Technology Equity and Access for Children in America

 

Introduction

There is a concern among educators that an “information apartheid” exists; a situation based on inequities brought about by a lack of access to technology for some segments of our population. This lack of technology contact raises questions regarding equity (justice or fairness). For those young people without access to technology, future employment opportunities are limited and participation as a member of the “global village” is restricted. Included in this site are ideas on what parents and communities can do to make a difference.

 

Benefits of Access

Future Employment Opportunities

  • Information technology (IT) related employment continues to increase.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 1.9 million IT jobs in 2006 in IT.
  • In 1998, the Information Technology Association of America found 396,000 IT positions unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants.

Access to the Internet and the Global Village

  • A 1996 Rand Corporation report showed a strong link between the percentage of connections to the Internet and the level of democracy in that country.
  • Access to global ideas increases tolerance and prompts people to request improvements in their own societies.

Self Empowerment

  • The world’s largest library (the WWW) is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • Knowledge is now more available to those with access to the Internet.

Access Issues

A report was released (March, 1999) by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov) providing an overview of computer ownership in the United States. Besides noting an increased percentage of home computer ownership, it revealed that inequities remained in access to information technology. In particular, inequities exist among those households that are poor, have less educated parents or represent certain minority groups.

Poverty

  • Computer o wnership exceeds 65 percent among top 20 % of families in regard to wealth .
  • Approximately 45 % of upper middle class families own a computer.
  • For poor families, only 17 % of households have a computer.
Race
  • 18 % of African American households own a computer.
  • 36% of Caucasian homes have access to a PC
  • 25% of Latino parents have a computer in the home.

Age

  • 5.5 million children or nearly 8% of all kids live with their grandparents
  • Approximately 15% of 65 – 74 year-olds own a computer
  • Less than 7 percent of 75 year-olds own a computer
Educational Attainment

Computeer Ownership Chart

Figure 1. Comparison of Computer Ownership between 1990 & 1997
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. (1999). Computer Ownership Up Sharply in the 1990s.

 

 

What Parents and Communities Can Do

Parents and community members can join forces to support increased access for all children. Here are several ideas for parents to implement in order to reduce information inequity in American schools and communities.

    • Take Advantage of Volunteer Groups

      Tech Corps (http://www.ustc.org/) is a volunteer organization of technology professionals that attempts to build local capacity through the establishment of state and local technical assistance staff who volunteer to serve in local schools. The mission of Tech Corps is help all students gain “access to the most technologically advanced education possible to ensure that they will have the skills needed to compete in the workforce of tomorrow.” At the Tech Corps web site, you can found out if your state is currently participating. If there is no current program in your state or community, contact Tech Corps and make an effort to develop a Tech Corps program in your state and local school district.

      TECH CORPS®
      PO Box 832

      Sudbury, MA 01776

      Phone: (781)687-1100
      Fax: (781)687-1122

    • Promote a Local Donation and Refurbished Computer Program:

      Under current tax law, corporate entities can earn a tax credit for donating computer equipment to schools. In an effort to enhance corporate donation, proposed legislation would increase the credit associated with the 21st Century Classrooms Act to the equivalent of 30 percent of the donated hardware and software.

      A new program called NewDeal (http://www.newdealinc.com/productsn/) offers a software package that supports web browsing, e-mail and chat on PCs with as little as a 286 processor, 640k RAM and 10 MB of memory.

      The Dewiler Foundation (http://www.pcsforschools.org/) has a program “Computers for Schools” that operates as a centralized location to obtain corporate donations and to disseminate computers to local schools throughout the U.S. In 1998, 12,685 computers were donated in 12 states to 774 schools. Similar to Tech Corps, the “Computers for Schools” program requires parents and community members as volunteers to operate as catalysts for the formation of the program in your state or community.

      Detwiler Foundation Computers for Schools
      470 Nautilus St., Suite 400
      La Jolla, CA 92037
      Phone: 800/939-6000 Fax: 619/456-9918

      e-mail: [email protected]

The federal government also offers free computer equipment to schools and other non-profit educational institutions. For more information, visit http://www.computers.fed.gov/

  • Start or get involved with an existing Net Day Program

Net Day is a grass-roots volunteer effort to wire schools so they can network their computers and connect them to the Internet. Labor and materials come from volunteers and support from corporations, unions, parents, teachers, students, and school employees. http://www.shpe.org/netday/

    • Share Your Technology and Computer Knowledge with Other Parents

There are many resources available intended to inform parents about technology to enable them to help their children. Suggested resources include:

“The Parents Guide to the Information Superhighway: Rules & Tools for Families On-line” available at http://www.childrenspartnership.org/pub/pbpg98/pg98.pdf

NCREL’s ParenTech – Discussion Corner: The Discussion Corner is the place where you can talk with other parents, educators, and experts about technology-related topics that interest you.http://www.parentech.org/discornr.htm

 

Pass On Knowledge about INROADS to Your Local Library and High School

One program, INROADS, provides training for minority students to help them be successful in the corporate world as well as the community. Beginning in their junior year of high school, participants are assisted with preparation for college. While at university, students are offered 2 to 5 year internships with sponsoring corporations. To enroll, INROADS participants must have a minimum of a B average with combined SAT of 900 or ACT score of 20. For more information, visit http://www.inroadsinc.org

Share Information about On-Line Resources for Older Americans

One valuable resource for the elderly is the Administration of Aging on-line resource guide “Internet Development for the Aging Network: Online Resources.” It provides links to information on how-to use the web as well as links relevant to older users. This site is available at http://www.aoa.dhhs.gov/aoa/pages/guidrev.html

Inform your Community about Free Internet Service & Inexpensive Computers

Net Zero offers free Internet and e-mail access. In exchange for advertising on your home computer, Net Zero will provide free access to the information superhighway. Net Zero is available athttp://netzero.com.

Many local Internet Service Providers are offering a free computer with paid Internet access. Take a look at your local yellow pages.

NetPals: Provides LISTSERV services for free to the international school community. You set up an account (free) and then go to a Web page and enter email addresses to create a group. Individuals within the group can then send one message that will go to all members of the group anywhere in the world. http://netpals.lsoft.com/

Juno Email – Free Software and Service. Provides email software and service. Does not require an Internet or Web connection, but does require a modem. Juno is supported by advertising.http://www.juno.com/index.html

Also available on the WWW is free or trial software. The most extensive site of free software is Shareware.com available at http://www.shareware.com

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Additional Resources

The Digital Divide: This site was created by the US Dept. of Educations -Office of Educational Technology to provide links to articles on equity and access. http://www.ed.gov/Technology/digdiv.html

Bridging the Digital Divide: The Impact of Race on Computer Access and Internet Use. http://www2000.ogsm.vanderbilt.edu/papers/race/science.html

Closing the Digital Divide – The US Department of Commerce’s website is intended as a clearinghouse to provide all Americans information about access to the Internet and information technologies.http://www.digitaldivide.gov/

Bridging the Digital Divide: A Newsweek article (February 6-7, 1999) discussing diversity on the web as the goal of Black Family Technology Awareness Week. http://www.newsweek.com/nw-srv/issue/06_99a/tnw/today/cs/cs03fr_1.htm

Y2Connect: Guide to the Digital Divide. Provides not only definitions but also solutions. http://www.hubheaven.org/ddr/index.html

NCREL’s ParenTech – Resources for Parents These resources include:

Three 2-page Parent Briefs

Three 16-page Parent Guides

Other parent resources on this Web site

Special Education Resources on the Internet: Special Education Resources on the Internet (SERI) is a collection of Internet accessible information resources of interest to those involved in the fields related to Special Education. This collection exists in order to make on-line Special Education resources more easily and readily available in one location. http://www.hood.edu/seri/serihome.htm

Connect for Kids: Connect for Kids is a virtual encyclopedia of information for adults who want to make their communities better places for kids. The web site helps people become more active citizens—from volunteering to voting. http://www.connectforkids.org/index.htm

 

 

References

Borzekowski, D.L.G., & Pouissaint, A. F. (1998). Latino American Preschoolers and the Media. Annenberg Public Policy Center http://appcpenn.org/appc/reports/rep24.pdf

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (1999). Computer Ownership Up Sharply in the 1990’s. http://www.bls.gov/opub/ils/pdf/opbils31.pdf

Kedzie, C. (1996). International Implications for Global Democracy. In Anderson, R. H., Bikson, T. K., Law, S. A., & Mitchell, M. B. (Eds.). Universal Access to E-mail: Feasibility and Societal Implications.http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR650/mr650.ch6/ch6.html