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The Digital Divide Is Alive and Affects Us All

The Digital Divide Is Alive and Affects Us All

Written by Sheila Cooperman
January 05, 2014

The holidays are an interesting time. When you stop and think about it, they can be a time that is filled with extremes. Extreme happiness or extreme sadness. A sense of real belonging and community, or a sense of true despair and isolation. One can be extremely satisfied with what one owns, or terribly discontent with one’s lack. No matter where one is in that continuum, it is certain that everyone is somewhere, and experiences something.

And what does this have to do with students? Or writing? Or digital composition? Probably not a whole lot at first glance. I might have to bring you there. I teach in a privileged school. For the most part, my students are the ‘haves’ in the ‘have’ and ‘have not’ debate and that fact has affected me. I would be lying if I said it did not. And one of the ways it has affected me is in my assumption that everyone has a device at his or her disposal. I find myself making the leap that when I say, “OK, bring your devices, we’re writing,” that everyone will have a device. And then I have to check myself to make sure that whatever I am feeling- frustration, irritability, or something else when they do not possess one, does not show in my behavior.  It is very true that I have been in many parent conferences when parents have asked if their child needs an electronic device and then provide one immediately when I reply that it would be beneficial. But I have also been in many parent meetings where I have been told that a device is not available–for any number of reasons. And this has made me a more sensitive teacher and a more resourceful one. The Digital divide exists even in affluent communities. The divide is a global phenomenon and the truth is that when students are lacking the resources they need to connect to the internet, learn how to communicate and collaborate with global audiences, and discover who they are as members of the 21st century, they are at a loss. And it is our job as educators and adults to do everything we can to remediate this problem. So in the new year ahead, we should all stretch our thinking to find ways to make the divide less obvious, close it up, bridge it- or whatever other term is appropriate. Brainstorm ideas with those around you, speak up, think about how this divide affects your life, your students, your world. Once we discover and understand how our lives are affected, we will have a clearer focus on how we can change the situation. And to all, a very Happy New Year