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Volume 20, Spring 2007 Essays in Education 65 Computer Use Differences as a Function of High or Low Minority Enrollment: A National Comparison Manny Juarez John R. Slate Texas A & M University - Kingsville Abstract The purpose of this study was to determine the extent of technology usage in public schools having high minority student enrollment and in public schools having low minority student enrollment. Specifically, our interest was in determining the extent to which technology usage differed by region of the country for minority enrollment. Three statistical differences were reported for percent minority and region in computer use to read, write, and spell, to learn math, and for science concepts. Computer use to read, write, and spell had the highest frequency among schools having 50% or more minority student enrollment, but less than 75% minority students in the Northeast, whereas the West and the Midwest followed in computer use frequency. The lowest frequency of computer use was found among schools having 50% or more, but less than 75% minority students in the South. Computer use to learn math had the highest frequency among schools in the West whereas the Midwest and the Northeast followed in computer use frequency. The lowest frequency of computer use was found among schools having 50% or more, but less than 75% minority students in the South. Computer use for science concepts had the highest frequency among schools in the West and Midwest, regardless of percent minority population. The lowest frequency of computer use was found among schools having 75% or more minority students in the Northeast and in schools having 50% or more, but less than 75% minority students in the South. Implications of these findings are discussed. Instructional use of technology in the past decade has grown at a rapid rate in American public schools (Faltis & DeVillar, 1990). Computers seem to promise a technological solution; they are believed to solve long-term, expensive, and difficult problems in a relatively cheap and clean manner (Kerr, 1991). Traditionally, however, technology-driven reforms have not been welcome in education. The education system tends to accept technology-driven reforms as a quick fix and then after a period of time returns to the status quo (Cuban, 1986). Cuban (1986) pointed out that in the early phases of the introduction of computer technology, the educational system viewed it in the same manner as the introduction of radio and film. According to Neuman (1991), many students are hampered by inequitable access to computers, and a widespread pattern exists of inequitable distribution and use of computers within public schools. When minority children have access to computers, they are usually engaged in drill-and-practice activities (Faltis & DeVillar, 1990) rather than higher order activities. Minority children tend to do what the computer tells them to do as in computer-assisted instruction, drill and practice; whereas, White middle-class children tell the computer what to do by learning to program computers (Harrell, 1998). Cummins and Sayers (1990) have argued that technology should not be used to maintain low-level tasks but to enhance critical learning and to oppose top-down social control orientation of minority students.Volume 20, Spring 2007 Essays in Education 66 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 28 million minority children in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). The majority of these minority children attend public schools that have a responsibility to teach and to educate all students. Because young children develop their academic foundations in preschool and these skills help promote future academic success (Schwartz, 1996), preschool minority children should have the same opportunity to use technology as preschool majority children. The frequency of technology use public school classrooms having a majority of minority children and schools with a low minority enrollment needs to be monitored to achieve equitable use of technology time. Equity Access to Technology Instructional use of technology in the 1980s and 1990’s has grown at a rapid rate in American public schools (Faltis & DeVillar, 1990). Faltis and DeVillar (1990) stated that technology may be used to help address the needs of language and cultural minority children. But, caution needs to be taken when addressing these needs where the educational system is upgraded to meet the demands and needs of an increasing global economy (Cummins & Sayers, 1990). The needs of minority children need to be taken into account when developing and implementing these technology programs so as not to make minority children passive learners (Cummins & Sayers, 1990). Technology available to schools should not be used for trivial purposes but to develop critical thinking and higher order thinking skills (Cummins & Sayers, 1990). Technology innovations have been introduced into the classroom, examples include motion picture, radio, and television; however, the implementation of these technologies has not been very successful (Tyack & Cuban, 1995). Failures of these technologies were due to amount of time to set up and appropriateness in the curriculum (Tyack & Cuban, 1995). Attention should be focused on the appropriate implementation of technology and its effectiveness on learning (Woodward & Cuban, 2001). Equity denotes equality of educational opportunities for all students regardless of race or ethnic background (Cohen, 2001). Changes at the classroom level need to take effect so that minority children can actively contribute their intellectual abilities, help maintain a high level of intellectual challenge in the curriculum, and provide the extra support that struggling students require- these elements will make a classroom more equitable (Cohen, 2001). Digital Divide The “Digital Divide” has been defined as the gap between the populations who have access to new technologies and those populations who do not have such access (Anthony, 2000; Tumposky, 2001, p.119). These populations not having access to current technologies include differences based on race, gender, geography, economic status, and physical ability (Brown, Higgins, & Hartley, 2001; Fueyo, 1997; Harrell, 1998; Harris, 2000; Tumposky, 2001;


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