Education the Existence of the Digital Divide Essay

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Education

The Existence of the Digital Divide

The existence of the so-called digital divide can no longer truly be debated; the evidence that there is a present and growing gap in the access to computers and other technology of the digital age that creates an equally wide chasm in individual's ability to improve their lives through better employment and education is simply too great. Since 2000, there has been a measured difference in the ability to both attain and maintain employment for those with computer skills and those without, and this trend has almost certainly increased in the near-decade since this study was completed (Norris & Conceicao 2004). Individuals and families with lower incomes and that inhabit areas with traditionally poor infrastructure, such as in city centers and rural areas, are far more likely to lack regular access to a computer and thus are far less likely to develop the computer skills necessary for employment (Norris & Conceicao 2004).

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Perhaps even more distressing is that this divide does note even effect the poor and the rural dwellers equally. Women are much less likely to be able to participate in adult education programs that make use of computers, and less likely to succeed in such programs when they do participate, again due to being less likely to have had regular access to a computer and thus possessing a lack of the basic skills necessary to effectively use a computer in an educational setting (Vandenbroeck et al. 2008). This, of course, only exacerbates the employment issue of the digital divide; as these women miss out on educational opportunities due to their lack of computer skills, they also miss out on opportunities for job-specific training as well as a basic increase in knowledge and skill that would be beneficial to any employer. Reduced employment and education opportunities also reduce exposure to computers, perpetuating the divide.

Essay on Education the Existence of the Digital Divide Assignment

The advent of the Internet and other computer technologies were heralded by many as an opportunity and means to effect greater equality, particularly in urban settings and adult education programs and facilities (Norris & Conceicao 2004; Vandenbroeck et al. 2008)). This promise has not been borne out by current trends in technological and adult education progress, however, and new methods for closing the digital divide -- and thus narrowing the currently increasing class divide -- must be devised and implemented. One solution would be to establish more information technology centers in urban areas. Despite having the most densely populated square mils in the country, urban inner cities have an even lower percentage of access to information technology than rural areas; placing additional computer training centers in urban centers. Or increasing computer availability at inner-city library branches, could go a long way towards narrowing the digital divide in major cities (Norris & Conceicao 2004).

New approaches to computer and technology education for women are also called for, as evidence has suggested that utility does not play a large motivating role in women acquiring proficiency with computers when given the opportunity (Vandenbroeck et al. 2008). E-learning educational programs could be developed that emphasize self-sufficiency and efficacy with the machines before turning to practical applications, which some research shows would lead to improvements in many women's progress and success in acquiring the necessary computer skills as is fits more closely with their learning emphasis (Vandenbroeck et al. 2008).

An Andragogous Course Session

Were I to find myself teaching a course using the methods of andragogy, a course in computer literacy would not inappropriate given the context of the digital divide. An appropriate title for the course, in keeping with andragogy's notion of self-directed and application-oriented learning, might be Achieving Computer Independence (Knowles 1980). Two course objectives would be to increase the confidence of the learners in their use of a basic operating system (most likely the latest version of Windows, as this will be the most useful in the professional world), and to increase Internet search engine and navigation capabilities. These objectives both allow for an extensive amount of self-guidance, with the educator (myself) being approachable as a resource to help guide learners in the process of self-learning, helping them to achieve immediately practical goals as adult learners are won't to do (Knowles 1980).

At the same time as adult learners (according to andragogy) desire instantly applicable and practical results, andragogy also posits an internal motivation as the stronger motivating factor for most adult learners (Knowles 1980). Most adult learners who have signed up for a course entitled Achieving Computer Independence presumably already have personal and internal reasons for wishing to acquire basic ore more extensive computer skills, and throughout the course I would attempt to draw out these reasons and relate them to curriculum material. The course topic would also allow for a fair amount of almost completely self-directed learning, which would allow for a great deal of individualization in the specific concepts taught and methods used with each individual learner, thus ensuring that while each acquired at least the same basic level of computer proficiency, each would also do so in a way useful to their specific purposes.

Knowles (1980) also notes the resistance that can develop in adult learners when they feel forced to submit to someone else's will, which in this particular course would not only apply to me as the instructor but also to the computers used by the learners. The objective of the course would be to give the learners a sense of mastery over the machines, but frustrations would certainly be expected -- especially early on in the course -- when the computer doesn't perform in the expected manner (as they are prone to do). This might lead to feelings of resentment towards the computer, as though it were actually in charge instead of the learner, which could be very detrimental to the learning process (Knowles 1980). My own computer proficiency would have to be honed to a fine point before teaching this class, in order to effectively demonstrate how to overcome such frustrations rather then growing to resent and mistrust computers.

The objective of increased Internet proficiency could develop something of an opposite problem; there are few technical frustrations or limitations that might surprise a learner hoping for a self-directed experience, but instead thee is a vast playground of self-direction where finding one's way can be incredibly confusing. This is where Knowles' suggestion of involving the learner(s) in the planning process would be an essential benefit to the course (1980). By involving the learner(s) in determining where to take the course or a particular lesson, I would be allowing for self-direction without the expectation of complete self-sufficiency, thus fulfilling a role as an adult educator rather than simply an instructor with adult students.

Positionality and Adult Education

There is of course no question that positionality of race, gender, and sexual orientation have an effect on one's sense of identity and self through both primary and secondary socialization (Cain). Certain positionalities that have not enjoyed the same level of equality as is professed to exist in this country have shown poorer results in educational settings where they form a minority of the learners, and/or when the teaching and administrative personnel do not acknowledge their marginalized status through practical adjustments to programs (Cain). At the same time, when traditionally marginalized positionalities (minority race status, females and transgenders, and homosexuals specifically) are empowered through an emancipatory educational setting, the conscious acknowledgement of the positionality and its usually marginalized status can be used as a learning impetus causing adult learners to excel (Cain).

One example of the positionality of gender affecting adult development and learning can be seen in the women of a transitional housing program after leaving situations of domestic violence. Their gender-based identity conception had initially left these feeling powerless and dependent on their male abusers at the same time as they feared these men. Through their participation in the transitional housing program, most of these women gradually began to see themselves as capable and skilled women -- a major reversal of earlier attitudes they had towards themselves (Cain). In this instance, gender positionality at first presented a barrier to learning and development, but the provision of an emancipatory setting allowed for empowerment and growth.

Race has been marginalized in much the same way as gender,, with similar effects on the individuals and their learning as adults (Cain). It has also been suggested that consciousness fro marginalized groups is intimately related to a feeling of liberation, which necessarily stems from a sense, both prior and lingering, of oppression (Tennant & Pogson 1995). This leads to certain presuppositions about knowledge, its reliability, and its methods of transfer (Tennant & Pogson 1995). Specifically, a learner of a minority race, especially in an educational situation in which they are still a distinct minority, might distrust the very nature of the class and the material being presented from innate feelings of oppression that are directly related to that learner's concept of learning (Tennant & Pogson 1995). This mistrust would… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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