Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Internet Can Change Disadvantage

Recent media reports of a US study suggest that computers and broadband at home are increasing the digital divide. The bluntest media report on this is "Giving poor kids computers, internet makes them stupider" (by Lewis Page, The Register, 21 June 2010). The research "Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement", (Jacob L. Vigdor, Helen F. Ladd, NBER Working Paper No. 16078, June 2010) is more measured in its conclusions.
Abstract: "Does differential access to computer technology at home compound the educational disparities between rich and poor? Would a program of government provision of computers to secondary students reduce these disparities? We use administrative data on North Carolina public school students to corroborate earlier surveys which document broad racial and socioeconomic gaps in home computer access and use.

Using within-student variation in home computer access, and across-ZIP code variation in the timing of the introduction of high-speed internet service, we also demonstrate that the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores.

Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high-speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps."

From: "Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement", (Jacob L. Vigdor, Helen F. Ladd, NBER Working Paper No. 16078, June 2010)
As I discussed in "Social inclusion and cooperative education with ICT" at University of Sydney, in August 2009d, the computer needs to be put to a useful educational purpose at home. The Federal government digital education revolution is helping with this by providing wider computer access in an educational context.

Dr. John Worthington (my brother) did a a longitudinal study of children's literacy which included the effect of a computer in the household. What was was most interesting was the disconnect John found between what the teachers did with computers at school and what the children did at home, with the home use far more sophisticated and wide ranging than at school. Hopefully the federally funded programs to educate teachers in computer use are helping correct this.
Abstract: "The data presented was derived from a longitudinal study which examined a range of issues linked to early literacy development.

This data included the use by children of technology at home and school, and parent and teacher perceptions of what was happening.

The results show significant differences in how young children access technology at home and school and that parents and teachers hold differing perspectives. Typically teacher knowledge of the computer related skills of young learners lags behind that of the parents. Teachers are often unaware of the advanced computer related skills used by young learners at home.

There were systematic differences between the perceptions of parents and teachers which suggest teachers views are ‘refreshed’ each year where as parent perceptions are based on a longer time frame. When there is a purposeful effort by teachers to understand the use of technologies in homes links can be made to ensure a commonality between what actually happens with technology at home and school.

At this point the systematic collection of the outcomes and processes of learning through digital portfolios can be implemented."

From: "Perceptions of Young Children’s Learning and Computer Use", John Worthington, ANU seminar:12 March 2002

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