Digital Divide: Poor and Rich Children

How technology can enhance learning is quite a large area to study. One part involves classroom media and various technological applications to improve presentations and lectures. Other efforts center on developing learning materials that can be delivered to students via the internet. Technology can be used likewise to extend the reach of excellent teachers by broadcasting their lectures and creating virtual conferences that will allow for live interaction between a teacher and a remote classroom.

On top of all of these, the technology we now have also provides an entirely new social medium in which relationships can be established. The internet enables us to network with each other with so much ease. We are able to share information, moments and photographs instantly. Facebook, as an example, has indeed become a gigantic meeting place where one can share what one has just read, what one has just seen, what one has just heard. Electronic mails as well as messages or posts no longer require postage stamps and long waits. And if by chance, the two parties that are communicating are both online, the response could almost be instantaneous.

Social media truly add a different dimension to technology. These tools can certainly influence schools and learning in the same way other social interactions do. The classroom can extend much farther both beyond its walls as well as scheduled hours. The internet can indeed be a virtual learning experience. The internet allows people of different backgrounds, social status, and educational attainment to be connected. Sadly, in this new medium, the digital divide takes life beyond mere access to technology.

It is true that in a developing country, access to the internet is still a major impedance to utilizing technology for learning. However, access has been improving dramatically all over the world. The widespread activity and large presence of Filipinos on Facebook clearly demonstrate that the problem of access has been somewhat alleviated. Having access, however, is not enough to destroy the digital divide between poor and rich children.

A new digital divide can arise not from a lack of access to technology, but from a lack of access to the right people, helpful connection, and correct information. The new digital divide comes not from a lack of technology, but from not knowing how to use the social networks for the benefit of learning. Recently, I was delighted to receive an email from the Mai Uichanco, currently the national secretary general of the League of Filipino Students. The email speaks of a student leader, who is actively engaged in discussions concerning Philippine basic education. We do find support and new relationships on the internet. Such an introduction would not have been possible if Mai and I did not meet on the internet.

Being a social medium, the internet can serve as a source of support. Students can build and maintain friendships. These connections are very important for adolescents. The internet can easily become a place where students are able to share frustrations on a difficult homework or project. I recently posted a quotation from Einstein:
""Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common."
And in addition to the "likes" I got from friends on Facebook, I got the following response:
Angel,not only in school but also in the house and with some friends and relatives as what I've learned from you during the days we spent in your house at Instruccion,the names of all the horses you bet in DIVIDENDAZO,seems inherited and received.......
Oops, I was just reminded of the times I used to spend on San Lazaro and Santa Ana (These, by the way, are not religious places, but horse racing clubs). Thus, by being with each other, even in a virtual sense, we are able to share ideas, experiences, and yes, even grief. These are all helpful connections.

The last one, getting the correct information, hinges in fact on the first two, the right people and helpful connections. It also depends on an ability to think critically, which is a must to filter irrelevant and incorrect information. Sadly, the internet is also full of hoaxes, misconceptions and in simple terms, garbage. Students have the responsibility to develop critical thinking, but as adults, it is our responsibility to provide the support they need on the internet.

Christine Greenhow, Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Michigan State University, works currently on how social networks can help education and civic engagement. Recently, she was a guest at the
American Public Media - American RadioWorks:

"For a long time it was assumed that a "digital divide" existed between rich kids and poor kids. But emerging research says kids from all income backgrounds are going online in large numbers - it's the way they're using the Internet that could make the difference in their success in school and life."

One of Greenhow's recent papers is the following:

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Technology indeed has a social dimension. This blog although it is maintained thousands of miles away, is visited mainly by readers from the Philippines. This blog attempts to provide perspectives and opinions as well as results from research regarding education. This blog collects views from people who are in the Philippines. I also spend time sharing links to the posts on this blog on Facebook. At the same time, I have made new connections, new acquaintances, new "friends".

Almost ten years ago, I was part of a group that helped elementary schools build a computer classroom. We were fortunate enough to have a supporting local government and throughout the years, people in this small town of Paete, Laguna have established a presence, a community on the internet. Providing access, however, is only the starting point. The digital divide can persist even with access to technology if such access is not used wisely and efficiently.


Recently, Congressman Palatino, the youth representative in the House, raised the importance of social media:

Youth solon urges DepEd to include social media topics in basic ed curriculum

21 NOVEMBER 2012
Following the growing number of “cyberbullying” incidents in the past weeks, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino has called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider including social media topics in the basic education curriculum.
On November 20, Palatino filed House Resolution No. 2901, which urges DepEd to include topics on the use of social media in subjects taught in elementary and high school.
“More and more cyberbullying incidents are being reported in recent days. There are those who believe that Congress should be legislating laws to penalize such acts. However, we believe that teaching social media topics during the formative years of students could be a far better solution,” Palatino said.
“Many of us will remember that in our earliest years in school, we are taught good moral and right conduct. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, it is but apt to include topics on responsible use of social media in the basic ed curriculum,” Palatino continued.
According to a study done by Yahoo-Nielsen, around 50 percent of the youth between the ages 10 to 19 access the Internet and use social networking sites on a frequent basis. Various estimates, meanwhile, put the number of Internet users in the country to as many as 30 million.
“The use of social networking sites is speedily becoming the norm. Thus, it is important that we teach out youngsters how to use this communication platform responsibly so as to avoid cyberbullying incidents and other nefarious acts committed online,” Palatino said.
“Teaching computer literacy should be beyond imparting knowledge on the hardware and the input of data. It must also include the teaching of good online practices including responsible use of social media and proper conduct online,” Palatino explained.
“Instead of criminalizing cyberbullying, we should move towards teaching responsible use. In this light, we urge DepEd to include social media topics in our country’s basic education curriculum,” the youth solon added


  1. Dear Mr. Dios,

    This is an excellent post that highlights the potential problems of digital divide between the poor and rich students. As a bachelor student focusing on communication and society, it is exciting to see how the technologies utilize the education for young people. However, I believe there are many inequalities that come as a result of the digital divide and this concept has been hugely exaggerated. It is well known that in the 21st century, technology is an integral part of the development of education system. Some limitations include the fact that some teens from the low economies developing countries have the latest technologies, such as Fiji and Africa. Further, I cannot agree with you that the income differences is a cause of digital divide because there is no measure of it and therefore, it becomes hard to describe the divide that occurs between two or more different societies. Economic backgrounds including the poor indeed have better access to technology, the article by Woelfer and Hendry’s shows that homeless youth have better access to mobile devices and therefore, the concept of digital divide seems not to apply to them. Like many other things, anything can turn bad in the hands of abusers. The economic background of a person is not the main reasons behind digital divide, there are many factors affect the concept.

    In my opinion, digital divide is a symptom rather than the differences between poor and rich. I think the gap is not as bad as it was previously thought. The advancements that have occurred for the disabled young people have set the path for the rejoining of the digital divide. Disabled teens in the past were considered to be behind in technology. However, the recent advancements that have occurred in this sector present an entirely different question to this debate. This can be seen from the YouTube video, “How blind people use Instagram”, which explores the technological advancements helps the blind teens in learning process. I believe there is an article by Danielsen,Taylor,and Majerus argue that the visual impaired are accessing technology, which enable the disabled to read through the Internet. This means that the digital divide is being eroded in this sector because of the futuristic advances made for them. People with disabilities are accessing new and better technologies each and every day, which means that the digital divide is slowly being eroded. In the example of the poor and those with various economic backgrounds have different accesses to technology. Is it possible to bridge the digital divide and have a win- win situation for everyone? I really hope that everyone could bae treated the same and benefit from the latest technologies.

  2. Thank you for your comment. Yes, I agree that income level is simply one parameter that can be correlated with the main differences between how people use technology.


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