Access to education is a right for every child in Canada. However, the nature of this access can vary greatly depending on socio-economic barriers for the individual student as well as for the schools located in low-income or economically depressed neighborhoods.
While technology integration in education is becoming increasingly prevalent as a way of enhancing teaching and developing 21st-century skills among students, those students who cannot access technology due to socio-economic conditions are not receiving an equitable level of education (Nazar, 2015). The digital divide is exacerbating the already difficult situation for these students.
Looker and Thiessen (2003) report that many families from a lower socio-economic background do not have access to technological hardware at home or are unable to afford software programs or plans that provide access to the Internet. Conley (2010) states that some schools that are located in low-income neighborhoods tend to have less access to technology in the building and offer fewer options for technological training or technology related courses. This inequitable access to technology in schools and homes can result in serious consequences for students. These students:
- Will have lower computer skills and limited access to digitally transmitted information and knowledge (Nazar, 2015).
- Will have greater challenges in being able to avail of technology enhanced learning formats such as blended learning, flipped classroom or online e-learning classes (Equitable Access, 2015). As these formats become more prevalent their ability to be able to keep up with their learning will be affected, potentially leading to lower achievement levels and higher drop–out rates.
- Will not be seen as good candidates for entry into higher education institutions as they will have insufficient technological skills and even if accepted, would struggle to keep up with required achievement expectations (Sun & Metros, 2011, p. 160).
- Will have a significant adverse impact on their career choices and future job opportunities and will be shut out from jobs requiring well developed technological skills (Sun & Metros, 2011, p. 156).
Some ways in which the equitable access to technology can be achieved for students from low socio-economic backgrounds is through open access and free software applications, access to learning modules available through YouTube, TedEd, and other educational websites. Subsidies from government and school boards for hardware purchases and subsidized or free access to the internet provided by business corporations.
Conley, L. (2010). Barriers to Integrating Technology – The Digital Librarian. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/thedigitallibrarian/barriers-to-integrating-technology
Equitable access. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.core-ed.org/thought-leadership/ten-trends/ten-trends-2016/equitable-access
Looker, D. E., & Thiessen, V. (2003). The digital divide in Canadian schools: Factors affecting student access to and use of information technology. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, Research Data Centres Program. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-597-x/4193614-eng.pd
Nazar, D. (2015, October 20). Helping Students Combat the Digital Divide . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KSkWalmV1s
Sun, J. C., & Metros, S. E. (2011). The Digital Divide and Its Impact on Academic Performance. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED524846.pdf