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EL
24,2 The digital divide and academic
achievement
Jie Huang and Susan Russell
160 University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA

Abstract
Purpose – This paper aims to find out the degrees of students’ access to computers and the internet,
and to explore the relationship between technology accessibility and academic achievement.
Design/methodology/approach – The research, conducted through questionnaires, focuses on
fifth-grade students in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area because state-mandated test results for
core subjects are available at the state Department of Education web site. Thus, it allows the
researchers to collect data on both technology accessibility and academic achievement.
Findings – The findings show that the digital divide still exists, cutting through various
socioeconomic factors, and that the relationship between technology accessibility and academic
achievement may also exist, although it is very much complicated by other compounding factors, such
as the subjects of learning, the uses of technology, and socioeconomic conditions. It is hoped that the
findings of this research can help policy makers, school administrators and teachers better understand
the issues of digital divide and the consequences of technology use in schools and beyond.
Originality/value – This study addresses the problem of digital divide in the public school system
and investigates how it affects students’ academic achievement.
Keywords Internet, Public schools, Public libraries, United States of America
Paper type Research paper

Introduction and literature review


The digital divide “refers to the perceived gap between those who have access to the
latest information technologies and those who do not” (Compaine, 2001b, p. xi). More
specifically, the digital divide is often measured by personal computer ownership and
internet access (Kastsinas and Moeck, 2002; Parker, 2003). The two groups of people,
on both sides of the gap, are commonly called, in literature, “haves”, those who are
“information rich”, and “have-nots”, those who are “information poor”. The former own
the most powerful computers and have the best internet access to powerful streams of
continuous information, whereas the latter do not, in the “knowledge economy” (Cullen,
2003, p. 247).
In the world today, information is “a resource for development”, and “the absence of
reliable information is an epitome of underdevelopment” (Kargbo, 2002, p. 97). At the
societal level, information is essential in advancing education, culture, science, and
technology, whereas at the individual level, information is instrumental in personal
and professional development. In the past few years, therefore, the fundamental cause

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 31st Annual Conference of the Canadian
Association for Information Science (CAIS) held at Dalhousie University, Canada, from May 28
The Electronic Library
Vol. 24 No. 2, 2006 to June 4, 2003 and appeared in the conference proceedings (non-refereed) edited by Wilhelm
pp. 160-173 C. Peekhaus and Louise F. Spiteri. The authors want to thank the anonymous reviewer and the
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0264-0473
Editor, David Raitt, of The Electronic Library for their invaluable comments and suggestions that
DOI 10.1108/02640470610660350 are of great help in our revisions.
of “information divide”, the digital divide, has attracted much attention from scholars The digital
in the USA (e.g. Compaine, 2001a; Foster, 2000; Kastsinas and Moeck, 2002; Kuttan and divide
Peters, 2003; Mack, 2001; Schofield and Davidson, 2002; Solomon et al., 2003). Two
different views have emerged in the study. One view claims that the digital divide does
exist and the gaps, which cut across various ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, and
geographical groups, will widen if the problem is not dealt with actively and effectively
(e.g. Kastsinas and Moeck, 2002; Mack, 2001; Solomon et al., 2003). With inequalities in 161
the access to internet technology and, hence, information, the digital divide is a
“leading civil rights issue” (see Foster, 2000). The advocates of this view believe that it
takes societal effort, including the effort of policy makers, to narrow and bridge the
gaps. The other view questions the existence or at least the severity of the problem (e.g.
Compaine, 2001a, 2001b, 2001c; Powell, 2001). The holders of this view believe that the
gaps, if still existent, are closing among various ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, and
geographical groups thanks to the rapid diffusion of internet technology as a result of
two factors: “steadily decreasing costs of use, and steadily increasing ease of use”
(Morrisett, 2001, p. ix). As “the digital divide is disappearing on its own” (Compaine,
2001c, p. 334), there is no need to “declare a war already won” in public policy
(Compaine, 2001c).
Representing the Government’s effort to address and resolve the problem, the
National Technological Information Administration (NTIA) and the Economics and
Statistics Administration (ESA) published a series of four study reports, the Falling
Through the Net series, starting in 1995 (see Kastsinas and Moeck, 2002, for a detailed
review of these four reports). From a longitudinal perspective, the reports describe the
digital divide in America over time and the progress made in narrowing it. For
instance, the fourth report of the series states that the overall level of US digital
inclusion is rapidly increasing (National Telecommunications and Information
Administration and Economics and Statistics Administration, 2000, p. xv):
.
The share of households with internet access soared by 58 percent, rising from
26.2 percent in December 1998 to 41.5 percent in August 2000.
.
More than half of all households (51.0 percent) have computers, up from 42.1
percent in December 1998.
.
There were 116.5 million Americans online at some location in August 2000, 31.9
million more than there were only 20 months earlier.
.
The share of individuals using the internet rose by 35.8 percent, from 32.7
percent in December 1998 to 44.4 percent in August 2000. If growth continues at
that rate, more than half of all Americans will be using the internet by the middle
of 2001.

The report found that “The rapid uptake of new technologies is occurring among most
groups of Americans, regardless of income, education, race or ethnicity, location, age,
or gender, suggesting that digital inclusion is a realizable goal” and that “Groups that
have traditionally been digital ‘have nots’ are now making dramatic gains” (National
Telecommunications and Information Administration and Economics and Statistics
Administration, 2000, p. xv). Nonetheless, the report states, “a digital divide remains or
has expanded slightly in some cases, even while internet access and computer
ownership are rising rapidly for almost all groups” (National Telecommunications and
EL Information Administration and Economics and Statistics Administration, 2000,
24,2 p. xvi).
Specifically, this divide exists in the following categories. People with disability
are only half as likely to have access to the internet as those without a disability.
Large gaps remain regarding internet penetration rates among households of
different races and ethnic origins. Blacks and Hispanics continue to experience the
162 lowest household internet penetration rates at 23.5 percent and 23.6 percent
respectively, far below the national average internet penetration rate 41.5 percent. In
fact, the 18.0 percent gap for Blacks has widened by 3.0 percent from 15.0 percent
in December 1998. Similarly, the 17.9 percent gap for Hispanics is 4.3 percent wider
than 13.6 percent in December 1998. Also, only 16.1 percent of Hispanics and 18.9
percent of Blacks use the internet at home, against one third of the US population
for average. With regard to computer ownership, the divide appears to have
stabilized and remained large for both Black and Hispanics households. People age
50 and older, especially those who are not in the labor force, are among the least
likely to be internet users. Single-parent households are only half as likely to have
internet access as two-parent households. Another finding worth mentioning here is
that “schools, libraries, and other public access points continue to serve those
groups that do not have access at home” (National Telecommunications and
Information Administration and Economics and Statistics Administration, 2000, p.
xviii). The report concludes that “Computer ownership and internet access rates are
rapidly rising nationwide and for almost all groups”, yet “there are still sectors of
Americans that are not adequately digitally connected” (National
Telecommunications and Information Administration and Economics and
Statistics Administration, 2000, p. xviii).
In 2002, NTIA and ESA published the latest report entitled A Nation Online: How
Americans Are Expanding Their Use Of The Internet, which is based on the September
2001 US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, a survey of approximately 57,000
households and more than 137,000 individuals across the United States. The report
found substantial growth in the use of the internet and computers in the last few years.
“More than half of the nation is now online” (National Telecommunications and
Information Administration and the Economics and Statistics Administration, 2002,
p. 1). In September 2001, 143 million Americans (about 54 percent of the population)
were using the internet (which is an increase of 26 million in 13 months), and 174
million (or 66 percent of the population) used computers. The data showed that
“Children and teenagers use computers and the internet more than any other age
group”, and that “Computers at schools substantially narrow the gap in computer
usage rates for children from high and low income families” (National
Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Economics and
Statistics Administration, 2002, p. 1). According to the report, “Internet use is
increasing for people regardless of income, education, age, races, ethnicity, or gender”
(National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Economics
and Statistics Administration, 2002, p. 1). The data showed faster increase, for
instance, for the lowest-income households than for the highest-income households
(respectively 25 percent and 11 percent annual growth rates), and for Blacks (33
percent) and Hispanics (30 percent) than for Whites and Asians (20 percent). Also, the
percentage of internet users in rural areas (53 percent) is now almost even with the
national average (54 percent). Based on these data, the report concludes “With more The digital
than half of all Americans using computers and the internet, we are truly a nation divide
online” (National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the
Economics and Statistics Administration, 2002, p. 2).
In October 2005, the US Census Bureau, 2005) released the latest report, entitled
Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2003, based on data collected in a
supplement to the October 2003 Current Population Survey that included questions 163
about computer and internet use at home, school, and work. In 2003, according to this
report, 70 million American households, or 62 percent, had one or more computers, up
from 56 percent in 2001; 62 million households, or 55 percent, had internet access, up
from 50 percent in 2001, and more than triple the proportion of households with
internet access in 1997 (18 percent). Many more adults used the internet to find
information in 2003 (40 percent) than in 1997 (7 percent). Over half of adults (55
percent) used e-mail or instant messaging for communications in 2003, compared
with 12 percent in 1997. About one-third of adults (32 percent) made online
purchases, among other online services, compared with 2.1 percent in 1997. However,
computer ownership and home internet access were not even across various
socioeconomic groups. For instance, Black or Hispanic households and those with
less than a high school education had a lower computer ownership rate (respectively
45 percent and 28 percent) and less internet access (respectively 36 percent and 20
percent), and low-income households were likely to have less computer or internet
access.
While the USA as a nation is getting more and more access to the internet, the
question of interest is how such a change is affecting education in its schools. As
pointed out by Schofield and Davidson (2002, p. 1), who had accomplished a
five-year-long project researching on the topic, even though schools in the USA are
often characterized as highly resistant to change, they have undergone dramatic
change in recent years in at least one area: “the pervasiveness of computer technology
within their walls”. Thus, for example, the proportion of US schools with one or more
computers intended for instruction more than quintupled, from 18 percent to 95
percent, between 1981 and 1987; the average number of computers available in
schools increased nearly tenfold between 1981 and 1985. This trend continued in the
1990s. By the year 2000, the average school in the USA had one computer for every
five students. The internet access in classrooms had shot up from 3 percent in 1994 to
77 percent in 2000. In some areas serious proposals have been made to replace
textbooks with laptops. In fact, US schools are now spending more money on
computer technology than on books and other printed materials (Schofield and
Davidson, 2002, p. 1-2).
While, Schofield and Davidson (2002) argue, there is no doubt that internet access is
now commonplace in US schools and that the trend toward connecting more and more
classrooms in these schools is continuing apace, the consequences of this change are
far from clear. After all, as Gordon (2000b) points out, wiring classrooms and
purchasing new equipment is just the beginning. School is still the place where
students need to develop the skills they need to function effectively in the world – to
read and write, to add and subtract, to understand how nature and societies are
organized and where they fit in. Therefore, the two critical questions, among many,
facing schools are:
EL (1) What can be done to bridge the digital divide to ensure an equitable education
24,2 for all?
(2) How can the vast resources of the internet be utilized to improve instruction in
math, science, literacy, and humanities?

“The ultimate value of Internet access in schools will clearly depend on the extent to
164 which students and teachers use the Internet and on the purposes for which they use it”
(Schofield and Davidson, 2002, p. 2). Studies suggest that simply making a given
technology available to schools is not enough for schools to achieve the kinds of
changes in education that many hope will follow, and that positive consequences
linked with computer use often appear to stem from related factors (Gordon, 2000a;
Kuttan and Peters, 2003; Schofield and Davidson, 2002; Solomon et al., 2003).
In general, “Internet use is too new in classrooms to have been studied in any depth”
(Schofield and Davidson, 2002, p. 11). It takes much more systematic research before a
clear picture will emerge to show how new changes in technology at schools impact
academic performances of their students. This study attempts to make an effort toward
that end.

Purpose and methodology


As Cullen (2003, p. 248) points out, “Technology does not in itself solve social and
economic discrepancies within societies, and can often exacerbate them”. With
information as the foundation of an emerging global economy and key resource for
development, the digital technology access becomes an essential factor that affects
students at home, at school and in the community. The students with less technology
access are presumably at a disadvantage when it comes to seeking opportunities for
personal and professional development.
For this study, we concentrate on the public schools in the state of Oklahoma. We
want to address the problem of digital divide in the public school system and
investigate how it affects students’ academic achievement. Our purpose is to find out
the degrees of students’ access to computers and the internet, explore the relationship
between technology accessibility and academic achievement, and provide suggestions
for further improvement in equity of access for all students.
Our research focuses on the public elementary school students in Oklahoma City
metropolitan area, because this area includes our state capital, has 15 public school
systems located within its boundaries, and offers elementary school sites that are
inner-city, urban fringe, suburb, and rural in physical location. Besides, the fifth-grade
students have mandatory statewide tests on core subjects, of which the results are
available at the state Education Department web site. Thus, it allows us to collect data
on both technology accessibility and academic achievement.
The research is based on a survey conducted among the principals, fifth-grade
teachers, and parents of fifth graders, of the participating elementary schools.
Questionnaires were designed to find out students’ accessibility of computers and the
internet both at school and at home, and the ways in which, and the degrees to which,
information and communication technologies are incorporated into teaching and other
educational purposes. The schools in the metropolitan area were contacted and invited
to participate in the survey by either e-mail or letter. Ten of them replied with consent
to participate. The questionnaires were distributed to these schools and collected three
weeks later. After the collection, each school packet was sorted and response The digital
percentage was calculated to decide the validity. It turned out that only three schools divide
had provided complete responses from the principals, all fifth-grade teachers, and from
parents of fifth-graders with a valid return percentage (. 25 percent).
In what follows, we present the results of our study of these three schools, hereafter
anonymously called School One (S1), School Two (S2), and School Three (S3)
respectively. 165
Results and data analysis
A national report, released in June 2002 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, on
connecting kids to technology reported that the percentage of households with children
ages 3-17 that have home internet access ranges from 31 to 69 percent, with Oklahoma
listed at 46-50 percent (Wilhelm et al., 2002). It has found a disproportionate number of
children from lower-income, minority, and central-city families who have no access to
computers or internet at home. In their 2002-2003 Survey of School Technology, the
Oklahoma State Department of Education reported that 94 percent of elementary
classrooms have at least one computer and that 89 percent of these classrooms have
dedicated internet access (Applegate, 2003).
The first part of our study was designed to look at the level of accessibility for a
sample group of three schools in Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Table I shows the
level of accessibility for each school. Note that the number of computers in the table is
limited to those in the computer lab and media center of the school, excluding those in
individual classrooms. S2 apparently has the best ratio between students and
computers, whereas S1 has the worst. All the computers at the three schools are
connected to the internet.
Table II shows the data for the fifth grades at the three schools. Both S2 and S3 have
smaller enrollment, at 46 and 54 respectively, and both have two computers with
internet access in each classroom, and they also offer computer classes for different
amounts of time (respectively 90 and 30 minutes per week for S2 and S3). On the other

No. of computers in
computer lab and Student/computer Computers with Table I.
School Total enrollment media center ratio internet access Accessibility to
technology in computer
S1 500 9 55.5 Yes lab and media center for
S2 375 39 9.6 Yes students at the three
S3 342 24 14.3 Yes schools

No. of Student/ Computers


5th-grade computers in computer with internet Computer Table II.
School enrollment No. of classes each class ratio access class m/w Accessibility to
technology in classroom
S1 63 2.5 0 N/A N/A 0 and computer class time
S2 46 2 2 23 Yes 90 per week for 5th graders
S3 54 2 2 27 Yes 30 at the three schools
EL hand, S1 does not have computers in classrooms and it offers no computer class to its
24,2 students.
Table III presents the accessibility level at home for fifth graders at the three
schools. Obviously, the accessibility level is again the highest for S2, followed by S3
and then S1. The average percentage of students with home internet access for all three
schools is 55.7 percent, which is higher than the 46-50 percent for the state average
166 (Wilhelm et al., 2002).
The second part of our study is to explore the relationship between the technology
accessibility and academic achievement. Tables IV-VI present the three schools’
fifth-grade student performances on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests for three
academic years (2000-2001, 2001-2002, and 2002-2003), available at the state Education
Department web site. Each school’s average scores for four main subjects – math,
science, reading, and writing – are listed, with the state average given at the bottom.
The scores marked with an asterisk fall below the state performance benchmark of 70.
Table VII gives the three-year averages for each of the three schools, as compared
with the state averages for the same period in the bottom row. The relative ranking of
the three schools in each subject is also marked. As can be seen, S2 ranks the first in all

Table III. School % of students with computers at home % of students with internet access at home
Accessibility to
technology at home for S1 45.7 31.4
5th graders at the three S2 88.2 82.4
schools S3 60.0 53.3

Table IV. School Math Science Reading Writing


2000-2001 5th-grade
student performances on S1 26 * 81 48 * 88
Oklahoma Core S2 67 * 83 80 86
Curriculum Tests at the S3 58 * 69 * 67 * 63 *
three schools State average 72 82 75 83

Table V. School Math Science Reading Writing


2001-2002 5th-grade
student performances on S1 28 * 35 * 14 * 45 *
Oklahoma Core S2 78 84 80 88
Curriculum Tests at the S3 34 * 40 * 43 * 36 *
three schools State average 71 80 72 77

Table VI. School Math Science Reading Writing


2002-2003 5th-grade
student performances on S1 49 * 54 * 30 * 56 *
Oklahoma Core S2 77 82 85 71
Curriculum Tests at the S3 68 * 62 * 59 * 62 *
three schools State average 71 81 73 83
subjects, and S3 takes the second place in math, science and reading, whereas S1 takes The digital
the second in writing only. divide
As the findings of our study show, the digital divide still exists for the students both
at school and at home, despite the fact that it is narrowing rapidly as indicated by
various reports. With regard to the relationship between technology accessibility and
academic achievement, our study has found that math, science and reading scores rank
from high to low consistent with the levels of technology accessibility at these schools, 167
that is, more accessibility, higher scores (see Table VII). The fact that math and reading
tutorial software is heavily used in elementary schools would support this pattern.
Science scores indicate that S2 with the most accessibility scored highest whereas
the other two schools scored relatively close together, with just a 0.3 difference in
between. S3, which ranks the second in technology accessibility, did slightly better
than S1, with the least access to technology. Science can be taught more hands-on,
using the inquiry method, so although computers and internet connection can be used
to enhance learning, students could still achieve in this subject area with relatively
limited accessibility.
Writing scores were relatively good (compared with other subjects) for all three
sites. The writing test is designed to have the student write an essay on a given topic.
Grade emphasis is placed on ability to write on a topic, creativity in writing, and
overall structure of the story, with grammar and spelling less emphasized. Technology
accessibility, therefore, would probably affect this subject area a little less.
In summary, S2 that has the highest technology accessibility for its students both at
school and at home ranks the first in all test subjects (see Tables IV-VII). The school
with the second highest level of school and home access to technology, S3, ranks the
second in three areas, math, science and reading, whereas S1, with the lowest level of
school and home access, seizes the second place in writing. That is, there seems to be a
direct relationship between technological accessibility and academic achievement in
certain subject areas, such as math, science and reading, but this relationship is not
clear-cut in writing. Overall patterns indicate that higher technology accessibility is at
least partially responsible for academic success in today’s environment.
Besides the reason mentioned above, there may also be other reasons for the second
places being divided between S3 and S1. For instance, although most classrooms have
computers with internet connection, 12 percent of the teacher responses say that they
are not available for student use on a daily basis. 84 percent of the teachers reported
that classroom computers were used less than one hour per day by students. 76 percent
of the teachers included playing games as one of the computer activities performed by
the students. The parents reported computer games as the most used software (43
percent) and most performed activities on the internet (38 percent), followed by e-mail
and chat rooms (20 percent), for their children at home. Although some games can
develop skills that enhance learning, there are many other important technology
Table VII.
Three-year averages of
School Math/ranking Science/ranking Reading/ranking Writing/ranking 5th-grade student
performances on
S1 34.3/3 56.7/3 30.7/3 63.0/2 Oklahoma Core
S2 74.0/1 83.0/1 81.7/1 81.7/1 Curriculum Tests and
S3 53.3/2 57.0/2 56.3/2 53.7/3 ranking among the three
State average 71.3 81.0 73.3 81.0 schools
EL applications to be mastered for long-term educational benefits. So the question to ask
24,2 here is: If computers and the internet are available to students, how are they utilized,
for education, entertainment, or both?
The findings of our study are consistent with those of some previous studies; that is,
the prediction that positive educational consequences would follow upon the use of
computer applications in the schools has not been fully realized (e.g. Kleiman, 2000;
168 Schofield and Davidson, 2002). Such results are in effect affected by many variables.
Schofield and Davison (2002, p. xi) summarize the complexity of the situation nicely:
Today, millions of students in the United States and around the world can connect to the
Internet from their schools. Billions of dollars have been spent to provide such access with the
expectation that the information and communication resources the Internet provides will
improve educational outcomes. Yet educational benefits do not flow automatically from
Internet access. Attitudes and expectations; technical knowledge; classroom culture and
Internet culture; and curriculum design, implementation, and follow-through all affect what
teachers and students can accomplish with the Internet. In at least one critical respect, the
Internet turns out to be no different from any other classroom resource. What you get out of it
depends a great deal on what you put into it.

In sum, many issues need to be addressed in this regard. For instance, we have found
that there exists a much bigger issue of socioeconomic conditions, of which the digital
divide may be but an apparent symptom. The three schools under our investigation are
located in three communities that have quite distinct socioeconomic characteristics,
according to the 2002-2003 school year statistics and 2000 census data provided by the
Office of Accountability of the State of Oklahoma (available at the state Department of
Education web site that provides the test results of each public school), as shown in
Table VIII.
As can be seen, the digital divide indeed cuts through various socioeconomic
factors. With large minority enrollment and high percentage of the students eligible for

Socioeconomic data S1 S2 S3 State average

School (2002-2003)
Ethnic makeup for enrollment (%):
Caucasian 27 85 23 61
Black 11 7 50 11
Asian 1 3 12 2
Hispanic 51 2 9 8
Native American 10 3 6 18
Eligible for free/reduced lunch 95 25 96 54
Community (2000 Census Data)
Average household income ($) 40,051 49,519 36,111 44,370
Poverty rate (%) 22 11 23 15
Unemployment rate (%) 7 4 7 5
Single parent families (%) 44 34 50 29
Table VIII. Highest educational level for adults age 25+ (%):
Socioeconomic data of the College degree (%) 24 36 16 26
three schools and their HS diploma (%) 51 53 61 55
communities Less than 12th grade education (%) 25 11 23 19
free or reduced lunch, S1 and S3 have low level of access to technology for their The digital
students both at school and at home (see Tables I-IV). On the other hand, the opposite divide
is true for S2, which has the smallest minority enrollment and lowest percentage
eligible for free and reduced lunch, and which also has the highest level of access to
technology for its students both at school and at home (see Tables I-IV). What this
finding tells us is that, while addressing the relationship between technology
accessibility and academic achievement, we cannot ignore its context of socioeconomic 169
conditions. Not surprisingly, socioeconomic factors are a determinant in technology
accessibility, behind the apparent symptom of digital divide.

Discussions and suggestions


There is no doubt that technology can enhance teaching and learning, but the
questions are: to what extent it is integrated into the curriculum at school, and for what
purpose it is used at home. Thus, there is a two-sided task: technology should be made
accessible to the faculty and students, and the faculty and students should learn how to
make best use of technology.
Recognizing the importance of technology in today’s society, the Oklahoma State
Department of Education has established technology accessibility goals for the public
school system and attempted to meet these goals through designating substantial
portions of the budget toward technology improvements. Many partnerships with
private industries have also been established to help provide technical support, internet
connectivity, and computer equipment to the schools. According to the latest report by
Sandy Garrett, the state superintendent of public instruction, at Oklahoma’s public
schools, student to computer ratio now stands at 3.46:1, which is a dramatic
improvement from a ratio of 7.27:1 in 1999, and almost 95 percent of the classrooms are
connected to the internet via broadband (Garret, 2004).
Despite the State recognition of the importance of funding technology, budget
shortfalls that must be passed on to state institutions can make it difficult to fund
anything more than the basic needs. In this situation, schools with less accessibility
should be more active in seeking other grants and funding to obtain additional
financial support. Some foundation grants provide the funding for schools to
purchase computers. For instance, the Beaumont Foundation of America offers
education grants of technology equipment to K-12 schools with a minimum of 50
percent of students qualifying for the National School Lunch Program. Another
example is the Intel Model School Program, which provides computer equipment for
schools that are trying to establish a technology program. By seeking technology
grants and applying for them, individual schools will have a chance to establish a
quality technology program and increase the level of accessibility available to their
students.
In 1997, during the 46th legislative session, Oklahoma passed House Bill 1815,
which established a network of technology training consortiums across the state of
Oklahoma. All teachers and instructors, public and private, from kindergarten
through 12th grade are eligible to participate in free technology training offered at
facilities equipped with telecommunications and distance learning technology. Skills
taught include presentation technology, distance learning technology, internet
integration, web page development, and other curriculum integration techniques.
Advanced training sessions are also available. The goals of this training program are
EL to help teachers integrate technology into their curriculum and to have at least one
24,2 teacher with extensive technology training at every school who can serve as a local
resource to other teachers. Schools need to realize the importance of having
well-trained teachers and take part in this program actively by having as many
teachers as possible participate in this and other valuable training sessions. Only
when teachers apply technology in their teaching effectively can students have rich
170 learning experiences.
Once adequate accessibility to technology is established, it is important for
school administration to monitor how effectively technology is utilized through
continual evaluation. The evaluation should look not only at equipment availability,
internet connectivity, and faculty training in technology application, but also at the
kinds of computer and internet skills that students learn at school. Through a
continual evaluation process, schools will be able to identify the areas for further
improvement.
Libraries, with their commitment to freedom of access to information, have an
important role to play in closing the digital divide, and they need to take an active
part in the promotion of information literacy in their own communities, pressing for
its inclusion in the school curriculum, and in teacher training (Cullen, 2003). Public
libraries in particular, with their knowledge of community needs, should serve as
community access points. They can offer additional access to computers and the
internet for students without computers in the home as well as providing additional
support, via the internet, to those students with home computers. For example,
Oklahoma Metropolitan Library System, a network of 19 public libraries located
across Oklahoma County, serves approximately 600,000 people. CyberMars, which
contains the online catalog and several databases, has terminals available at every
library and can also be accessed from homes, schools and other locations via the
internet. All library sites have designated computers with internet connection for
longer searching and surfing sessions. The three schools that participated in our
survey are located within 2-4 miles from the nearest branches making them fairly
accessible to students in these districts. Public libraries should establish partnership
with nearby school libraries so that those students who lack access to technology at
school or home can be compensated at local public libraries. Schools can also make
field trips to the public library nearby to familiarize their students with the
technological services available there. Such partnership should especially benefit the
schools with a relatively low level of technology accessibility. According to its plan,
the Oklahoma State Department of Education has “the ultimate goal of improved
academic performance of all Oklahoma Public School Students through the
appropriate and effective use of technology in classrooms, libraries and laboratories”
(Garret, 2004, p. 14). The libraries at schools and in public have an important role to
play in attaining this goal.

Conclusion
In short, the findings of our study show that the digital divide still exists, cutting
through various socioeconomic factors, and that the relationship between technology
accessibility and academic achievement may also exist, although it is complicated by
other compounding factors, such as the subjects of learning, the uses of technology,
and socioeconomic conditions. The government, schools, and society need to work
together and make more efforts to improve the chance of equal accessibility for all The digital
students. As Kleiman (2000, p. 7) characterizes it: maximizing our investment in divide
technology requires a clear vision of our goals and well-developed plans for achieving
them. Unfortunately, the rapid influx of technology into schools is, in many cases,
running ahead of the educational vision and careful planning necessary to put
technology to good use. In fact, what is being done is often based on misconceptions or
myths about what is required to gain substantial educational returns.The common 171
myths that Kleiman (2000) cites are as follows:
.
Putting computers into schools will directly improve learning; more computers
will result in greater improvements.
.
There are agreed-upon goals and “best practices” that define how computers
should be used in K-12 classrooms.
.
Once teachers learn the basics of using a computer, they are ready to put the
technology to effective use.
.
The typical district technology plan is sufficient for putting technology to
effective use.
.
Equity can be achieved by ensuring that schools in poor communities have the
same student-to-computer ratios as schools in wealthier communities.

Kleiman’s conclusion, which we would like to quote here to end our paper, is the
following (Kleiman, 2000, p. 14):
The central theme underlying all these myths is that while modern technology has great
potential to enhance teaching and learning, turning that potential into reality on a large scale
is a complex, multifaceted task. The key determinant of our success will not be the number of
computers purchased or cables installed, but rather how we define educational visions,
prepare and support teachers, design curriculum, address issues of equity, and respond to the
rapidly changing world. As is always the case in efforts to improve K-12 education, simple,
short-term solutions turn out to be illusions; long-term, carefully planned commitments are
required.

References
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24,2
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Further reading
Oklahoma State Department of Education (2002), The Test Scores of Schools and their
Socioeconomic Data, Oklahoma State Department of Education, Oklahoma City, OK,
available at: www.ed-stats.state.ok.us
About the authors The digital
Jie Huang is Humanities Cataloguer and Assistant Professor of Bibliography in the Cataloging
Department at the University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman, Oklahoma, USA. She holds a divide
Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies. Her research interests include information
literacy, cataloging and retrieval of Chinese language materials. She has published articles in
Information Technology and Libraries, Cataloging and Classification Quarterly, and Library
Management. Jie Huang is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: lilyh@ou.edu
Susan Russell is currently Fine Arts Cataloger and Assistant Professor of Bibliography at the 173
University of Oklahoma Libraries. Prior to that, she was a School Library Media Specialist at
Little Axe Elementary School in Norman, Oklahoma, USA. Her research interests include
information skills development, reading literacy, and mentoring in elementary education. She
has published and forthcoming articles in Academic Exchange Quarterly and Journal of
Academic Librarianship.

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