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Federal Policy and the Access, Equity, and Integration of K-12 Educational Technology Christina Brennan University of Pennsylvania June 4, 2013



This paper explores patterns in Federal policies regarding technology in schools and classrooms, and their implications for student learning. It begins with a historical overview of the progression of access and equity issues found in the digital divide literature from the late 1990s-early 2000s. An analysis of different Federal policies, from that time frame follows. Emphasis is placed on the impact of selected Federal policies and funding initiatives on student learning at the school and classroom levels. The next section addresses what I refer to as the digital divide 2.0. This section chronicles the expansion of technology from the mid 2000s to the present. Here, emphasis is placed on shifting research and policies surrounding educational technology from the current deficit approach to instead focusing on how to integrate technology into teachers pedagogy and schools overall structure. The closing sections address the implications for future policy measures. Questions for further research and analysis of the implications of technological innovations and education are also provided.


Modern society has become increasingly reliant on technology. Many people seamlessly integrate technology into their activities of daily living, from reading the newspaper to keeping in touch with friends. It is not too surprising then, that technology has a taken a permanent residence in the overall landscape of U.S. schools and classrooms. ODwyer, Russell, and Bebell (2004) note that spending on educational technology has increased from $21 million in 1995 to $729 million in 2001, largely due to federal initiatives. Teachers and students report using technology at unprecedented levels. NCES data from a 2009 national survey indicate that 97% of teachers had one or more computers located in the classroom every day. Internet access was available for 93% of the computers in classrooms. The average daily ratio of students to computers was 5.3 to 1 (Gray, Thomas, & Lewis, 2010). Yet in spite of these positive statistics, equity issues still persist. In a recent study by PEW Research Center and National Writing Project, only 54% of teachers reported that all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools at school, and only 18% say the same is true for home access (Purcell et al., 2013). In addition to equity and access issues, there are also those who question the extent to which technology is positively affecting teaching and learning. A particularly strong argument cites insufficient evidence that access to educational technology increases test scores (Oppenheimer, 1997) or that technology is being used effectively as an instructional tool (Cuban, 2001). While policy makers are apt to explore the impact of technology on student achievement, preliminary steps towards understanding how technology is being used and in what contexts it is most effective are needed. Additional consideration needs to be given to the current deficit perspective towards educational technology. Past and present Federal policies aim to quickly identify who does not have access to a certain devices. This mindset makes the goal to increase


availability of devices. A stronger alternative would be to look at how students and teachers are using the devices they have, and how the utility of those tools can be increased over time. This changes the overall goal from students having access to digital tools to developing a digital skill set. Before addressing the importance of technology in schools, it is important to discuss definitions, or lack thereof, of the term technology. Throughout the extant literature regarding technology in school settings, also referred to as educational technology, there is no universally accepted definition. For the purposes of this paper, it is important to present different iterations of a definition that have evolved over the years, particularly as used in presenting information about a digital divide. A 1999 report from the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) defines the term, technology, as encompassing telephones, computers and the Internet. If we fast-forward to the year 2010, the definition evolves to that of internet access service (inclusive of DSL and Broadband Internet connections) and ownership or use of devices necessary to access the Internet (NTIA, 2011). Thus, for the purposes of this paper, the term, technology, will be used in its broadest sense to include access to an Internet connection as well as a device (computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone). In this paper, I discuss the significance of technology in schools. I review what research tells us about the historical progression of technology in education and the digital divide. I then look at what federal policies have been adopted in attempts to change the landscape of educational technology and address problems of equity and access. From there, I move on to discuss the impact of such federal policies and its manifestation in classrooms and schools today. Finally, I offer suggestions for next steps at the local level, such as a redesign of professional


development and/or school organization, paired with policy implications and further research questions. The Importance of Technology in Schools Technology, as a whole, has the potential to be used as a tool for motivating students as well as a way in which content can be presented and shared. This, combined with its evergrowing presence in the lives of American students, makes technology a tool that has an enormous and increasing utility in K-12 education. A survey conducted by PBS Learning Media cites that 74% of teachers reporting that, educational technology is a student-motivator. Benefits of educational technology listed include: reinforcing and expanding content, motivating students to learn, responding to a variety of learning and demonstrating concepts that cant be shown any other way (PBS Learning Media, 2013). It is key to note that this survey spanned over 500 interviews with US Pre-K-12 teachers conducted by VeraQuest Inc, and has a margin of error of +/-4% at a 95% confidence level (PBS Learning Media, 2013). A 2004 project involving the PEW Internet and American Life Project and American Institutes for Research studied the attitudes and behaviors of internet-using public middle and high school students from across the U.S. Focus group interviews suggest five key areas where students reported using the Internet for school-related purposes. These included: (1) the Internet as a virtual textbook and reference library, (2) the Internet as a virtual tutor, (3) the Internet as a study group (4) the Internet as a virtual guidance counselor, and (5) the Internet as a virtual locker, backpack, and notebook (PEW, 2004). With teacher and student enthusiasm for educational technology, an estimated 100 percent of public schools having one or more instructional computers with Internet access, and an average ratio of students to instructional computers with Internet access of 3.1 to 1


(Gray, Thomas, & Lewis 2010) it is not surprising that discourse about technology in schools have increased in frequency over recent years. Technology in schools has also been found to have positive effects on student achievement. As part of its What Works Clearinghouse, the US Department of Education and Institute of Education Sciences have evaluated the effectiveness of various technology-enhanced learning initiatives. Campuzano, Dynarski, Agodini, and Rall (2009) studied the effectiveness of software programs on student math and reading achievement. An experimental design was implemented in which teachers in the same school were randomly assigned to use or not to use a software product. The team then collected student data to assess program effectiveness. After the first year of the study, findings indicated that differences in student test scores were not statistically significant between classrooms. However, the second year of the study, aimed to address questions of whether or not experience increases product effects yielded statistically significant results. It is important to note that these studies looked at a range of different products implemented across a wide variety of schools and districts, and did not address different forms of educational technology. Nonetheless, these findings would seem to support the idea that technology has the potential to impact student achievement if proper training and support are provided to all parties involved. The definition of technology is fluid and constantly changing to meet the wants of the age. As such, what constitutes a technology tool is also a variable that changes over time. Examples of technology tools to date include, computers (desktops, laptops, netbooks), tablets (iPads), smart phones, and e-reading devices, all of which require Internet or wireless connectivity. The availability and success of these tools has been documented across multiple


studies. Warschauer (2011), Cheung and Slavin (2011), Reich, Murnane, and Willett (2012) provide illustrative, though not exhaustive examples of such. Despite the increasingly widespread availability of technology tools, combined with student and teacher enthusiasm and usage, an important counter-argument must be acknowledged. Based on qualitative interviews, Cuban, Kirkpatrick, and Peck (2001) suggest that access to technology equipment and software seldom led to widespread teacher and student use. Of the teachers interviewed, most self-identified as occasional users or non-users. Many cited using computers for classroom work and in sustaining, rather than altering, existing patterns of pedagogy (Cuban, Kirkpatrick, & Peck, 2001). In his earlier work, Cuban (1986, 2000) has made the argument that computers are incompatible with the practice of teaching, and that when given the choice, most teachers will reject their use as educational tools. It has been my experience, though limited, that teachers will use technology and other educational tools provided that they have had time and training on how to use the tool and best integrate it within their pedagogy. Nonetheless, Cubans argument is also supported by statistics showing that 87% of teachers say these technologies are creating an easily distracted generation with short attention spans and 64% say todays digital technologies do more to distract students than to help them academically (Purcell et al., 2012). This is a growing concern with increased pressures given the current accountability and assessment landscape. In spite of the strength of the argument of Cuban and others, there are those apt to critically analyze their methodology, and present a counter-argument. Becker (2000) examines Cubans claims, using data from a nationally representative survey of teachers of 4th-12th grades. Becker (2000) argues that while Cuban correctly categorizes the frequent use of computers in academic subject classes as a teaching practice of a small and distinct minority, there are


specific conditions that impact the likelihood of a teacher having his/her students use technology frequently. Conditions include having five or more computers in the classroom, teachers who are confident in their perceived technological abilities, and those who tend to have constructivist teaching philosophies (Becker, 2000). Beckers findings align with what I have experienced in classrooms. Teachers are more apt to use technology if there is equitable student access and the teacher is optimistic in regard to his/her ability to use technology. Additionally, teachers with a more constructivist teaching style tend to be more apt to integrate technology. Further research is needed to determine the number of teachers who consider their pedagogy to be constructivist in nature, as well as the efficacy of this method. Technology has also changed expectations for student learning and teacher pedagogy; a shift that has also required districts to alter their related policies. Teachers are requiring its use by their students. Recent findings from teacher survey data indicated that 95% of teachers report having students do research or search for information online, (Purcell et al., 2012). It is important to note that the definition of technology in a classroom has also expanded beyond computers and software. Teachers report that they and/or their students use cell phones (72%), digital cameras (66%), and digital video recorders (55%) to complete school assignments (Purcell et al., 2012). Despite seemingly widespread use, there are significant obstacles faced by teachers when incorporating technology into their classrooms and pedagogy. Virtually all teachers surveyed work in a school that employs Internet filters (97%), formal policies about cell phone use (97%) and acceptable use policies or AUPs (97%) (Purcell et al., 2012). Despite the noble intention of protecting students from subjective information, filters act as an obstacle in many schools by blocking many innocuous internet-based resources that could be used by students and teachers.


This raises questions of how schools can integrate technology in a way that makes sense and protects all parties involved, and what role Federal and local policies play in facilitating or hindering such a process. Before the question of technology integration can be adequately addressed, it is important to look at the historical progression of the relationship between technology and schools. Digital Divide 1.0: Technology & Policy 1990s-2000 Expansion of Technology Access & Use During the mid to late 1990s the dot com boom and Internet led to discussions of a digital divide. The goal seemed to be to get as many people connected to the Internet as possible, or fear being left behind. This ideology remains present in the deficit view taken by policy makers and researchers looking at technology usage today. The discussion of technology access in the late 1990s focused on the physical availability of digital media (i.e. computers and internet access). Home access to computers by diverse demographic groups has been well documented in the U.S. over the past 15+ years by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2008a). These NTIA reports were based on Current Population Surveys (CPS) of about 50,000 U.S. households conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. As Warschauer and Matuchinak (2010) note, the NTIA reports provide a solid basis for evaluating the evolution of the digital divide in the US over time. This data is considerably stronger than that compiled from Pew Internet & American Life projects, primarily because of the large sample size of CPS and the rigorous methodology of the U.S. Census Bureau, which receives a response rate above 90%. The consistency of questions asked over multiple years also allows for stronger longitudinal analysis. Much of the early literature that discusses the digital divide focuses on a binary division


between those who have and do not have access to information (See Thomas (1996), Wresch (1996), Balnaves and Caputi (1997), and Selwyn (2004)). Despite the prevalence of this binary approach, it is important to look at the varying degrees and types of access available (see discussion in Warschauer 2003). Those who do not have home Internet access may be using the Internet at schools, libraries, community centers, etc. Even within the group who has home Internet access, technical conditions can and have varied greatly. Earliest discussions of the U.S. digital divide begin in the mid-1990s. At that time, the most commonly used measure of universal access was the telephone. At the core of U.S. telecommunications policy is the goal of universal service -- the idea that all Americans should have access to affordable telephone service (NTIA, 1995). CPS data from 1995 indicated that information have-nots were disproportionately found in rural areas and in urban centers (NTIA, 1995). When broken down by race, data revealed that Native Americans in rural areas had the fewest phones, followed by rural Hispanics and rural blacks (NTIA, 1995). On the basis of age, those under 25 had the most limited access to telephones while those age 55+, regardless of geographic location, had the highest rates of access. Moving forward, 1997 CPS data introduced a shift to include information about computer and Internet access. NTIA (1998) reports data highlights on the expanded information access, the persisting digital divide and a profile of the least connected. Data also show nation-wide rates of telephone access (93.8%), personal computers (26.3%), and on-line access (18.6%). When compared to the previous data set (NTIA, 1995), the telephone rates increase minimally, while significant increases in computer ownership (+51.9%) and email access (+397.1%) are noted (NTIA, 1998). Despite large percentages of increased access, a digital divide still persists. Between 1994 and 1997 an even greater disparity in access levels among some groups. Even


though all racial groups owned more computers in 1997 than in 1994, African American and Hispanic individuals now lagged even further behind Whites. Controlling for socioeconomic status, white households were more than twice as likely (40.8%) to own a computer than Black (19.3%) or Hispanic (19.4%) households (NTIA, 1998). Significant gaps in access were found among data by race, geographic area, income, education, and household type. In 1998 the profile of the least connected was that of poor minorities in urban or rural areas whose households were headed by females under the age of 25 (NTIA, 1998). This profile exemplifies the deficit approach, in focusing attention on identifying who does not have access; later introducing the problematic conflation of race and income categories in identifying the have-nots. The deficit approach is problematic because it focuses on providing physical tools while brushing aside the accompanying skills that are needed to maximize the utility of the technology. This profile of the least connected is updated in the third installment of the Falling Through the Net NTIA series, which was based on 1998 Census Bureau data. This report focuses primarily on home internet access, noting that once again, the digital divide has widened for certain groups. The gap between white and Hispanic and white and black households are reported to be 5% greater than they were the year prior. Divides based on income and education levels also increased significantly. From 1997 to 1998, the divide between those at the highest and lowest education levels increased by 25% and by 29% with regards to income levels (NTIA, 1999). The fourth installment in the NITA series takes a significant shift away from distinguishing between the information haves and have-nots, to looking at the growth and use of the Internet. Updates to the survey and methodology include questions about types of Internet



access and broadband infrastructure. Another significant change is that data now focuses on usage by individuals, no longer looking exclusively at household level data. Language in the report also shifts from a discussion of the digital divide to digital inclusion (NTIA, 2000). Despite this subtle change in language, the underlying deficit model persists. Once again, although Internet access and computer ownership continue to increase, a divide still exists between those with different levels of income and education, different racial and ethnic groups, old and young, single and dual-parent families, and those with and without disabilities (NTIA, 2000). For example, the divide between Internet access rates for African American households and the national average rate was 18 percentage points; a gap that is 3 percentage points wider than the gap as measured in 1998 (NTIA, 2000). Looking at individual data, one third of the U.S. population in 2000 used the Internet at home while the same was true of 16.1% of the Hispanic and 18.9% of the African American populations respectively (NTIA, 2000). Overall, from 1995-2000, as U.S entered the information age, a preoccupation with identifying the have-nots led to Federal policies aimed at narrowing the digital divide. Yet, Warschauer and Matuchinak (2010) note [The] big problem with the digital divide framing is that it tends to connote digital solutions, i.e., computers and telecommunications, without engaging the important set of complementary resources and complex interventions to support social inclusion, of which informational technology applications may be enabling elements, but are certainly insufficient when simply added to the status quo mix of resources and relationships. This framework would be used in informing policies during 1995-2000, but would prove insufficient as Internet and broadband continued to expand exponentially from 2000 to the present.

FEDERAL POLICY AND K-12 EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY Technology-Related Federal Policy Telecommunications Act (1996) E-Rate Program


One of the earliest Federal initiatives aimed at improving access to technology, at that point meaning computers and the Internet, was the creation of the E-Rate Program, which still exists today. It was created through a provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. E-Rate provides discounts on telecommunication services, including Internet access, to libraries and public and private schools, as an offshoot of the Universal Service program. Historically, universal service had addressed the availability of affordable telephone service in rural communities. However, in response to the growing importance of technology in the late 1990s, Congress voted to create E-rate which, at the time, provided up to $2.35 billion annually to offset the costs of emerging technologies for educational and public service institutions. The ability of K-12 classrooms, [and] obtain access to advanced telecommunications services is critical to ensuring that these services are available on a universal basis. The [E-Rate program] will help open new knowledge, learning and education to all Americans-rich and poor, rural and urban... (H.R. CONF. REP. NO. 458, 104th Cong., 2d Sess. 132 (1996) as cited in, E-Rate Report 2003). The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Company administers funding for the E-Rate program. Each year they receive over 30,000 applications from schools and libraries seeking discounts from 20-90%. The discounts are based on applicants poverty level. Priority is given to schools and libraries most in need. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determines the rules that govern and provide oversight and review of SLD decisions. From 1998-2003 E-Rate provided over $10 billion in discounted telecommunication and Internet access services to eligible schools and libraries. Additionally, E-



Rate began the development of a competitive market for those providing telecommunications services to schools and libraries (ERate Report, 2003). The Education and Library Networks Coalition (EdLiNC) is a group of school and library associations formed in 1995 to advocate for E-Rate. Since then, they have been examining the program and its implementation across the country. A 2003 survey, conducted by EdLiNC produced five main findings. (1) E-rate is an important tool for underserved communities (2) Erate brings new learning opportunities to special education students (3) E-rate has been key in transforming education in rural areas (4) E-rate is helping schools comply with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation by increasing student academic achievement (5) schools and libraries are devoting time and resources in completing e-rate applications. It is important to note that the survey in question initially targeted 19,000 schools and libraries that had completed E-rate applications from 1996-2001 and yielded only a 4% response rate. Of the responders, over 90% additionally participated in in-depth interviews. While the findings from the survey should be viewed cautiously, the importance and impact of the E-rate program is supported by Puma (2000) and Carvin (2000). Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act (1998) With a policy emphasis on increasing access to technology, particularly in schools and libraries, came an additional layer of policy to protect children while they were engaging in online activities. The Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) became effective on April 21, 2000 and applies to the collection of personal information online from individuals under the age of 13. COPPA defines, with specific terms, what information needs to be included in a websites privacy policy, how and when to acquire parental consent, and the



responsibilities of a website owner/operator to protecting the safety and privacy of children under 13 (COPPA, 1998). COPPA (1998) was created in response to the increased presence of online technologies in childrens lives, both in school and at home; the logic behind it dates back to the 1960s. Consideration for children and advertising emerged from television networks unscrupulous advertising campaigns. The concern for protecting children from television and radio advertisements is extended by COPPA to include companies Internet advertising methods in collecting personal information. COPPA defines personal information as inclusive of full name, home address, email address, telephone number, hobbies, interests, and any other information that could be used to identify the child. The overall intent of COPPA is to protect children from unethical advertisers and website operators; yet a common misconception has emerged. Many individuals interpret the no one under 13 warning as representing an assessment of the content of a website as suitable or unsuitable for children. In fact, the label has nothing to do with safety and security. Childrens Internet Protection Act (2000) With a purpose similar to that of COPPA in mind, the Childrens Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was signed into law in 2000. This legislation is meant to prevent childrens exposure to explicit content online. CIPA stipulates that schools and libraries receiving Federal e-rate funding must filter their Internet as a part of their Internet safety policy. Schools subject to CIPA have two additional requirements: (1) their Internet safety policies must include monitoring of the online activities of minors; and (2) as required by the Protecting Children in the 21st Century



Act1, they must provide students with information literacy education regarding appropriate online behavior, cyber-bullying, and social networking usage (CIPA, 2000). Both COPPA and CIPA are over a decade old, indicating that perhaps it is time to reevaluate whether or not they best meet the needs of children in a digital world. At an increasingly fast rate, the technology industry innovates without considering some of the practical repercussions for schools and government institutions. For example, the Secure Search option within a Google search is incompliant with CIPA. Due to its encryption layers, the secure search results are unable to be logged, filtered, or blocked; putting schools in a precarious situation (Watters, 2010). It is imperative that educators and parents alike become aware of this legislation and learn about its impact on their children. Nevertheless, it is also important for Congress to find a way of addressing privacy issues without minimizing the ability of individuals to teach and parent. A hypocrisy remains between technology enthusiasts embracing open access and legislation that limits that access for children in schools and individuals using public library facilities. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) The increased access to online content necessitated not only the protection of childrens information but also of information already existing on the Internet. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 addresses a number of copyright-related issues. It implements two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties; the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (DMCA, 1998). Five titles of the DMCA include: (1) WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act of 1998, (2) Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, (3) Computer Maintenance

Additional information about this Act can be found at:

FEDERAL POLICY AND K-12 EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY Competition Assurance Act, (4) Miscellaneous Provisions, and (5) Vessel Hull Design Protection Act (DMCA, 1998).


In looking at policy as a means of balancing the need to protect information while also affording access to it, the DMCA tilts largely in favor of the former. While policy of the 1990s2000 addressed increased access to hardware and Internet connectivity it did not address the increase in access to information. Future policy, both from 2000 to the present, as well as future policy will be challenged with balancing access to a seemingly overwhelming amount of information online while protecting both Internet users and content creators. Enhancing Education Through Technology (2001) The Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program is part of the 2001 Federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. It is the most comprehensive federal program that supports the use of technology to increase student academic achievement. The authorizing legislation outlines three goals for the program: (1) to improve student academic achievement through the use of educational technology (2) to ensure that every student is technologically literate by grade eight (3) to encourage effective integration of technology in teacher training and curriculum development (NCLB, 2001). Concurrent with NCLB goals, the EETT program is designed to target high-needs school districts. High-needs districts are defined by NCLB as those serving large percentages of poor students and at least one school in need of academic improvement. Schools in need of academic improvement are defined as schools that receive Title I funding and have not made state-defined adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two consecutive school years (NCLB, 2001). It is important to note that there is no definition for technology need in NCLB, and as such, states develop their own criteria for this standard. The conceptual framework for EETT is intended to connect the investment in resources (i.e.



technology hardware) to teacher professional development and technology integration in achieving EETT goals. A visual representation of the framework is seen below. Figure 1. Conceptual Framework for EETT.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, Evaluation of the Enhancing Education Through Technology Program: Final Report, Washington, D.C., 2009.

Funding is an essential component of the EETT program. From its beginning in fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2008, $3.4 billion was allocated to EETT. In FY 2008 the program was funded at around $267 million. The EETT program was discontinued in 2011 (US DoE EETT Program Evaluation, 2009). As seen in the framework, EETT funding is depicted as supplemental to other funding sources. Districts can use EETT funding to purchase and/or develop a wide range of supports. These funds can also be combined with other funds in districts and/or schools. This complicates evaluating the funding of the program, as districts with many sources of funding may use EETT money to support existing programs that are not identified as part of EETT (US DoE Program Evaluation EETT, 2009).



A program evaluation of EETT was conducted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009. The evaluation compared EETT to the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993. Four topics emerge as categories under which to divide findings: (1) Technology Access (2) Technology Related Teacher Professional Development (3) Technology Integration (4) Student Technology Literacy (US DoE EETT Program Evaluation, 2009). Significant findings from the EETT program evaluation included the following. An equivalent prevalence of Internet access in high- and low-poverty schools from school years 2004-2005 and 2006-2007 was noted. Additionally, 27 states had defined standards for teacher technology competency with only some of these measuring teachers technology skills. With regards to technology integration, 26 states reported not having a definition of integration of technology, nor did they collect data related to percentages of districts meeting the standard. Of the 15 states that did report such data, percentages ranged from 0 to 100 among all schools in the district, not only those receiving EETT funding. Technology Literacy among students also remains undefined. Six states reported conducting statewide assessments of student technology proficiency while an additional 25 states rely on districts to measure such skills. Of the 12 states that reported data, percentages ranged from 10 to 100 percent proficient. Overall, the EETT program is an example of federal policy attempts to bridge the gap between technology hardware and classroom integration, despite its discontinuation in fiscal year 2011. The gap between policy and practice continues to exist, despite the seemingly virtuous intentions of parties involved, and expansion of Internet access.

FEDERAL POLICY AND K-12 EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY Digital Divide 2.0: Technology Expansion & Use 2000-Present Extension of Technology Access & Use


Notions of technology access have shifted from the narrow focus on the physical availability of digital media in the 1990s-early 2000s to a broader focus in recent years on the sociotechnical factors that influence whether and how people access technology (Warschauer & Matuchinak, 2010). This shift is primarily due to the exponential growth of Internet access. The development of broadband infrastructure and widespread use of the Internet has resulted in the majority (89.5%) of youth becoming computer & Internet users (NTIA, 2002). It extends the conversation beyond home usage and into school settings. The 2002 NTIA data is the first in a series of A Nation Online. For the first time, attention is drawn to how young people are using the Internet, the impact this has for schools as well as for childrens safety. By the age of 10, young people are more likely to use the Internet than adults at any age beyond 25 (NTIA, 2002). Families with children are more likely to have computers (70.1% compared to 58.8%) and Internet access (62.2% compared to 53.2%) than those without children (NTIA, 2002). School age populations (ages 5-18) are using the Internet outside of the home (i.e. at school) at equivalent rates than their use at home (60.7% and 61.4% respectively). This is a significant increase from 1998 data where 19.2% of those ages 10-13 used the Internet outside of their homes, compared to 25.4% at home (NTIA, 2002). The figures that follow provide visual representation of computer use by age and location.

FEDERAL POLICY AND K-12 EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY Figure 1. Computer use by age and location (2001)


Source: NTIA and ESEA, U.S. Department of Commerce, using U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey Supplements.

Figure 1 illustrates computer use, categorized by age and location. From this data, we can extend the conversation about access from home use only, to school use and beyond. The figure indicates that in 2001, roughly 25% of children ages 5-13 access computers only while at school. Similarly, 22% of traditional high school age students access computers while at school only. This represents a significant portion of school populations who are not able to integrate the computer skills they are learning in school with their out of school lives. Another significant finding is the 45% of 18-24 year olds who do not use a computer. Further research is needed to determine if this 45% are not using computers due to access issues or if alternatively, they are conscientious objectors.

FEDERAL POLICY AND K-12 EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY Figure 2. Internet use by age and location (2001)


Source: NTIA and ESEA, U.S. Department of Commerce, using U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey Supplements.

While Figure 1 provided information about computer usage, Figure 2 looks at Internet usage, again disaggregated by age and location. From this information, it appears as though those a large number of those using computers at school (either at school only or both at school and at home) are not using the Internet. Again, the information provided makes it difficult to determine if schools are lacking access to Internet connections or if teachers are choosing not to have their students use the Internet, and if so, for what reasons. The 2002 NTIA survey also introduced concerns about childrens online use. Data reports that children and young adults are most likely to use the Internet for schoolwork. More than half of all children over age 10, and three-quarters of all young adults (18 to 24 year olds) in school, use the Internet for this purpose. Nearly one-fifth of all elementary school students are also using the Internet for schoolwork (NTIA, 2002). With the Internet becoming an increasingly common component of childrens daily activities, interest surrounding the possible exposure to unsafe content has intensified. Surprisingly, concerns about Internet safety are not a significant reason for a household to decide to forego or discontinue Internet access (NTIA,



2002). When households that had discontinued Internet access were asked why, concerns about how children use it was one of the least cited factors (2.5% nationwide, compared to too expensive at 21.8 percent or dont want it at 20.0%) (NTIA, 2002). Similarly, only 1 percent of households nationwide that never had an Internet subscription cited concerns about how children use it as a reason (compared to 53.6% that cited dont want it and 23.8% that cited too expensive) (NTIA, 2002). The 2004 NTIA report shifts the focus again, this time to looking at broadband technologies and high-speed Internet connections. President Bush presents the goal for universal, affordable access to broadband technology by the year 2007 (NTIA, 2004). The result: 63 percent of teachers reported in 200607 that students had high-speed Internet access in their classrooms (US DoE EETT program evaluation, 2009).2 2008 NTIA data can also be used to describe the outcomes of the aforementioned goal. According to FCC data, broadband service was available in 99 percent of zip codes by the end of 2006. Additionally, 91.5 percent of zip codes had three or more competing service providers, which would increase competition and decrease prices. At the same time, more than 50 percent of U.S. zip codes had six or more competitors (NTIA, 2008a). While the 2008 NTIA data sound promising, a joint report from the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and NTIA presents a less optimistic image. Emphasis is placed on the fact that despite census data showing increases in adoption of home broadband services for all demographic groups, demographic disparities among groups have continued to exist (ESA & NTIA, 2010). Data reveals that people with higher incomes, those who are younger, Asians and Whites, those more highly educated, married couples, and the employed have higher rates of
2 High-speed

Internet is defined by the FCC as access to the Internet and Internet-related services at significantly higher speeds than those available through dial-up Internet access services (see for additional information).



broadband use. Alternatively, those with low incomes, seniors, minorities, the less-educated, non-family households, and the non-employed lag behind in their broadband use. This analysis further dissects and compares the aforementioned groups to look at broadband adoption rates after accounting for differences. For example, after controlling for differences in education, age, race, ethnicity, household size, urban-rural location, foreign-born status, disability status and state of residence, a gap between higher and lowest income brackets ranges from 16 to 34 percentage points. Gaps between Whites and Blacks measure 10 percentage points, between Whites and Hispanics at 14 percentage points. A similar analysis found the gap between urban and rural groups to be 7 percentage points (ESA & NTIA, 2010). Among those who were nonadopters of broadband Internet services, main determinants included lack of need or interest, lack of affordability, lack of an adequate computer, and lack of availability. The significance of these factors does vary among non-users but findings generally indicate affordability and demand as dominant. Overall, from 2000 to the present, many shifts have occurred in the framing of digital divide conversations and data collection. From the inclusion of how children and youth are using the Internet to the expansion of high-speed broadband services, the emphasis still remains on comparing the haves and have-nots. As Warschauer and Matuchinak (2010) note, it is the sociotechnical factors that influence whether and how people access technology. The challenge for policy during this time is to continue to address access and equity issues while also looking at how technology is being used, particularly with school-aged populations.

FEDERAL POLICY AND K-12 EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY Federal Policy 2000-Present National Education Technology Plan (2010)


The Obama administration has outline two key goals for education: (1) to raise the proportion of college graduates so that 60% of the population holds a two- or four-year degree by 2020 (2) to close the achievement gap so that all students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and careers (NETP, 2010). The National Education Technology Plan (2010) presents learning as a process that is grounded in and propelled by technology. The plan outlines goals and recommendations in five areas. These include: (1) learning (2) assessment (3) teaching (4) infrastructure and (5) productivity. Long-term goals involving research and development with funding coordinated at the national level are also introduced (NETP, 2010). These are summarized in the table below. Table 1 NETP Goals & Recommendations
Area Learning: Engage & Empower Goal/Recommendation All learners will have engaging and empowering learning experiences both in and out of school that prepare them to be active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants in our globally networked society. Our education system at all levels will leverage the power of technology to measure what matters and use assessment data for continuous improvement. Professional educators will be supported individually and in teams by technology that connects them to data, content, resources, expertise, and learning experiences that enable and inspire more effective teaching for all learners. All students and educators will have access to a comprehensive infrastructure for learning when and where they need it. Our education system at all levels will redesign processes and structures to take advantage of the power of technology to improve learning outcomes while making more efficient use of time, money, and staff.

Assessment: Measure What Matters

Teaching: Prepare & Connect

Infrastructure: Access & Enable

Productivity: Redesign & Transform



The NETP (2010) also outlines what the Department of Education can do to support a host of initiatives. Key areas of interest include convening education stakeholders to collaborate on different elements of the plan, as well as supporting efforts to increase access to the point where all students and educators have 24/7 access to the Internet via various devices. It is important to note that in order for this goal to be reached, policies will need to be adopted at the state and district levels to best make use of the technologies that students already have. Bring your own device/technology policies are increasing in prevalence among districts in recent years (see Warschauer (2011) for more information). An actionable priorities outlined in the report include teacher professional development, transitioning to digital learning environments, research and development, and increasing productivity. NETP notes that a priority of the Department of Education is encouraging states and districts to move to more integrated use of technology in teaching and learning. This is aptly coupled with funding online communities of practice to ensure that teachers are connected to data, resources, experts, and peers (NETP, 2010). Despite these claims, historically, education decisions have been made at the state level. It will take a tremendous shift in bureaucratic structures to transfer some of the decision-making power, particularly in these areas, from the state to the Federal level. Recovery Act-Broadband Initiatives Program (2009) One of the NETP (2010) goals is for all students and teachers to have access to the Internet. The Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) was established in response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The logic behind the BIP is that providing access to broadband will increase economic development and improve quality of life (USDA-BIP website). BIP funding for loans and/or grants was designed to assist with expanding access to broadband



services across rural America; thus addressing the urban-rural gap in access seen in ESA & NTIA 2010 data. Funding for the BIP totaled $3.529 billion by September 2010, and was spread over 320 awards. These grants/loans were awarded to 45 states and one territory. It is anticipated that they will provide access to 2.8 million households and 32,000 businesses across more than 300,000 square miles (USDA-BIP website). Projects also overlap with 125 persistent poverty counties, and will create more than 25,000 immediate jobs. This will contribute to long-term economic development opportunities in each of the rural communities involved in the project. Access to broadband is a critical component of K-12 education. Despite its continued spread across the country, there is still work to be done to address the NETP (2010) goal of 24/7 student and teacher access to the Internet. Fox, Waters, Fletcher, & Levin (2012) cite a 2010 FCC survey of E-rate funded schools. While most schools had access to some form of broadband, 80% reported that their current connection was insufficient in meeting their needs. Outside of school rates of broadband adoption have stalled at 65% from 2009 (see Federal Communications Commission (2010a) (2010b) (2011) for more details). Transforming Education Through Technology Act (new/in progress) U.S. Representative George Miller introduced the Transforming Education Through Technology Act (TETT) in early February 2013. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (eSchool News article, 2013). The bill calls on congress for $500 million to be used by schools and districts in adopting technology. It is set to replace the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act, which received no Federal funding as of 2011. $250 million to support teacher training through a competitive grant program would accompany the $500 million for technology infrastructure. The bill also stipulates that those



receiving money would need to demonstrate that it was not being used for initiatives supported by the e-Rate program (H.R. CONF. REP. NO. 521, 113th Cong., 1st Sess. 2/5/2013). Despite support from groups such as the American Association of School Administrators, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) among others, it will most likely be facing an uphill battle for approval from Congress. Classroom Integration of Technology 2000-Present Despite attempts to improve access to high-speed Internet and other hardware, education policy does little to address the impact of technology in the classroom. Many schools operate under a culture that fears technology; where students cannot bring devices that they may own into the school or their classes. The ethos of fear stems from the perspective that introducing technology leads to a lack of classroom control. Additionally, as noted earlier, technology integration with teacher pedagogy and student learning has not been a priority in education standards. Issues of access and equity are now compounded with those of teacher preparation and professional development around technology. Even with the challenges mentioned above, districts, schools, and teachers are finding ways to use technology, within their existing structures, to enhance teaching and learning. An example of this would be a middle school debate regarding the merits of homework. This particular debate was unique in that it involved students from four middle schools, two in Pennsylvania and two in New Jersey. A panel scattered across the country judged the debate. Students learned the structure and methods of a debate, as well as the skills involved with the technology platforms used to engage all four schools. The debate was conducted through Google+ Hangouts and involved students collaborating between schools using Edmodo, a social



networking site for schools, and sharing notes through GoogleDocs. Students also took turns live tweeting the event on twitter using the hashtag #hwdebate.3 (Maplewood Local News article, 2013). Research has also looked at how teachers are using technology in their classrooms. Virtually all teachers surveyed by Purcell et al. (2012) agreed with the statement that the Internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available, and 65% also agreed that the Internet makes students more self-sufficient researchers. Most teachers encourage online research, using technologies such as cell phones to find information quickly. Yet, those same teachers also note significant barriers in the school environment that impede the quality of their students online research. Significant barriers mentioned included: formal cell phone use policies, Internet filters, and acceptable use policies.4 Although these isolated examples exist, it is important not to forget those populations who do not have access to such learning environments. UC Irvine cultural anthropologist, Mimi Ito, notes: Without a proactive educational reform agenda that begins with questions of equity, leverages both in-school and out-of-school learning, and embraces the opportunities new media offers for learning, we risk a growth in educational alienation among our most vulnerable populations Were seeing the tremendous potential of new media for advancing learningBut, right now, its only the most activated and well-supported learners who are using connected learning to boost their learning and opportunity even though the Internet and digital technology has the potential to even the playing field and

A recording of the debate can be viewed at: additional information about the efficacy of technological tools and teacher usage, see Cheung and Slavin (2011), Levin and Wadmany (2008), ODwyer, Russell, and Bebell, (2004).
4 For



multiply the opportunities for all youth to find their place and achieve (Digital Media Lab, 2013). The question then becomes, where do schools and districts go from here to maximize the opportunities for all of their students to use technology to enhance their learning? Future Recommendations Next Steps at the School & District Level Moving forward, schools and districts will be tasked with not only staying aware of emerging technologies, but also ensuring that all students in their school/district have access to the Internet, some sort of device. Formal policies, such as those dictating cell phone usage and Internet filtering will need to be re-evaluated to ensure that students and teachers have access to the tools they need. Additional consideration should also be placed on individualized teacher professional development that would maximize its utility by focusing on the needs of individual teachers. There is an additional need for new models of school organization to best incorporate technology as a learning tool. Todays schools should not necessarily have a structure or organization identical to that of the 1950s. The Connected Learning Research Network has dedicated its work to re-imagining learning for the 21st century. The interdisciplinary research network has drafted a report that outlines socioeconomic trends that undermine education and present a new framework. Their approach to learning draws from sociocultural, cultural historical, social constructivist, or situated methods, each method emphasizing how learning is embedded within social relationships and cultural contexts (Connected Learning Report, 2013). The Connected Learning Framework is also based on 21st century competencies. These include:



cognitive processes and strategies, knowledge, creativity, intellectual openness, work ethic, selfevaluation, collaboration/teamwork, and leadership. These competencies are grouped into three contexts for learning: peer-supported, academically oriented, and interest-powered, as seen below. Table 2 Connecting the Spheres of Learning Connected Learning knits together three crucial contexts for learning:
Peer-Supported In their everyday exchanges with peers and friends, young people are contributing, sharing, and giving feedback in inclusive social experiences that are fluid and highly engaging. Guiding reflections: Are young people given opportunities to: Contribute expertise, ideas, and questions? Share work? Give feedback to their peers? Socialize and hang out? Mess around/play in a social context? Guiding Reflections: Is the experience centered on participant interest (adult and teen)? Can young people form groups to explore a facet of this interest? Are there ways for young people to lurk as they discover new interests? Are there supports for young people to develop expertise around their interest? Is interest being publicized and celebrated? Are pathways for mastery in an area of interest made visible for others to see, either within the platform or within connected experiences? Guiding Reflections: Are mentors present who can help young people to connect their interest/activity to academic/institutional domains? Are outputs made visible within academic/institutional contexts that have relevance to the adult world? Do adults celebrate youth participation as academically meaningful and relevant? Do formal/academic settings provide space/opportunity for engagement with interest?

Interest Powered When a subject is personally interesting and relevant, learners achieve much higher order learning outcomes.

Academically Oriented Learners flourish and realize their potential when they can connect their interests and social engagement to academic studies, civic engagement, and career opportunity.

Source: Connected Learning Report (2013).



The challenge then becomes, how can schools and districts work towards this, or another innovative model within the current policy environment? Next Steps for Education Policy In order to maximize student achievement and harness the power of educational technology, future policy measures should address not only the haves and have-nots but also include guidelines for states on how to better implement technology in their schools. Whether its by increasing the availability of devices or high-speed Internet, providing teachers opportunities to develop the skills needed to incorporate technology into their pedagogy, or outlining standards for technology skills students will need to be college and career ready, flexibility is key. States and their districts/schools need space and time to take risks and reevaluating longstanding policies about acceptable Internet use, cell phones, etc. which is not currently supported by the high-stakes testing and accountability focus of recent education policy. Policy implications are of significant importance in this discussion, given the current accountability and assessment landscape. Of the two consortia developing Common Core assessments, Smarter Balance and PARCC, both have created technology-based assessments. Smarter Balance has added the component of computer adaptive capabilities to their testing protocol. Both consortia present ambitious technology requirements for the implementation of their assessments. The assumption behind the assessments is that by a specified academic year, schools will have acquired the tools and infrastructure necessary, and students will have learned the skills of the ever-ambiguous technology literacy.5

5 Additional information about the consortia and their technology plans for student assessment can be found

at: and assessments/technology/



Questions for researchers to consider, moving forward, include the following: How can research design better address the concern that new innovations in education technology tend to benefit the affluent? Why does research often focus on specific cases where teachers have access to special resources or technologies versus more typical settings? What is prohibiting these individual successful programs from being adopted on a larger scale? Can researchers address the gap between research and the practices of everyday classroom teachers? In summary, education organizations and policies have historically been slow to change, and are now faced with the seemingly daunting task of ensuring that their students are ready to fully participate in an increasingly digital society. Given the extant research reviewed here, policymakers should be increasingly aware of the digital divide that currently exists, but also consider issues surrounding implementation and integration of technology tools within school structures. Policy constraints would surround funding and equitable implementation of policies, particularly those designed to level the digital playing field. Additional constraints within current policy include a lack of technology standards or specific frameworks for implementation, particularly in NETP (2010). Moving forward, future research should take into account the implications of the digital divide on what innovations in education become the subject of research, and how that research can be connected back to the work of classroom teachers in the field.



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