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Crossing the Bridge of the Digital Divide: A Walk with Global Leaders

reviewed by Monica McGlynn-Stewart - September 04, 2019

coverTitle: Crossing the Bridge of the Digital Divide: A Walk with Global Leaders
Author(s): Anthony H. Normore & Antonia Issa Lahera (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1641133902, Pages: 262, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

Crossing the Bridge of the Digital Divide: A Walk with Global Leaders, edited by Anthony H. Normore and Antonia Issa Lahera, offers an interesting and wide-ranging examination of issues related to the digital divide in teaching, administration, research, and policy. While the word “global” in the title might suggest otherwise, the collection of 13 chapters is heavily weighted in favor of American issues and the American context. This book will be of particular interest to educational researchers and administrators, and to a lesser extent, teachers.


The text begins with an excellent foreword by Jabari Mahiri, who deftly outlines the history of the concept of the digital divide and asks essential questions, such as, “Will the digital revolution result in greater freedom and inclusion, or greater oppression and marginalization?” (p. xi). The introduction by the editors, Normore and Lahera, provides a synthesis of the book’s themes and of its goal to “examine the digital divide in terms of social justice leadership, equity, and access” (p. xvi). The main body of the text is divided into three sections: “Dynamics of Digital and Social Inequity” (three chapters), “Digital Equity and Access Issues” (seven chapters), and “Global Research and Development in Technology” (three chapters).


The authors of the three chapters in the first section remind us that we need to look beyond technical and hardware issues when considering the social justice implications of the digital divide. In Chapter One, “Digital Equity and its Role in the Digital Divide,” the authors Kitty Fortner, Anthony H. Normore, and Jeffrey S. Brooks remind us that we need to move further in our examination of equity with respect to the use of technology in schools. Moreover, we need to employ paradigms of ethics, including the ethics of care, justice, critique, and of the profession. The authors posit that when attention is paid to moral and ethical issues around technology, not simply technical ones, students will benefit. They conclude, “When moral authority overcomes bureaucratic leadership in a school, the outcomes can be extraordinary for students” (p. 12).


The second chapter, “An Examination of the Digital Divide and Its Dividing Factors in Formal Education Settings” by Albert D. Ritzhaupt and Tina H. Hohlfeld, gives us a history of the use of the term “digital divide” and what the dividing factors are (e.g., socio-economic status, education, gender, age, geography, race/ethnicity). The authors call for research that examines how all of these factors, and others, interact to contribute to the digital divide. They also assert that a way to narrow the divide is to focus on teachers and students becoming producers of information and communication technology (ICT), not simply consumers. The final chapter in the section is one of the three that are truly international in nature. “Not All Young People Use the Internet: Exploring the Experiences of Ex-Use Amongst Young People in Britain,” by Rebecca Eynon and Anne Geniets, reminds us that not all youth are interested in or able to be digital consumers. This chapter explores the experiences of a small group of 22 young people who use digital resources infrequently for a number of reasons, including access, lack of skills, or lack of interest.


The first two chapters in Part Two of the text focus on practical considerations for technology-based learning. “Leading the Cohort Across the Divide: Recent Best Practices to Enhance Cohort Teaching and Learning” (Chapter Four) by Steven C. Williams describes lessons learned from developing an online leadership program for K-12 administrators. This detailed chapter will be particularly useful for any school district wanting to set up an online learning platform for administrators or teachers. In Chapter Five, “Walking the Pedagogical Line in Graduate Studies: Obstacles and Opportunities Transitioning to Digital and e-Learning,” Heather Rintoul and Duncan Maclellan review the research regarding online graduate studies courses. They thoughtfully consider the pros and cons of offering graduate courses online and caution that while there can be many benefits to online courses for both the students and educational institutions, cost-savings should not drive education decisions as some graduate courses benefit from face-to-face or hybrid learning modes.


Chapter Six and Seven provide a stark contrast, with the former, “A Model for Addressing Adaptive Challenges by Merging Ideas: How One Program Designed a Hacking Framework to Address Adaptive Challenges and Discovered the Ecotone” by Kendall Zoller, Antonia Issa Lahera, and Julie K. Jhun, outlining an overly theoretical and confusing “hacking leadership model” (p. 96), and the latter, “Emerging Technologies for Learning: Using Open Education Resources (OER)” by Ruben Caputo, providing practical and useful ideas for K-12 teachers on how to incorporate open education resources (teaching, learning, or research materials in the public domain) into their programs.


In “Partnering with Teachers to Bridge Digital Divides” (Chapter Eight), Doron Zinger, Jenell Krishnan, and Mark Warschauer focus on the importance of supporting teacher learning in technology so that teachers can in turn support student learning. When describing their professional development model, they point to the importance of “meeting teachers where they are” (p. 127) and working in partnership with teachers to focus on their needs. In this very practical chapter, they conclude that “it is critical to find ways to present and promote the use of technology as a way of addressing classroom instructional challenges, rather than presenting tools as solutions or as decontextualized resources” (p. 141).


The last two chapters in this section look at the challenges of non-mainstream students. In Chapter Nine, “Social Networking Technology and the Social Justice Implications of Equitable Outcomes for First-Generation College Students,” authors Yesenia Fernandez, Nancy Deng, and Meng Zhao surveyed first-year college students about their use of social media. They found that first generation students were not using social media sufficiently for building social capital, social networks, or for academic support. In Chapter Ten, “The Habitus and Technological Practices of Rural Students: A Case Study,” Laura Czerniewicz and Cheryl Brown present a “digital ethnography” of a first-year student in South Africa who moves from a rural community with little digital access to an urban university. They conclude that technology was both an inhibiting and enabling factor in his life and studies.


The final section of the book includes three chapters on diverse topics. The first, “The Digital Divide in Scientific Development and Research: The Case of the Arab World” (Chapter Eleven) by Hamoud Salhi, provides a wide-ranging overview of issues related to technology in the Arab world. Salhi focuses on the divide in internet connectivity between “advanced countries” and “developed countries” (p. 184) and states that this divide is due to issues of income, government leadership, and population resistance to technology (p. 185).


Picking up on a theme in Chapter Two, Chapter Twelve, “Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities: An International and Intersectional Approach” by Saili S. Kulkarni, Jessica Parmar, Ann Selmi, and Avi Mendelson, asserts that we need to include disability as one of the interrelated factors that can exacerbate the digital divide. Disabled students who use assistive technology and who are also culturally or linguistically diverse can be particularly disadvantaged due to the prevalence of English in technical training and in the content of assistive technology. The final chapter in the text, “Online Resource Courses to Enhance Educational Abroad Learning: The Digital and Enhanced International Learning Divide” by Gary M. Rhodes Rosalind Latiner Raby, outlines how online courses can enhance study abroad programs for American students studying in other countries as well as foreign students studying in the United States.

While Crossing the Bridge of the Digital Divide: A Walk with Global Leaders could benefit from the inclusion of more truly global material, it does give a comprehensive overview of many theoretical and practical issues related to the digital divide. Researchers, administrators, policymakers, and teachers will all find insights and strategies to aid them in understanding and working to narrow the digital divide in K-12 schools, post-secondary institutions, and society more generally.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: September 04, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23082, Date Accessed: 1/28/2022 3:59:01 AM

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About the Author
  • Monica McGlynn-Stewart
    George Brown College, Toronto
    E-mail Author
    MONICA MCGLYNN-STEWART is a professor in the School of Early Childhood at George Brown College, Toronto, Ontario. She teaches courses in curriculum, policy, and research methods. She is a former elementary teacher, principal, and consultant. Currently, she is the Principal Investigator on the federally funded research project, Toys or Tools? Using Tablet Applications for Open-Ended Literacy Learning. Her research has been published in the International Journal of Primary, Elementary, and Early Years Education, Language & Literacy, and elsewhere.
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