Technology and the Digital Divide

Technology and its use is and seemingly always has been a fiercely debated issue. I even spend time debating myself about why and how much I should use it. I’ve written posts about why I have not upgraded to an iPhone, why I decided to document my month long fast from facebook and other social media for a month, and the work that led up to me facilitating a training for 25 people about how they can incorporate the use of many of the newer digital technologies to advance their non-profit work. I have read and reviewed many books about issues of privacy, community, and authenticity that often surround the use of newer technologies, all the while wrestling with questions of my own online presence.

Lately, I keep coming back to the idea of a digital divide, in both the generational and social class manifestations of it. I think back to the high school students that I taught in Sacramento who had no access to internet outside of school and who had to try to skip in to the library during its limited operating hours in order to do any kind of research for papers and presentations. They were held back by their lack of access to technology, and probably did worse in their classes because of this situation that is largely outside of their control. A few miles away at the junior high where I’d taught just weeks prior, the classes were brimming with the latest technology because of some special grant funding. It seems unfair to me that even within one district there can be sure a great discrepancy.

In addition to the income related discrepancy in access to technology, I have found that there is a generational gap with technology knowledge that greatly impacts relationship dynamics. I’ve realized that there are many kind, intelligent adults who are wonderful at what they do until you ask them to use technology to do it. I have taught teachers, supervisors and students how to engage with SMART technologies, blogs, websites, and social media platforms. With the way we are evolving as a society, it is crucial for people to be able to engage with each other using these newer technologies. Printed materials are making their exit from our daily lives, and people who do not learn how to jump on to the digital bandwagon will be left behind. At this point, it’s more than a bandwagon, it’s the new way of life.

Think about it: How long could you go without a phone, computer, and TV? How much would your life be affected without the beeps, buzzes, and pings of your favorite device?