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The Digital Divide: Through the Lens of Critical Race Theory

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Stacy Hollins

on 15 September 2015

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Transcript of The Digital Divide: Through the Lens of Critical Race Theory

The Digital Divide: Through the Lens of Critical Race Theory
If we don't acknowledge and address the digitally denied they will continue to experience additional barriers.

Opportunities for removing those barriers could include:
Professors having explicit conversations about in their classrooms
Discuss technology requirements at the beginning of a course
Consider "digital contracts"

Findings and Conclusions
Surveys revealed that many African American community college students lack access to the internet, hardware, software, technology training and support, and community resources as it relates to technology. However, the digitally denied are not acknowledged or addressed by professors or administration.
The study..
This was an interpretive case study methodology framed by the critical race theory (CRT). Utilizing storytelling, a major tenet of Critical Race Theory, a collection of data derived from interviews and observations and was used to find constructs, themes, and patterns.
The Digitally Denied
A marginalized community – African American
Experience digital inequalities on a regular basis
Do not have adequate access to the internet
Lack technological expertise in their schools or communities
Do not have IT support to keep hardware and software updated and teachers trained on new technologies
Those who have not had the opportunity to make technology a “part of their personal space, tailored to their needs” (Dede, 1995)
Purpose and Questions
1. What is the availability to the internet, software, and hardware for African American community college students?

2. What is the availability to technological resources, such as computer labs and community resources for African American community college students?

3. What assistance with technology is lacking for African American community college students?

4. What technology skills and resources do African American community college students lack to be successful?
CRT has basic tenets and begins with the notion that racism is “normal in American society” (Delgado, 1995).

CRT can be a very compelling tool in explaining the continuous inequity that African American students experience in education.
A major tenet of CRT is
which allows individuals to tell their own stories, in their own voice, as opposed to non-minority researchers using data to draw conclusions.
The digital divide, through the lens of CRT creates a group of individuals I have termed “The Digitally Denied.” They are a consequence of the digital divide.
The purpose of this study was to examine the availability to technology and technological resources for African American students.

Data Collection
IRB processes for University of Missouri - St. Louis and St. Louis Community College
Verbal surveys in the following disciplines:

Information Systems
Criminal Justice
Observations in classrooms and computer labs
All six professors interviewed admitted to never having an explicit conversation about student access to technology.

All six professors teach face-to-face courses and utilize an online course management system (i.e. Blackboard). They also use proprietary software created by publishers that require students to work online outside of class.

The community college does not require students to complete an assessment to determine technology skill level or train students how to use course management systems.

The community college does not require students with low level technology skills to take a computer literacy course.
Racism is embedded
Interest Convergence-whites get involved when it benefits them
Whiteness as property - has value
Community resources
1 hour limit on computers that you schedule ONLINE
Blocked access to many sites
Needed software not loaded
Limited hours
Closed for renovations
No community technology centers
No low cost or free tech support
No virus protection or skills for basic computer maintenance
Limited or no Wi-Fi access

Campus Labs
Computer Labs are discipline specific (math, communication, information systems) not interdisciplinary
Hours are limited and closed on holidays when many students "catch up"
Software specific to lab (mismatched resources due to overcrowding)
Publisher software blocked in some labs
Lack of transportation
Family obligations
The Digitally Denied Experience
The Digitally Denied Experience
Skills of the Digitally Denied
Great at social networking
Lacking business technology skills
Can't create professional presentations, research papers, or simple spreadsheets for other classes
If we do not provide the digitally denied with technology and support that is required to be successful at the community college, the will continue to struggle with lower grades, missed assignments, and failed classes.
The Digital Divide focuses on descriptors such as socio-economic status (SES), education level, language, geographic location, age, and race, but “there is a fundamental disconnection between the use of ‘race’, class, and gender as discrete, predetermined variables in digital divide research and
how these factors are actually experienced in people’s daily lives
at the community scale” (Gilbert, 2010)
The Digital Divide
Opportunities for providing the digital denied with technology and support include:
Providing laptops or digital devices through government funded programs
Laptop loan programs
Partner with the community to provide technology centers and tech support
Student club
Service Learning
Re-visiting library resources
If we do not address the lack of community resources such a technology centers, and technical support, the digitally denied will not have access to the technologies necessary to be successful at in the community college.
If we do not provide an assessment tool to determine the level of technical skill and/or require all students to take a computer literacy course, we are setting the digitally denied up for failure.
Create a test out assessment
Create an orientation for college systems, such as Blackboard
Future Research

What impact does the lack of technology and resources have on African American student retention, graduation rates, and grade point averages?
Concluding overview
The findings suggested that access to technology, support, and community resources is a key factor that impacted success of African American students in the community college.
The digitally denied have other circumstances that should be considered such as family obligations, transportation issues, overcrowding in libraries, lack of technology support, services, and training and improved campus labs.
Stacy Gee Hollins
Interviews with professors
Full transcript