At the School Level: Signs and Approaches to Digital Divide in K-12 Education

BOLT Editorial  |  By Emily Wong


Experienced teachers(or teachers that are very observant) recognize that there are a variety of constant needs or gaps between what is required and what is available within schools. In the case of 21st century schools, the “digital divide” ˗ a gap regarding technological access, progress, equipment, tools and programs ˗ are all the more palpable as the demands of technological literacy and employability increase.

It may be easy to slide into apathy or throw up one’s hands in frustration. However, through the focus on Jennifer Dolan’s 2015 article “Splicing the divide: a review of research on the evolving digital divide among K-12 students,” I propose that there are concrete and possibly successful ways to identify and implement approaches to close these gaps. While a teacher cannot mitigate the impacts of political measures, administrative acts(or administrator ex machina), funding, pace of technology, or support of key stakeholders, a teacher does still hold the power to make key changes that may(hopefully!) lead to lessening the gap, and integrating significant changes across their school.

But wait! What is a digital divide?

As a starting point, “a digital divide is an economic and social inequality with regard to access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies” (Wikipedia, 2016). In the context of schools, often the assumption is that a digital divide references the difficulty in accessing hardware such as computers. However, as the evolution and definition of digital tools continues, the digital divide has shifted to include an “[extension] into issues of Internet connectivity and bandwidth capabilities; availability of software; students’ and teachers’ knowledge and skills to use the available technology; the influence of mobile technology; and the impacts of limiting factors such as poverty, lack of teacher training, and cultural misunderstandings between students and teachers” (Dolan, 16, 2015).

When addressing the digital divide, it is clear that one must tread carefully and avoid making assumptions that might cloud effective measures to lessen the gap. Make no mistake: digital divide cannot be solved by “[m]assive computer integration…[a]s new technological tools continue to develop, new gaps will arise”(Amiel, 235, 2006); as educators we must have the flexibility to reinvent our tools to meet learner needs, as well as have accessible resources to help mitigate and lessen the gaps over time.

Identifying Digital Divide


Even in the process of writing this piece I’m sure the definition, characteristics, and parameters of the digital divide will have changed and shifted; Dolan highlights the shifting terminology, complexity, and difficulty in narrowing down key components of digital divide, which isn’t necessarily limited to socioeconomic status, digital exclusion, or even binary references of “have” and “have nots.” In fact, as her searches continued, terms such as “digital disconnect” and “digital equity” emerged, thus reinforcing the abstract nature of defining the digital divide(Dolan, 18, 2015). Through the synthesis of a variety of studies, articles, surveys, and reviews, Dolan reveals that the previous definitions of digital divide have evolved beyond the binary definition, and that the key causes of inequality in technology access are more varied than initially anticipated.  Continue reading “At the School Level: Signs and Approaches to Digital Divide in K-12 Education”

Where is OER now and where is it going?

Open Education Conference  |  By Dr. Connie Blomgren

Where is OER now and where is it going?

openEd1From October 11-13, I  was in Anaheim attending and presenting at the OpenEd 2017 conference. I  met old friends and new. I collected business cards and learned from those I met in sessions or as I took a coffee break. Old connections and past experiences  were renewed in unexpected ways – as well as making new connections and possibilities. This process of change and revisiting the old are part of being open…and of being part of the Open Educational Resources (OER) world and its larger affiliation with the open movement.

OpenEd 17 – Sharing, Gratitude, and Hope

Highlights of the conference included the venue itself –  the beautiful open design of the Hyatt – with its atrium spanning 10 stories and enclosed with north light passing through panels of glass. Inside and out palm trees reminded us how the natural world can always be part of teaching and learning – that we are alive and daily growing albeit in small ways.

OpenEd2The opening keynote by Ryan Merkely – a fellow Canadian – amid this primarily American audience reinforced that OER ties to Creative Commons and that there will be a CC certificate offered in April 2018. He summarized how CC is working on 3  aspects – teaching,  partnering and  movement-building – as forming their current and near future focus. This concept of the significance of the commons was  a theme further explored by the Friday morning keynote by David Bollier who encouraged us to reframe what OER means beyond the increasing drive to commodify content and to recognize that *open* is not the same as a commons. He asked – who IS taking care of open resources?  And encouraged us to be  mindful that a faux commons is possible i.e. we need to think of the Commons in more abstract terms.

With over 700 delegates this conference has grown substantially since its first offering with 40 attendees. The following highlights reflect only the various presentations, round table discussions and insights gained from the afternoon *unconference* that I attended. It is a sampling of the breadth of topics and flavours offered this year.

In the Open Your Eyes to Open Education: 1 Day PD Offerings Introducing K-12 Educators to OER given by  Cassidy Hall (Doceo Center University of Idaho), I learned about the model of professional learning that K-12 teachers access regarding OER development. Like the state of Utah, Idaho looks to K-12 OER as a solution for quality resources developed by teachers. Reviewing K-12 OER Materials (  gave an overview of the purpose behind Ed Reports which arose when American educational  publishers stated that their resources were Common Core aligned but there was no vetting available to examine such claims. The website is  purposefully designed to make people dig into an analysis and as more instructional materials are being tagged as OER, both by publishers and educators, Ed Reports continues to use a practitioner based peer review process to ascertain the merits of a curricular resource.  The review process for OER materials is as rigourous as for non-OER and involves several peers in making a determination.

Continue reading “Where is OER now and where is it going?”