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Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Digital Divide
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for Teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Tips -- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


Computer Resources:
You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:

-- Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
-- Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
-- Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MBs of RAM.
-- IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MBs of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MBs of RAM, running Windows 95 or higher.

For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.

Time Allotment:
Time allotment: This lesson can be modified to fit the time that is available for it.

  • What is a Divide?

    The focus of the beginning of this lesson is to establish the students' understanding of why technology is an important resource.

    1) Begin the lesson by discussing the idea of "divides" with students. Have there been events in history where one group of people had privileges or access to resources that were denied to other groups of people? Some starting points for students can be:

    • A Time Line of the Civil Right Movement (
      The time line presents an overview of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, highlighting such events as the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

    • Living Legacy: The Women's Rights Movement (
      Students can research the time line of women's rights in the United Sates as well as a detailed history.
    Teachers should use these sites and others to help frame a discussion about privilege and access, and how it relates to different groups of people based on race, gender, or socioeconomic status. It is important to develop the idea that there is a history of divides and that they continue to affect a large number of people.

    2) After discussing the issue of divides and whom they affect, students should begin researching a historical divide they are interested in studying.

    Some questions students should ask as they study previous divides?

    • Who was affected by the divide?
    • Was there more than one group affected by the divide?
    • Does that divide still exist today?
    Divide students into groups. Each group will be required to research a different topic of their choice. At this point in the lesson it is up to the teacher to create a divide among the students. For the research, some students should have access to computers, and some should not. Have different groups use different resources to research their selected topics, e.g., the Web, the library, communication with other experts, etc.

    3) During research, students should identify and analyze the resources they utilize. Each student should keep track of the resources they were able to locate using the Resource Chart in Organizers for Students, including the author, copyright date or last resource update, what the source of the information was, and whether or not there was sufficient information.

  • Why Is Technology Important?

    4) After completing their initial research with the Resource Chart, the students in each group should compare the resources they were able to locate using their prescribed research tool(s). Each group should summarize the sources they used and whether or not they were sufficient for their project.

    Teachers should remember that this is not only an opportunity to exemplify some of the strengths of technology as a tool for life, it is a good time to talk about research skills and analyzing data. As students are discussing their findings, focus the discussion on how they decide what makes a good resource. Sometimes technology, such as the Web and e-mail, will produce the best results, and sometimes traditional resources, such as books, will produce the best results. As you guide your students through the discussion, keep in mind that access to information is the foundation of research. Limited access to information only limits the potential of the student. This is true for traditional resources as well as information on the Web.

    (See Additional Class Research and Discussion Activity at the end of this Lesson Plan for further exploration into the importance of technology skills.)

  • Continue, What's a "Divide"?

    5) Next, each group should summarized the material and documents they found and present their findings to the class. The following questions should be discussed.

    • What divide did you research?
    • Who did this divide affect? (Here, the teacher may want to guide the students to understand that although not everyone is directly affected by a divide, we are all affected by the suppression of others.)
    • Was the information you found consistent with what you knew about the divide? What was similar and what was different?
    • From whose point of view was the information you found? Was it biased?
    • Does the divide still exist today?

  • Does Everybody Have Access To Technology?

    6) After discussing how technology can be beneficial for research (and as a life skill), you can begin to discuss which people in the United States have access to the technology and which do not. You may want to begin the discussion with the questions "Do all students have equal access to technology?" and "If not, are there groups of people who, in general, have less access to technology?" Students should also locate local information about access to technology in schools. Local officials and school boards should be able to provide statistical information. Students should use the Web site of their local education authority and try to contact local officials through the phone, e-mail, or the Web.

    In addition to local resources, the following sites are sources of information regarding the equity of technology access.

    • Falling Through the Net: A Survey of the "Have Nots" in Rural and Urban America
      This report, the first in the "Falling Through the Net" series published by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, was released in July 1995. It focuses on regional differences in access to telephones, computers, and the Internet in America.

    • Falling Through the Net II: New Data on the Digital Divide
      This follow-up study to "Falling Through the Net," published in July 1998, updates the statistics revealed in the first report. It confirms that there remains a significant Digital Divide in America based on race, income, and other demographic characteristics.

    • Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide
      This highly detailed U.S. government study, published in July 1999, is the latest in the Falling Through the Net series. It addresses the ways in which the Digital Divide has changed and remained the same. It discusses possible ways the government can work to close the Digital Divide through policy changes. The report is filled with many useful charts and graphs.

    Some questions you may ask as students discuss the issue of the divide:
    • Does everybody have access to technology?
    • Are there groups of people who have less access to technology?
    • What is the problem?
    • Is it important to have access to technology?

  • How Do You Solve The Problem?

    7) Students have now done some basic research on historical "divides" and studied and discussed their ideas about one of our current divides -- groups of people with limited or no access to technology. From these two discussions, work with your students to develop a definition of the Digital Divide.

    Now it is time to start looking at how people tried to solve other divides in history and how those attempted solutions relate to solutions of the Digital Divide. The objective of this activity is to work with your students to devise a plan that addresses and combats the Digital Divide. If time permits, it would be beneficial to try and implement each plan.

    Have each group of students continue their research on the divide they were originally studying. Some questions you could ask as they continue to research are:

    • Who played a role in developing a solution to the divide?
    • How did people know about the divide?
    • Why did people start working to solve the divide?
    • Did everybody want a solution to the divide you are studying?
    • What was done to combat the divide?
    • Who was involved in the combat? The government? Social groups? Church?
    • Did the solutions they tried work?
    • What tools did they use to solve the divide?

    8) After discussing solutions to previous divides and if they were successful or not, ask the groups in your class to develop and implement a plan for solving the Digital Divide. Depending on the time allocated for the lesson, students could work to implement their plan and publish their idea and the results on the Web, or in a presentation for the school.

    As each group completes their plan for solving the Digital Divide, they should also consider how they can share the information with others. The Internet offers a variety of ways for students to get their message out. Many school districts offer ways for students to publish their work on the Internet. A Digital Divide Web site published by your class can serve as a starting point for other class discussions on civics or history.

    Most local officials will have e-mail addresses to which your students can send questions for comment. Urge your students to present their ideas to their Senators, Congressmen, and local education officials.

    Following are question students might ask as they develop and implement their plans:
    • How can I distribute my message?
    • Whom do I want to hear my message?
    • How can I draw people's attention to my plan?
    • What people can help me the most?
    • Who should be helping me? Is this a government concern? A national concern? An international concern?

    If students decide to publish a project on the Web, be sure to talk about updating the Web site and keeping the information up to date. Students will be able to watch an issue grow and develop. Plus, this could be a good lesson in commitment.

    Additional Class Research and Discussion Activity: To further clarify the importance of access to technology, instructors could frame the importance of access to technology around life skills. Comfort and skills with technology are becoming increasingly important in the job market. Groups of students could research different employment services to summarize some of the skills needed to enter the current work force. Students could begin by researching various job postings venues such as the popular Monster Board ( and various newspapers, including national papers like THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION ( and local papers like THE NEW YORK TIMES ( Teachers can also take advantage of local employers by arranging a discussion, or communication (via e-mail) between students and a group of employers.

    Some questions for students as they look at job requirements:

    • What skills are needed to get a job I like?
    • Do all jobs require technical skills?
    • How can I find out more about these skills?
    • How and where can I learn these skills? After they complete their research on the job market, have groups of students summarize their findings and present them to the class.


    One Computer in the Classroom
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your class into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc., from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (Always have a set of bookmarks ready for the students before they start working on the computer, in order to show them examples of what to look for.) When the groups have finished working have them switch places.

    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do Internet research together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen, go to the relevant Web site(s), and review the information presented there. You can also select a search engine page and allow your students to suggest the search criteria. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Several Computers in the Classroom
    Divide your class into small groups. Groups can do Internet research using pages you have bookmarked. Group members should take turns navigating the bookmarked sites.

    You can also set the class up so that each computer is dedicated to certain sites. Students will then move around the classroom, getting different information from each station.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three. This way, students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time.

    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students