By Diego Gudino-Martinez & Leonor Camarena
It is safe to say that COVID-19 has both illustrated and influenced the dependence the United States educational system has on technology. Existing education inequalities were worsened by a rapid shift towards virtual learning that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic’s beginnings.
Inequity in access to technology is directly affected by individual income. Digital inequity caused both by lack of access and economic factors is referred to as an existing “digital divide.” This divide, as stated, exists between those of differing economic means and disproportionately affects rural and BIPOC communities. Foundational differences in access to highspeed internet can be seen in the most recent American Community Survey (ACS) data from 2021. Of families with incomes lower than $20,000, only 73.6% have access to broadband internet, while 96.5% of families with incomes higher than $75,000 have access (American Community Survey, 2021). Inequity in access to technology further creates inequity in digital skills. Unequal access to internet services creates a disparity in digital fluency and literacy, compounding existing inequities in access (Katz, Gonzalez, & Clark, 2017).
The current state of misinformation in political and general discourse has been attributed to lack of communication and digital skills (Yu, Lin, & Liao, 2017). To give all students the baseline skills they need to face an increasingly digital world, the state of New Jersey passed a bill for the development of a digital literacy program in K-12 schools across the state. The bill requires the establishment of digital literacy standards in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. A board of subject matter experts will be established to develop these standards and will consider public feedback after initial stages. The goal of involving experts is to allow for collaborative development of standards between teachers and school media specialists. Although every school will be given leeway in terms of implementation, the set forth guidelines of the program will include, at minimum:
- The research process and how information is created and produced;
- Critical thinking and using information resources;
- Research methods, including the difference between primary and secondary sources;
- The difference between facts, points of view, and opinions;
- Accessing peer-reviewed print and digital library resources;
- The economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information; and
- The ethical production of information.
By establishing information literacy standards across all New Jersey schools, the goal is to lessen any existing inequities in skills among groups of students and better position them with toolkits for future endeavors. As stated by New Jersey State Senator Michael Testa, “This law isn’t about teaching kids that any specific idea is true or false, rather it’s about helping them learn how to research, evaluate, and understand the information they are presented for themselves.”
Leonor Camarena, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University and Diego Gudino-Martinez is a graduate student at Indiana University.
Katz, V. S., Gonzalez, C., & Clark, K. (2017). Digital inequality and developmental trajectories of low-income, immigrant, and minority children. Pediatrics, 140(Supplement_2), S132-S136.
Yu, T. K., Lin, M. L., & Liao, Y. K. (2017). Understanding factors influencing information communication technology adoption behavior: The moderators of information literacy and digital skills. Computers in Human Behavior, 71, 196-208.Katz, V. S., Gonzalez, C., & Clark, K. (2017). Digital inequality and developmental trajectories of low-income, immigrant, and minority children. Pediatrics, 140(Supplement_2), S132-S136.