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The Digital Divide, Digital Literacy, & Student Performance Post COVID-19

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Title: The Digital Divide, Digital Literacy, & Student Performance Post COVID-19

Topic / Research Question: 

What is the relationship between students’ comprehensive access to personal devices through school based one to one technology programs offered in conjunction with digital literacy curriculum and student achievement, primarily for low-income students of color who received personal devices through Federal ESSER funding and New Jersey’s Digital Divide Grant?

Importance: 

School one-to-one technology programs are designed to combat the digital divide by equipping every child with their own device as well as internet access via hotspot when required. The recent COVID-19 pandemic forced schools into an at-home, virtual / hybrid learning instructional model that required all New Jersey students to have access to personal devices. This crucial moment in time highlighted the significance of the digital divide’s impact on low-income students of color. The Federal Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund (ESSER) and New Jersey’s $54 million Digital Divide Grant aimed to close New Jersey’s digital divide by putting a device in each student’s hand. Research is needed to establish the efficacy of wide scale one-to-one program implementation versus one-to-one program implementation offered in conjunction with digital literacy curriculum. 

Hypotheses:

My hypothesis is that one to one device programs are dependent upon digital literacy curriculum to increase academic growth for low-income students of color.  

Contribution: 

The mainstream definition of the digital divide is the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the internet and those who do not. There is an underlying idea in this accepted, pervasive understanding: give people ready access, and the digital divide will close. However, the digital divide pertains not only to the proximity to and access to devices and broadband infrastructure, but also to digital literacy. An underlying assumption of access is the belief that once people acquire the hardware and infrastructure, they will know how to navigate and utilize these resources. Recognition of the need for digital literacy reshapes the analysis of access and restructures the definition of the digital divide. My research will establish best practices for Local Education Authorities (LEA) implementation of one-to-one technology programming in conjunction with digital literacy curriculum to increase academic achievement for low income students of color in New Jersey public schools.  

Empirical Strategy: 

I will identify LEAs that implemented solely one to one device programs as well as LEAs that implemented one to one device programs in conjunction with digital literacy curriculum. Data will be collected through NJTRAx, when available, New Jersey School Performance Reports, and identified LEAs’ curriculum documents. These public records show LEA’s technology readiness, device ratios per student, and longitudinal subgroup student achievement data as evidenced by state standardized assessments. 

 

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