|Chapter 2:||Framing the question: A review of the relevant literature|
Research questions in this study will examine how students use the Internet for term paper research in a high school media center.
The Digital Divide
The term “digital divide” came into use during the Clinton administration. Clinton’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) published a four-part series, Falling through the Net (1995, 1998, 1999, 2000) that defined the digital divide as the difference in access to digital information that separates the information-rich from the information-poor. Those without ready access to digital resources were predictably minorities, the less educated, and lower-income individuals. The purpose of the report was to understand the phenomenon of “haves” and “have-nots” as the first step in bridging the difference.
A recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Lenhart et al., 2003) confirms and updates the digital divide categories of the NTIA reports of the late 1990’s. Growth in new Internet users has finally slowed, with a penetration rate hovering between 57% and 61%. Again, the groups that fall into the digital divide are those who are not white, not rich, and not highly educated. Interestingly, the gender gap seems to be finally bridged, as Internet use in America is exactly 50% male and 50% female.
A third report from the National Center for Education Statistics (DeBell and Chapman, 2003) confirms the categories of the digital divide: minorities, lower income families, and the less educated. It goes on to demonstrate how schools are one of the social institutions that have begun to bridge the digital divide.