibility. Rather, by equity we mean a fairness in the opportunity to utilize technology to its fullest advantages for the purpose of education. (1) When there is an absence of equity there is a digital divide among social economic classes, race, gender, and within special education.

The non-profit, educational research group Learning Point Associates paints the picture this way: "When a school or district decides to implement education technology into the curriculum, one of its overriding goals must be to create plans and policies for all members of the learning community to have equitable access and use. Appropriate funding and professional development represent the key means of supporting equitable access and use of technology to ensure technology literacy and to support meaningful learning for all students." (2)

It is unfortunate that there is relatively little empirical data on the value of technology in on classrooms. A summary of a recent survey by the National Education Association listed several important findings dealing with technology and education. They include:
  • The majority of classrooms were not equipped to provide computer curricula in the classroom. Many utilize the school's computer lab at certain times of the day for student computer access.
  • Teachers felt they had adequate access to software, yet they felt more training was needed for them to fully utilize the capabilities. Again, a recommendation of the study was that states and teacher associations/unions make a greater effort to educate the teachers on the potential of the technology.
  • The internet was by far the most often used technological tool by teachers.
  • Urban educators were the least likely to receive technology training and to have adequate resources and equipment.

Clearly there is a perception amongst educators that there is room to grow in terms of educational technology, and that the playing field may not be equitable for all students. In this wikipage, we will address specific student groups that may lack an equitable opportunity- lower socieconomic class, race, gender and special needs students- and discuss ways in which the technological divide can be closed. We hope this makes a difference toward that goal!

Socioeconomic Class and the Digital Divide


Cost has been a burden on supplying technology to students at schools, particularly those that are in a lower socio-economic district. There are efforts to combat this issue, however. One example is the "XO" laptop project (see www.laptop.org). Their goal is to demonstrated in their slogan: one laptop per child. Their website details their efforts and shows how many computers have been distributed and where on the globe they are reaching school children in this effort. The "$100 laptop's" actual cost is closer to $200 per unit, but it is a demonstration of how inexpensive technology can be.

As reported in the NEA survey mentioned above, not only do urban teachers (where many students are of a lower socioeconomic class) feel like they lack the equipment necessary to promote educational technology, they also lack the teacher training necessary to implement such technology into their curricula. The funding issue is being addressed both on the federal, state and local level, but certainly more needs to be done. Teachers have also looked for more support from their unions and teacher's associations. There have been many efforts to provide low income schools with access to technology and, as each year passes, more and more schools have access to technology in some capacity. However, even though more schools may provide access to technology to their students, it doesn't mean they're using it. Many teachers have difficulty incorporating new technology into instruction and this is especially true in poor urban schools, as funding and time for appropriate training is often lacking. According to a study published by Harold Wenglinsky, teachers in low-income schools often teach about the computer itself and use them for drill and practice. Teachers in wealtheir schools use computers for research, inquiry and communication (8). As a result, students from wealtheir schools have a far better advantage in technology use.

If the concept of a lower cost computer, such as the aforementioned XO laptop, is embraced for urban and other schools in a lower socioeconomic area, there is a real opportunity that the "digital divide" could be shaped into a more level playing field for all students.

Here is a video review of the "XO" laptop:


Race and the Digital Divide

Demographic variables like income, education and race influence policy questions surrounding the Internet. While Internet access in U.S. public schools has grown dramatically, from 3 percent in 1994 to 99 percent in 2002, the digital divide still exists in homes. According to reports released by the U.S. Department of Education, 41 percent of blacks and Hispanics have access to a computer at home compared to 77 percent of whites. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige made his comments on the reports:
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All children deserve an equitable opportunity with technology!

"The pace of technological change is truly astounding and has left no area of our lives untouched, including schools. These reports are good news and show how much progress has been made in connecting nearly every schools in the nation to the Internet. But there are still big differences in home computer use that need to be addressed before we can declare the digital divide closed." (4)

Ethnic and racial disparities were further studied in 2005 by Robert Fairlie from the University of California Santa Cruz for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. Fairlie examined whether there were large ethnic and racial differences in home access to computers, the Internet and broadband in the United States.

The main findings of Fairlie's report included the following:

-The digital divide is large and does not look like it'll be disappearing soon. Blacks and Latinos are much less likely to have access to home computers than are white, non-Latinos (50.6 and 48.7 percent compared to 74.6 percent). They are also less likely to have Internet access at their home (40.5 and 38.1 percent compared to 67.3 percent).

-Slightly more than half of all black and Latino children have access to a home computer and approximately 40 percent have access to the Internet at home, compared to 85.5 and 77.4 percent of white, non-Latino children. Most notably, ethnic and racial divides in home computer and Internet access rates are greater for children than for adults.

-Estimations from the 2000-2003 CPS and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 indicate that, "teenagers who have access to home computers are 6 to 8 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than teenagers who do not have home computers after controlling for individual, parental, and family characteristics." (5). Further, home computers appeared to increase high school graduation rates partly by reducing non-productive activities, such as crime and school suspension.

The chart below shows the perecent of population that has a home computer by race/ethnicity.

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What are the consequences, then, of the digital divide? According to this report, the digital divide may have serious economic consequences for disadvantaged minority groups. Since the Internet is continually increasing in size and use, it is becoming a primary medium for communications, commerce, education, entertainment and finding jobs. Future success and advancement for disadvantaged groups may depend on access to computers, the Internet and other technologies (5).

However, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found that African Americans are now the most active users of the mobile Internet, with "48 percent having used the Internet on a mobile device, and 29 percent claiming to go online with a handheld every day." While the notion of a digital divide for African Americans has some credibility in terms of the wireline internet, the introduction of the mobile internet has made African Americans the pace setters.

Gender and the Digital Divide

In a recent study conducted by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation Commission on Technology, Gender, and Teacher Education, they found that the majority of high school girls had no interest in technology education. The report also stated that fewer women than ever were choosing to enter technology fields; while females spend more time online, they are still underrepresented in the IT profession as only 20% are females. Currently:
  • Girls represent 17 percent of the Computer Science "AP" test takers, and less than one in 10 of the higher level Computer Science "AB" test takers.
  • Women are roughly 20 percent of IT professionals.
  • Women receive less than 28 percent of the computer science bachelor's degrees, down from a high of 37 percent in 1984. Computer science is the only field in which women's participation has actually decreased over time.
  • Women make up just 9 percent of the recipients of engineering-related bachelors degrees.
(Education World, 2002)

To help close this gender digital divide, various measures of legislation have been passed providing money to establish community technology centers.
The American Association of University Women Educational Foundation has provided some ways to bridge the digital divide among genders:
1. Media, teachers, and other adults need to make the public face of women in the computer world the reality rather than the stereotype. Girls picture computer professionals or those who work with information technology as nerdy guys who live in a solitary, antisocial world. Educators and parents should help girls imagine themselves early in life as designers and producers of new technology to combat that image.
2. Set new benchmarks for gender equity by emphasizing computer fluency e.g. girls' mastery of analytical skills, computer concepts, and their ability to imagine innovative uses for technology across a range of problems and subjects.
3. Teachers should ensure that all students, both male and female, are given equal opportunities for leadership roles in classroom technology projects.
4. Teachers should also work to cultivate girls interest by incorporating technology concepts and uses into subject areas ranging from music to history to the sciences in order to interest a broader array of learners.

Special Needs Students and the Digital Divide

According to Janet Owens, Paul Leung, Gayle Lamb, Kaye Smith, Jenny Shaw and Renee Hauff at Deakin University, it is the responsibility of educational institutions to ensure that students who have disabilities have equal opportunity in accessing an education. The physical environment of the campus, administrative services, library facilities and services, and delivery of courses should be accessible to all students. Use of assistive technology (AT) is required by many students with disabilities so that they can access educational information and educational environments. Unfortunately many barriers still exist in the use of AT, among them:
· inadequate AT training
· not knowing the latest AT developments
· cost and funding
· insufficient AT support
· poor communication between staff and students
· dependency on makers and distributors of AT
· poor maintenance of devices
· lack of appropriate hardware and software
· lack of Internet access
· time limitations in using computers on campus

Some suggestions for schools to address equity issues in the technology use among students with special needs include education academic and administrative staff about the school or school district's policy on equity and access for students with disabilities; collaboration between students and staff which can provide maximum communication and effective student accommodation, and lastly but most importantly, staff should employ forward planning and flexibility in their teaching: e.g. prepare syllabi early, be flexible in the use of assessment approaches, use audio-visual materials that ensure 'access for all' (captioned videos; overhead transparencies with large, bold font); use circular seating arrangements which allow all students to
see/hear each other, ensure that web-based material is accessible for students with disabilities.)

Here is a video on the merits of technology in a high school special education classroom:


Equity Issue Resources: The Internet as a Helping Tool

The internet helps people find resources such as organizations, activities, and programs to help eliminate the digital divides.
Gender and Digital Divide- In college, females are still underrepresented within the computer major realm. According to the 2009 article titled, "Girls Still Not Choosing Computer Science as Career," females are still not choosing a career in computer science due to how they define they view computers. Boys tend to look at the computer in the sense of video games and design, whereas majority of the females see the computer as boring or hard. Therefore, the following organizations support women that enter into the computer field.

The Ada Project (TAP)- an online resource database for women in computing started in 1994 at Yale University.
Women Work- Developed in 1975 to advance economic justice and equality for women.
The American Association of University Women Educational Foundation: AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research.

Special Need Students and the Digital Divide- Special Need students can include students that have an identified learning disability or disability and also a student who does not speak the native language of their classmates. The following links are resources for teachers, parents, or students with special needs.

Linguistic Funland TESL- TESL stands for Teaching student english as a second language. This website provides resources such as games and activities, job opportunities for teachers, and other resources to support the learning of English as a second language.
Learning Disability Association of America (LDA)- This national organization, incorporated in 1964, recognizes that 4 to 6 percent of students with the USA are identified as having a learning disability. This website serves its members of the organization with resources for people with learning disabilities, their families and the professionals who work with them.
Teachnology- This website provides teacher submitted lesson plans to guide special education teachers. In one lesson plan, in order to teach community involvement the teacher had each student's parent provide pictures of some of the food the student eats at home. The teacher used the picture in order to connect the student with his or her home environment. The students were taught how to respond to the picture appropriately and then were taken into the community to learn how to respond to other pictures in an appropriate manner. Therefore, the teacher taught the students using the teaching method behaviorism.

Socioeconomic Class and the Digital Divide- For years students that have come from privileged backgrounds with schools equipped with the proper technology, books, supplies and resources have often excelled more so than students from schools that lacked proper educational resources such as the access to a computer lab. Therefore, students who come from less equiped schools once they enter college may have to take remedial courses to compare to their peers from affluent backgrounds. The following resources have helped to bridge the gap and digital divide within socio-economic classes.

Trio Educational Opportunity Program- (EOP) consists of the Trio (Upward Bound, Ronald E. McNair Scholars, and Student Support Services) and it is designed to aid low-income and/or first generation college students in their goal to succeed in higher education.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation- Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, and his wife Melinda Gates recognizes the need for computers and internet access . Therefore, they have a goal to provide free computers and Internet access throughout public libraries in the United States and hopes to expand this mission internationally.

Race and the Digital Divide
- Home computer and internet access is sometimes limited among minorities compared to whites as noted above under the bold title, Race and the Digital Divide. Therefore, some colleges work toward bridging the gap by providing their students with laptops to be used in class and for home purposes. Listed below are some colleges that carry on this practice.

Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)- An Engineering College located in Milwaukee, WI. loans each student a laptop for his/her personal use in order to take notes in class, use the latest software and programs, and to have access to the internet. Upon graduation, the student is able to keep the computer.
Johnson C. Smith University (JSCU)- An historically black university, located in Charlotte, NC, that serves a student population of mostly African Americans, Hispanics, and international students. Since 2001, this University has been recognized as the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to supply laptops for all of its students.

Sources Cited:
1. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/equity
2. http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te400.htm
3. http://sc08.sc-education.org/conference/k12/sat/stem/08gainsandgapsedtech.pdf
4. http://www.ed.gov
5. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/11914411/Race-and-the-Digital-Divide
6. http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/Digitaldividequity.html
7. http://herdsa.org.au/branches/vic/Cornerstones/pdf/Owens.PDF
8. http://www.ets.org/research/researcher/PIC-TECHNOLOG.html