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ILA Issues Brief, Announces Upcoming Blog Series on Overcoming the Digital Divide

By Alina O'Donnell
 | Aug 15, 2017

Overcoming the Digital DivideThe International Literacy Association (ILA)  yesterday introduced an upcoming, four-part weekly blog series on overcoming the digital divide. Starting August 21, the series is an extension of ILA’s latest brief, which explores deficits in digital literacy as both a cause and a consequence of socioeconomic, racial, gender, geographic, familial, and other factors.

The brief discusses two forms of digital divides: one of access to technology and the Internet, and another of implementation. Without strong instruction that supports “exploration, knowledge work, and connections between people,” students are not able to harness the academic potential and the social and economic benefits of these tools, according to ILA.

ILA also recognizes limitations imposed by the types of devices available (e.g., students cannot perform the same functions on a smartphone as they can on an iPad); location (some devices are prohibitively expensive in parts of the developing world); gender inequality (male students tend to have more developed technology skills); and parenting behaviors (parents’ income, knowledge, and interest affect children’s digital skills acquisition).

The brief ends with a call to action, identifying four critical steps educators can take to close the digital divide: increase funding, critically frame 21st-century skills, provide resources, and advocate for government support and policy changes.

Each blog post in the series will serve as a how-to guide on how to tackle one of the four critical steps. The guides will be grounded in peer-reviewed research and firsthand conversations with experts.

“We understand the systemic, underlying issues that are driving the divide. But now what? We wanted to take it a step further,” says Marcie Craig Post.

“We can’t afford to wait for help from corporate funding, government subsidies, and policymakers. While we work toward solutions on a national and international plane, we can start by confronting the issue on a district level, a school level, a classroom level, or even a student level,” she adds.

ILA hopes the guides will help educators embrace their role in leveling the playing field to ensure that students are being exposed to the same devices, using the same programs, receiving the same quality of instruction and support, engaging in the same mental activities, and gaining the same knowledge and experience.

“There are small changes educators can make to help narrow the gap, inch by inch,” says Post. “These patchwork solutions can have life-changing outcomes.”

Alina O’Donnell is the editor of Literacy Daily

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