Testing the Digital Divide: Does Access to High-QUality Use of Technology in Schools Affect Student Achievement?

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This study investigates the relationship between access, use of technology and student achievement in public middle schools in Maryland. The objective of this study was to determine whether a digital divide (differences in access and utilization of technology based on student characteristics of race, socioeconomic status, and gender) exists among schools, and whether those differences relate to mathematics and reading achievement. More specifically, the study uses school data on technology access, students' instructional uses of technology, and teacher technology proficiency from the 2007 Maryland Technology Inventory. This study analyzes student demographic data and assessment results from the 2007 Maryland School Assessments in reading and mathematics obtained from the Maryland State Department of Education. The data analyses use descriptive and multivariate statistics to determine the existence of digital divides and their effects on reading and mathematics achievement.

Analysis of these data described patterns of technology access and use in order to determine whether differences in access and use resulted in a digital divide. Differences in access and use were then examined to determine their impact on reading and mathematics achievement levels. The research design relied on descriptive and multivariate statistics to analyze access and use and their relationship to academic achievement.

Findings indicated that digital divides exist in the student-to-computer ratio and the number of teachers with classroom computers, and digital access was positively associated with eighth-grade mathematics and reading proficiency scores. However, student classroom computer ratios were negatively associated with achievement, controlling for other factors. Digital divides in students' use of technology for publishing text, organizing information, and communicating information were identified, with access to technology for these tasks/skills and positively associated with mathematics and reading scores, but connecting language to words had a negative impact. Teachers' use of technology for creating instructional materials had a positive impact on reading scores but a negative impact on mathematics achievement, when the researcher controlled for other factors. Findings suggest that differences exist in several areas of technology access and use when considering student characteristics of race, socioeconomic status, and gender. This study contributes to existing research on the effects of technology on instruction and informs state and local policy on instructional technology implementation and practice.