By: Niesha Gibbs,

In today’s society, it is virtually impossible for anyone to excel with the absence of two things; education and computer literacy. Education is considered the great equalizer. Stated differently, it’s the universal key that opens the proverbial door of opportunity. But what happens when you don’t have the key?

At the Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, freshman Jerod Franklin and his peers work on writing assignments in their homework lab.[1] What appears as a common day for any high school, is anything but that. Nearly one thousand individuals, a vast majority of which do not have access to personal computers on a regular basis, share this moderately sized lab of twenty-four systems.[2] Not having access to such technology is a breeding ground for technological illiteracy.

While over 75% of American adults and over 80% of teens use the internet, “some poorer areas in the United States still see comparatively low rates of home computer use.”[3] This occurrence, most notably known as the “digital divide” fosters disparities in basic computer literacy, which translates into far greater socio-economic implications.[4] With the strong presence of cellphones and other smart devices, its counter-intuitive to think that some youth lack even the most minimal computer skills. However, access to the web does not render a person, in this case a school aged students, as having computer literacy.[5]

The blatant fact of the matter with this trend is that it affects the same demographic, which in this case is underprivileged inner city minorities. The lack of digital literacy may include the inability to perform simple functions such as, compose emails, log into online platforms, and even saving work to a thumb or disk drive.[6] Without these basic skills, one becomes unmarketable to potential universities and job opportunities. In attempt to sharpen these skills, 70% of teachers assign homework that requires Internet access.[7] However, the system that may appear to help these youngsters is only hurting them. How can one sharpen a tool without the proper materials? In an attempt to improve digital literacy, imagine the falling grades hundreds of children may receive because all of the aforementioned twenty-four computers in the school’s lab were all being used. Computer literacy programs that are implemented in the inner cities should take a more holistic approach.[8] While more devices are necessary, basic introductory courses should accompany them. Courses that will “enhance participants’ skill sets and ensure they become self-sufficient.” But, how? The answer appears to be funding.

A principal of a predominantly minority based elementary school, Pleasant View, has decided to pursue the answer on behalf of her students.[9] Over the course of one-year Principal Gara Field, applied for and received a grant totaling over $400,000 with some support from her district.[10] This, no doubt, will allow these impressionable students to have the access, capability and understanding of many digital resources. Principal Gara understands an important notion that many others may not. Seeking the answer, before the problems arises makes for the best solution.

 

[1] See Nick Pandolfo, As Some Schools Plunge into Technology, Poor Schools Are Left Behind, Hechinger Report (2012), http://hechingerreport.org/as-some-schools-plunge-into-technology-poor-schools-are-left-behind/.

[2] Id.

[3] See John Wihbey, Computer Usage and Access in Low-income Urban Communities, Journalist’s Resource (2013), https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/internet/computer-usage-access-low-income-urban-communities.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] See Gage William Salicki, Urban School Districts Still Don’t Have Equal Access to Digital Tools and Education, ctViewpoints (2017), https://ctviewpoints.org/2017/11/01/urban-school-districts-still-dont-have-equal-access-to-digital-tools-and-education/.

[8] Id.

[9] See Jennifer D. Jordan, How an Unconventional Principal Turned Around a Struggling urban School, pbs (2015), https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/unconventional-principal-uses-blended-learning-help-turn-around-struggling-urban-school.

[10] Id.

Image Source: https://tribune.com.pk/story/936341/in-the-cyberspace-technology-illiteracy-leads-to-online-harassment/.

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