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Is There a Digital Divide or an Intellectual-Pedagogical One?

with 11 comments

This post includes a number of wonderings . . .

For the past few days, there has been some controversy over a TED talk that included some commentary about classism. See the Time article Was Nick Hanauer’s TED Talk on Income Inequality Too Rich for Rich People? for a synopsis.  The basic premise was that the talk was censored from public viewing due to it being offensive to the wealthy folks that pay to attend the TED conference.

I really love watching TED talks but this controversy got me thinking about intellectual elitism.  I cannot nor will ever be able to afford to go to a TED conference but I can watch them online.  I often ask, in group settings, if folks heard of TED.  Groups that contain higher education faculty and teachers, who are engaged in social networks, do know of TED talks.  My college students and friends, many who are of lower SES levels, have not.

I wonder what would happen if I were to ask this question of the larger population. I believe the results would show that more higher income folks would know about the TED talks than lower income folks.

I have the privilege of using my laptop, iPhone, and iPad to learn about anything I want throughout the day.  These devices along with skills I gained about how to learn have provided me with opportunities to access information I desire. I am wondering if folks from lower income brackets can say the same.

The use of technology use by our society has sparked discussion about the digital divide.

Such numbers may seem proof that America is, indeed, online. But they mask an emerging division, one that has worrisome implications for our economy and society. Increasingly, we are a country in which only the urban and suburban well-off have truly high-speed Internet access, while the rest — the poor and the working class — either cannot afford access or use restricted wireless access as their only connection to the Internet. As our jobs, entertainment, politics and even health care move online, millions are at risk of being left behind.

  • But I wonder if the digital divide is really an intellectual or pedagogical one.
  • I wonder that if a comparison was done of higher and lower income schools, what would be the ratio of 1:1 (one mobile device per student during school time) initiatives?
  • I wonder, for those lower income schools, how many students have computer devices at home that match those they are using in school.
  • Even considering the new Ted-Ed Lessons Worth Sharing, I wonder which schools are using the lessons.
  • I wonder if technology integration strategies are similar for higher income schools in comparison to lower income skills.

Are we sugarcoating a larger sociological issue of classism in our school systems? Thirty years ago, Jean Anyon wrote Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work

It’s no surprise that schools in wealthy communities are better than those in poor communities, or that they better prepare their students for desirable jobs. It may be shocking, however, to learn how vast the differences in schools are – not so much in resources as in teaching methods and philosophies of education.

I fear that the digital divide is really an intellectual and pedagogical one and that it is being perpetuated in our educational system by the use or lack thereof of the technologies that are influencing and driving our society-at-large.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

11 Responses

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  1. Great post Jackie – I really do think you are on to something with the pedagogical divide.

    T.C. Chappelear

    May 18, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    • So, what I hear you saying is that the use, or lack of use, of Internet-enabled tools in the classroom is creating a split among graduating students. That there is either a causality, or even co-relational, link between Internet-enabled tools in the classroom and the ability to find a “good” job after school.

      If anyone buys this theory, then I have some ocean front property in Kansas to sell them.

      Anyway, if you are looking for an social or even economic problem to iniquity in public school, then we probably need to delve much deeper into how public schools function rather than dwelling on whether or not all students have Internet-enabled devices.


      May 1, 2013 at 12:34 am

  2. A french sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, has explained how educational institutions participate in social class reproduction… I think the present problem can be analysed this way too…


    May 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    • Thanks, Oliver – it is actually the same thing – schools as reproducers of social class . . . my point exactly. I think “we” are simplifying the issue by just discussing it as the digital divide when, at the heart, it is a social issue and larger than just integrating technology into the classroom.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      May 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

  3. Teachers are the blockers or the enablers. The problem is teachers are teaching the way they were taught.


    May 19, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  4. […] Is There a Digital Divide or an Intellectual-Pedagogical One? […]

  5. Just a note about the TED meetings (I mean the main one.) Every year the Western Spectroscopy Association holds a 4 day meeting at Asilomar State Park – just down the road from where TED meets, and the times are overlapping. I used to be a regular at the Asilomar meetings. Quite by accident, I discovered TED – by doing my usual thing of following crowds. I had no idea of the price tag – and so I didn’t know I was doing felony theft – and I wandered in for a couple years. Nobody batted an eye at me in those days. Once I learned the price and the people in attendance, I stopped but I am guessing the security is much tighter today. In those days, I never felt like I was unwelcome. Today, I am sure I would. I’m not exactly sure of the message of my experience, but I think it is in line with your post. There is a protection of high levels of knowledge that feels like it is growing. I see it in the charter/public school battle most clearly.


    June 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm

  6. […] her post, “Is There a Digital Divide or an Intellectual-Pedagogical One?”, Jackie Gerstein ponders just how much of the “digital divide” is located within and […]

  7. […] Is There a Digital Divide or an Intellectual-Pedagogical One? by Jackie Gerstein May 18, 2012 […]

  8. Jackie, I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while too as it becomes obvious as I try to meet the needs of a real broad spectrum of adult learners in my role as Digital Literacy Coach. I teach in an international school in Singapore and there isn’t really a socio-economic divide either for students or teachers.
    My teachers range from the uber-connected @intrepidteacher to people who don’t engage at all with social media. I’ve been trying to uncover trends in terms of how they connect, why they share (or not) both online and off.
    It seems as though age has less to do with the divide and pedagogical approach might be the best way to describe that difference. We’ve had some success in getting non-sharers to engage with communities of practice by introducing Twitter a primarily a place to read. Once people discover the resources they can find there, they seem more likely to engage in conversations and share back themselves.

    Jeff Plaman

    May 1, 2013 at 12:31 am

  9. I laugh at the idea of intellectual elitism. What’s the point of seemingly being so intelligent if you can’t apply it to making a better status quo. Out of all the collective so called intelligence that has ever existed and currently exist in the minds of scientist, intellectuals, scholars, politicians, gurus, business people, artist, preachers, experts and professionals, the status quo is still the status quo. It’s obvious that people are not as smart as we think they are and we appear to be. At the end of the day it’s about progress for all not just for some so we are all responsible for the way things are no matter how smart you are, how smart you think you are or how smart other people think you are. To sit around and find people to blame does not contribute to making progress. If people really knew what they were talking about things would be significantly better. Until we tend to the whole person and society physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financially all at once, we will never reach optimal levels of existing/living/surviving/progressing together.

    Steve Progress

    May 12, 2013 at 1:03 am

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