Bridging the Digital Divide

How Teachers and Library Media Specialists Can Help

by Maurie Stockford

With more Americans having access to the internet and digital devices as time passes, the “digital divide” has narrowed. Even the term, “digital divide”, has evolved in meaning to now encompass “digital literacy” and “digital inclusion”. While researchers argue that changes in government and business policies are needed in order to make equitable access a reality, the impact of the digital divide is experienced daily by students and teachers.

What can be done to bridge the gap for students who cannot afford to be left behind while the government crafts new policies? How can teachers and library media specialists mitigate the negative effects of limited access to technology and the internet that the digital divide creates?

Provide as much access as possible in school.

  • Advocate for your district to provide as many devices for students as they can afford, 1:1 is optimal.

  • Lobby for up-to-date and adequate numbers of devices be made available in the School Library Media Center. That may mean fundraising, grant writing, or partnering with businesses in your community.

  • Work with district administration to maximize student access outside of school hours by extending the library’s hours. Could parents or other volunteers help make this happen?

Professional Development for Teachers

  • Embrace your role in technology professional development for teachers. Keep them informed and enthusiastic about the benefits of technology.

  • Stay current in your professional development, this is critical for a SLMS in order to provide ongoing leadership in technology.

Teach Information Literacy

  • Collaborate with teachers to teach information literacy skills so that students are savvy and informed consumers of digital information. Research consistently debunks the myth of the “digital native”. Students still need instruction in effective search strategies and discerning credible information.

Offer Library Programming Featuring Technology

  • Develop high-interest programming for students that builds their technology knowledge and skills.

  • Utilize podcasts, videos, wikis, blogs, and other Web 2.0 tools to engage students.

  • Make technology such as cameras, microphones, headphones, available to students.

  • Start a technology club in your school.

  • Offer classes for parents. Parents can’t support their children’s learning if they lack technology skills.

  • Actively promote the library’s services. Leverage social media to engage students in programming and market the library.

Involve Students

  • Solicit student input, especially with teens. Set up a teen advisory board.

  • Have teens help plan events such as YALSA’s Teen Tech Week.

  • Survey students to assess technology skills that need development.

  • Be creative with programming: music, videos, gaming, photography, writing, and art are all motivating for students.

School – Public Library Partnership

  • Partner with your public library to ensure that children and teens have dedicated access to technology at the public library.

  • Provide students with information about the public library’s hours and the availability of technology there.
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For More Information

Brief article with lots of great ideas for school library media specialists to help bridge the gap in technology access.

  • Franklin, P. & Stephens, C. (2009). Equitable access, the digital divide, and the participation gap. School Library Monthly, 25(5), 43-44.

Legislative and policy updates from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Has recent statistics regarding broadband access and the role of public libraries.

  • Herther, N. (2014). FCC and IMLS update focus. Information Today, 31(5), 1-35

Extensive article with excellent explanation of digital divide, digital literacy, and digital inclusion. Proposes that solutions to digital issues must be crafted by government policy in conjunction with the technology business sector. Discusses role of public libraries and funding issues that are hampering their efforts.

  • Jaeger, P., Bertot, J., Thompson, K., Katz, S., & DeCoster, E. (2012). The intersection of public policy and public access: digital divides, digital literacy, digital inclusion, and public libraries. Public Library Quarterly, 31(1), 1-20.

Illuminates the ongoing digital divide between urban and rural, age, and socio-economic groups in technology access and literacy. Describes limitations of smart phone as primary internet device. Raises problems with government policies in solving the digital divide issue.

  • Strover, S. (2014). The US digital divide: a call for a new philosophy. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 31(2), 114-122

Discusses misconceptions about teens and technology. Describes challenges for teens with limited access to technology. Shares thoughtful ideas for librarians to bridge the divide with teen patrons.

  • Wiiliams, T. (2014). Why should libraries care about teens and technology? Young Adult Library Services, 12(2), 9-12.