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June 5, 2012

The Digital Divide and Open Technologies – new articles from Justin on EdTechResearcher
EdTechResearcherEdTechTeacher Founder, Justin Reich, continues to write about the growing equity issues in educational technology and the perceived value of Open Education Resources. In response to a front page article in the New York Times depicting young men of color as "freaks" who "throw tantrums" and "do the first negative thing he can find" with computer, Justin writes:
I am also deeply concerned with the digital divide of usage, although I don't believe that the problem lies in fundamental character flaws found in young black men and their parents. The problem has much more to do with profound economic inequality in our society. Affluent kids spend less time with media because their parents can afford to have them do other things: play sports, take music lessons, work with tutors, and participate in other enrichment activities. Affluent students have access to better schools and can more readily see the connection between educational attainment and economic success. Affluent parents can also afford to ensure more constant supervision of children, especially compared to low-income parents who need to work multiple jobs or at night. I do think that digital literacy efforts can play a powerful role in closing the digital divide of usage, but I certainly hope that digital literacy efforts will not begin from the framework of deficiency that Richtel lays out. Richtel is a white reporter writing for a predominantly white audience who writes an article about digital inequalities quoting a series of white experts and then frames the issue of the digital divide around character deficiencies in young black and Latino males and their parents. This is not the best way to advance our understanding of the complex issues of digital media, digital literacy, and educational inequality. Fortunately, there are much better alternatives. If you want a terrific examination of the same issues with a much more balanced, nuanced portrayal of the issue, then I'd recommend S. Craig Watkins recent article Digital Divide: Navigating the Digital Edge. Watkins article is more scholarly and less sensational, and ultimately much more enlightening. We do need a broader conversation in society about the importance of new digital literacies and persistent digital inequalities, and there are many better guides to this terrain than Richtel.
After writing Blaming the Poor as Framing a New Digital Divide, Justin then posted How Free and Open Technologies Benefit the Affluent where he articulates, "in places with profoundly inequitable school systems, our conceptual models of technology-enhanced education systems always need to account for these inequalities." This article challenges educators, researchers, and designers to consider the varied contexts in which learners function, and includes video from a presentation that he gave in March: When Open Encounters Different Classrooms.