I teach in a blended class. The first day in-person after the first on-line class, like many other semesters, were full of excuses as to why the assignment could not be completed. Most were about computer troubles and connectivity issues. My standard response is to students that they can complete the assignments in the university library as there is twenty-four hour access, seven days a week. The readings of this topic has challenged some of my thinking. I was unaware that there were such large gaps in technology access, a digital-divide between have and have-nots, in Canada (Harris, 2013), especially among Aboriginal peoples (Taylor, 2011).
While on average, 86 per cent of people in BC have internet access (Statistics Canada, 2013), a person is more likely to use the internet if they have a higher income bracket and have some university. Those that have the lowest income or are lacking a high school diploma are among the least likely to use the internet (Harris, 2013). Thus the internet is still, to some extent, for the privileged. As I teach Adult Basic Education (ABE) this presents a challenge for me as many of my students have not completed high school and many are low income suggesting that they have potential connectivity issues and may not be as digitally fluent.
While Aboriginal learners are graduating from high school in greater numbers, “only 54 per cent of Aboriginal learners in the public system graduate from high school … compared to 83 per cent of non-Aboriginal learners” (British Columbia, 2012, pg. 6) thus tend to be over represented in ABE (British Columbia, 2012). One solution is to increase the amount of blended and on-line courses which would allow them to remain in their community (British Columbia, 2012) but the three main reasons for the digital divide “poverty, low levels of income and broadband” (Taylor, 2011, pg. 29) still persist and would need to be addressed.
British Columbia. (2012). Aboriginal post-secondary education and training policy framework and action plan: 2020 Vision for the future. Victoria, B.C.: Ministry of Advanced Education
Harris, M. (2013, March 21). Digital divide persists in Canada, both in access and Internet fluency. Financial Post. Retrieved from http://business.financialpost.com/2013/03/21/digital-divide-persists-in-canada-both-in-access-and-internet-fluency/?__lsa=542b-c824
Statistics Canada. (2013). “Canadian internet use survey, 2012”. The Daily. November 26. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-011-X.
Taylor, A. (2011). Social media as a tool for inclusion: Final research report. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Retrieved from http://www.homelesshub.ca/ResourceFiles/Taylor_Social%20Media_feb2011%20(1)_1_2.pdf