Access and Education

Living in Upstate New York almost my entire life, I can say first hand areas with good internet access change to areas with little or no Internet access rather quickly. This is something that many love about central and northern New York. You can live and work in a city that is completely suitable for quick communication and easy technology access, but with one short drive you will find yourself in in the country or the mountains. Although many find this appealing, there are also those who see it as a burden. These are the people who don’t have Internet access at home. They are the people whose children cannot complete a homework assignment or research a paper at home.

It is a quick drive from city to country in Upstate New York, but here lies the digital divide. Even though they are a part of the same school district, there are children who do not have the same resources as their peers because they live in an area with poor Internet access. This makes districts extremely varied, and is something I have witnessed during my fieldwork experiences for the School Media program. It is obvious which students have access to the Internet at home, and therefore ICTs, the moment you put a digital device in front of the child. I have met kindergarten students who can use an iPad with ease, navigating to the internet, exploring web 2.0 tools, all while the child sitting across from them can’t even turn the device on.

The only way to combat this problem is to face in head on in schools. Students should be given access and instruction on digital devices from the start. Living in Upstate New York, an area where the digital divide is evident, we must expose our children to technology in school. Step one is exposure, but step one must be followed by education. We need to teach students to use digital devices, to research a topic use online resources, and to communicate in the digital world actively. We cannot use poor Internet access at home as an excuse. Education is as much about access as it is about learning.