Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement
Does differential access to computer technology at home compound the educational disparities between rich and poor? Would a program of government provision of computers to early secondary school students reduce these disparities? We use administrative data on North Carolina public school students to corroborate earlier surveys that document broad racial and socioeconomic gaps in home computer access and use. Using within-student variation in home computer access, and across-ZIP code variation in the timing of the introduction of high-speed internet service, we also demonstrate that the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high-speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps.
CHILDREN WITH HOME COMPUTERS LIKELY TO HAVE LOWER TEST SCORES
....The research suggests that programs to expand home computer access would lead to even wider gaps between test scores of advantaged and disadvantaged students, Vigdor said. Several states have pursued programs to distribute computers to students. For example, Maine funded laptops for every sixth-grader, and Michigan approved a program but then did not fund it.
We use the computer a lot at our house. My older daughters take three courses online from a private school. My oldest takes an online course from a university. All my children use ALEKS for math. My youngest daughter taught herself to read on starfall.com. But, my children do not use facebook.
However, parental involvement seems to mitigate the downward trend.
Vigdor and Ladd concluded that home computers are put to more productive use in households where parental monitoring is more effective. In disadvantaged households, parents are less likely to monitor children’s computer use and guide children in using computers for educational purposes.
This study has given me some food for thought.