Educators, librarians discuss how schools and libraries can respond to the ‘second wave of the digital divide’

librarians-AASLWashington, D.C. — Barbara Stripling, president of the American Library Association, said students, teachers, and librarians are facing “a silent dilemma.”

Imagine, she said, you’re one of two students sitting next to each other in the same classroom, receiving the same assignment. The homework requires some online research. One student, who has had a computer as long as she can remember, goes home that night and gets to work.

You, the other student, are from a lower-income family and have never had access to a computer. You eventually are able to sneak in an hour or two at the public library, but as you stare at the empty web browser, you don’t even know where to begin.

“You’ve never had that kind of access,” Stripling said. “No one has ever explained  to you what good or bad information is online. You turn in your assignment, and that other student gets a good grade, and you don’t.”

Stripling was one of three panelists who spoke at the National Press Club on May 6 about the “second wave of the digital divide.” The first wave is the lack of equal access to computers and the internet.

The second wave comes when the students who lack access grow up without ever learning necessary technology skills.

(Next page: ‘A national crisis’)