The Digitally Excluded Learner and Strategies for Success

The Digitally Excluded Learner and Strategies for Success

Virginia E. Garland
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch233
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Disparities in Information Science and Communication Technologies (ICT) skills exist both globally and nationally, between developed and developing countries and also between digitally included and digitally excluded students in developed nations such as the United States. Recent research and policy initiatives are recognizing the connections between achievement levels and Internet access. Students in families of poverty, minorities, immigrant children, and special needs students are more likely to have lower levels of academic success than their more affluent, white, non-disabled peers. This article addresses the need to provide effective ICT resources and teacher training to meet the specific needs of these groups of digitally excluded learners in elementary and secondary level American public schools: low socio-economic status (SES) students, minority students, English Language Learners (ELLs), and students with disabilities. Recommendations for moving from digital exclusion to digital inclusion are made at the end of the article.
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Some researchers focus on the academic and social issues of the “digital divide,” a term more prevalent over ten years ago, but used synonymously with “digital exclusion” for the purposes of this article. Digital exclusion for some groups of students in the United States is a serious policy issue on the national, state, and local levels. Epstein et al. (2011) describe the transition from the 1990s “Falling through the Net” issues to the more current Internet access and speed concerns, “The first of these reports, released in 1995, documented systematic gaps in the use of computer networks by socioeconomic status, educational background, race, gender, and geographic location… As Internet use has grown, the debate in the United States has shifted toward a ‘broadband divide,’ focusing on the implications of similar socio demographic disparities around the availability and use of faster broadband Internet connections” (p. 94).

On the national level, the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) was created in 2010 (U.S. Department of Education) by a blue panel of technology and education experts to address the inequities in digital literacy and the associated poor performance of secondary level students in the United States on international achievement tests, particularly in the “STEM” areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Garland & Tadeja, 2013). The term “digitally excluded” was prominently featured in the NETP proposal, which urged educational leaders to provide more technology resources and training for teachers serving low socio-economic status students, minority students, English language learners, and students with disabilities. In this article, “students” is generally used in reference to elementary and secondary level students in public schools across the United States, although there is some additional research on post-secondary level students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

DJs: Digital jump starts for English language learners, usually with digital story telling technology.

Digital Exclusion: The lack of technology resources and access for students in poverty, minorities, English language learners, and students with disabilities.

NETP: The 2010 National Education Technology Plan.

Digital inclusion: The availability of current technology resources and access for all learners in an educational setting.

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Act, with 2004 revisions resulting in the increase of disabled students requiring assistive technologies.

ICT: Information science and communication technologies currently used by developed countries.

SES: Socio-economic class, usually lower for students living in urban and rural areas.

ELLs: English language learners.

OAs: Open access resources, free and usually containing scientific and other information.

STEM: Science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

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