digital divide

Study highlights plight of students with only one device at home

The digital divide proves tougher for students with fewer electronic devices at home

The digital divide is proving one of the most pervasive and stubborn challenges in U.S. education, and its effects can follow students from kindergarten through college.

A new study confirms that, despite efforts to close the space, the gap between students who have access to devices and the internet and those who lack it compounds equity problems within U.S. schools.

New research from ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning shows that underserved students with access to only one electronic device in their home may find it difficult to complete schoolwork. The homework gap, as it is frequently called, is particularly tough on low-income and rural students. Even when families have one device at home, that device is often a smartphone, which isn’t conducive to completing homework or doing research.

The report, “The Digital Divide and Educational Equity,” looks at the 14 percent of ACT-tested students who said they had access to only one device at home. It was a follow-up to the report “High School Students’ Access to and Use of Technology at Home and in School,” which examines overall survey results and results for selected subgroups.

According to the report, among students who have access to only one device at home:
• 85 percent were classified as underserved (low income, first generation in college or minority).
• 28 percent of students who have one device at home say that device is provided by their school–40 percent of those students have a laptop and 31 percent have a smartphone.
• 56 percent of students reporting access to only one device at home say that device is a smartphone.
• American Indian/Alaskan, African American and Hispanic/Latino students had the least amount of access; white and Asian students had the highest. For example, 20 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native students have access only to a smartphone, compared to only 4 percent of white students.

Laura Ascione

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