The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released a report on January 20, 2010 that I reviewed quickly at first. However, I decided to look deeper into the data and see what was there relevant to K-12 school systems and their decision making processes. Here is a link to the report http://www.kff.org/entmedia/mh012010pkg.cfm (really good research here.)
One element of this study that I find most interesting is that KFF has conducted similar studies in 1999 and 2004. Therefore, they provide logitudinal data analysis that makes certain things quite apparent. For example, the study focus is on 8-18 year olds. The study shows that from 1999 to 2009, home Internet access among 8-18 year olds increased from 47% to 84%; high speed/wireless Internet increased from 10% to 59%; Internet access in the bedroom increased 10% to 33%. These are massive gains.
However, what is surprising to me and very encouraging is the media use data broken down by race/ethnicity. Whereas this data can seem discouraging at first, I actually see it very differently and school systems should embrace it.
Let’s start with the big picture. Race/ethnicity data I’m referring to only reported these race/ethnicity codes “White”, “Black”, and “Hispanic.” In the category of “Overall Media Exposure” in a typical day, White 8-18 year olds reported 7 hours 51 minutes, Black 8-18 year olds reported 11 hours 53 minutes, and Hispanic 8-18 year olds reported 11 hours and 23 minutes. Clearly White 8-18 year olds have significantly less exposure to overall media in a typical day.
When broken down by media types, what may be discouraging is that many look straight at the fact that Black and Hispanic 8-18 year olds spend approximately 2 hours more each typical day watching TV than White 8-18 year olds. However, the data I look at right away is that Black and Hispanic 8-18 year olds spend significantly more time on Computers in a typical day than White 8-18 year olds.
Why do I find this so significant? Because this is not at all the message I get from some people who run our K-12 school systems. The message I get is exactly the opposite. Common responses to new technology integration projects that include home Internet access are, “Our students don’t have Internet access or access to computers”; “The digital gap is still too large here to consider that”; “There is a large discrepancy between our ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’”; etc.
I am not one to dispute the people making these claims as they know their communities, but this study has really opened my eyes to wondering if responses like these are signs of complacency and lack of focus on what is going on outside of school. This data openly disputes what I have been told by many K-12 administrators in the large, urban areas of our country. Again, this is not an attack on these folks working incredibly hard, I think it is a sign of how the digital gap is creeping to a close and our educational institutions can adjust accordingly as such great K-12 technology solutions have emerged.
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