Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Digital Divide - A Tale of Two School Districts

{see my other cartoons at}


  1. Thank you for sharing this Jeff. Like you, I work in a district where many students have experiences like Dave. Aside from the obvious issues, something teachers may want to consider is helping to bridge the digital divide by providing students with options to use cell phones in their homework. I have some ideas for doing so at this post

  2. Makes me wonder how many homes and communites are connected to the internet. Resluts from a community survey relased last month showed 92% of students in Watertown had home internet connection. I wonder how that compares to elsewhere.

  3. Lisa - I made a mental bet with myself that you'd mention cell phones! (I won!!) And I agree. We use ours as 'on demand' info and communications resources, and so should kids.

    Fred - an informal survey (unscientific) done at the south Bronx school in which I have been consulting showed that about 60% of the incoming 6th grade last year had home Internet access. I am a firm believer that schools need to provide whatever they can to level the playing field; it serves our country well to do so as there is much untapped intelligence and talent even in poorer areas. But as my cartoon tries to show, even that doesn't fully work. The idea of cell phones is one approach (which I endorse), but even that falls short. But we need to keep trying.

  4. In District Bs, you're going to have to deal with the different demographics within the school, too (assuming there is a great deal of difference). My experience has shown me that Hispanic families are less likely to have internet access at home. This statement is stitched together from random observations, not empirical evidence. The kids do, after all, yack about Myspace all the bloody time.

    I'm in Memphis, which is something like a District B except for the fact that the teachers plan on students not having internet access at home and allow them to use classroom computers in stages during classtime, eating away at instructional opportunity (it's hard to have a "real" class when some kids are on the computer and urban classrooms sometimes need to be a bit more direct and teacher-centered that the edtech revolutionaries would have them be.

    If teachers in district Bs want their kids to do research, they will, for the time being, need to give the kids access directly. 1:1 netbook/laptop programs can help clear this out, but without the broadband access what good is a computer for research purposes (anyone still have an Encarta CD-ROM)?

  5. Your cartoon really gets at the nitty-gritty of the digital divide. Too many think we no longer have a digital divide in schools because all schools have computers - ignoring the limited access in some schools, the lack of training for teachers in how to use, etc. In our college Women's Studies course on Women and Computers we read an article about the obstacles facing low-income students trying to navigate the online financial aid application process. One of the students created a cartoon to illustrate, which you can see at's+cartoon+about+financial+aid