March 18, 2013

Teachers See Digital Divide among Students

A survey of teachers who instruct American middle and high school students finds that digital technologies have become central to their teaching. At the same time, teachers report striking differences in access to the latest digital technologies between low- and high- income students and school districts.

In a survey conducted March-April 2012, teachers said disparities in access to digital tools has at least some impact on their students. More than half (54%) say all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools at school, but only a fifth of these teachers (18%) say all or almost all of their students have access to the digital tools they need at home.

Teachers of the lowest income students are the least likely to say their students have sufficient access to the digital tools they need, both in school and at home. In terms of community type, teachers in urban areas are the least likely to say their students have sufficient access to digital tools in school, while rural teachers are the least likely to say their students have sufficient access at home.

The survey also found these socioeconomic differences:

  • Seven-in-ten teachers working in the highest income areas say their school does a “good job” providing teachers the resources and support they need to incorporate digital tools in the classroom, compared with 50% of teachers working in the lowest income areas.
  • About four-in-ten (39%) teachers of low income students say their school is “behind the curve” when it comes to effectively using digital tools in the learning process; just 15% of teachers of higher income students rate their schools poorly in this area.
  • A majority (56%) of teachers of the lowest income students say that a lack of resources among students to access digital technologies is a “major challenge” to incorporating more digital tools into their teaching.

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