K-12 Teachers: Technology Use and the Second Level Digital Divide

By Reinhart, Julie M.; Thomas, Earl et al. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September-December 2011 | Go to article overview

K-12 Teachers: Technology Use and the Second Level Digital Divide


Reinhart, Julie M., Thomas, Earl, Toriskie, Jeanne M., Journal of Instructional Psychology


This exploratory study examines differences in K-12 educators' use of technology for instruction across school economic factors. Survey data from 94 practicing K-12 teachers are analyzed. This study finds that schools' economic factors explain variation in how teachers use technology to promote higher-order thinking skills. Our findings support the existence of a Second-Level Digital Divide. The study also identifies a need for access to technology facilitators, as well as in-service training for practicing teachers on how to use technology to promote higher-order thinking skills.

Keywords: Higher Order Thinking Skills, K-12 Education, Second Level Digital Divide, Technology Use, Technology Facilitator

This exploratory study investigates the Second-Level Digital Divide as it relates to K-12 environments in a large urban area in the Midwestern U.S. The study tests for differences across school economic factors in K-12 teachers' use of technology for instruction. The study investigates the extent to which teachers integrate technology to maximize student learning by examining teachers' pedagogical and technological practices in the classroom. A growing body of research indicates that the Second-Level Digital Divide is a subtle, yet complex, divide that impacts people in various ways, and which has the potential for social exclusion (Singleton & Longley, 2009). Most research on the Second-Level Digital Divide comes from the sociology literature rather than the K-12 education literature. While there is some research from within the K-12 environment, the majority have examined the general population. This study focuses upon K-12 environments to provide greater insight into the Second-Level Digital Divide.

The Second-Level Digital Divide describes the difference, or "divide," in how technology is used, while the Top-Level Digital Divide refers to the difference between the technology "haves" and "have nots" (Hargittai, 2002). This newer divide, referred to here as the Second-Level Digital Divide (SLDD), is no longer a simple delineation between those who have access to technology and those who do not. The SLDD refers to the difference in how technology is utilized. The following literature review discusses the complexities of the SLDD, and the factors that influence the SLDD with respect to K-12 learning.

Literature Review

Overview of the Digital Divides: Factors Influencing How Technology is Used

Gone are the days of believing that the Digital Divide is simply a partition between those who have access to a computer and a modem, and those who do not (Stevenson, 2009; Stevenson, 2008). Rather, researchers have found a subtler divide that has more to do with how the technology is used (Hargittai, 2002; Stevenson, 2009; Stevenson, 2008). The SLDD is a complex concept of interacting physical/digital, human, and social resources (Underwood, 2007). For consistency throughout the paper, the terms physical/digital ,human, and social resources, respectively, will be used as a way of classifying the different influences on the SLDD.

The factors influencing the use of technology are wide and varied. As early as 2002 Hargittai found differences in how members of the general population used computers to find digital information. Hargittai (2002) found that these differences in how technology is used can be explained, in part, by human factors including age, education level, and amount of experience with the technology. For example, younger people have more experience with technology and are able to use the technology to access information that those with less experience are not able to.

It is interesting to note that the reported results in the literature on the difference in use, based on age, are mixed. Guo, Dobson, and Petrina (2008) found no difference in information and communication technology (ICT) use based simply on age. Yet Prensky (2001, 2005) argues that there is a marked difference, based on age, in the manner in which technology is used. …

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