The New York Times carried a story last year that I wanted to write about concerning a study of the different ways technology is used by students from different backgrounds. It looked at fourth and eighth graders who answered questions about their classroom experiences while taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That is the test that is often nicknamed the "nation's report card."
When I searched for the story yesterday, I turned up a blog post from edweek.org whose take on that study was that the findings from 2013 when compared with 1998 show a "shockingly" similar digital divide.
The N.A.E.P. data shows that 34% of eighth graders who took the math exams in 2011 used computers to "drill on math facts" while less than 25% worked with spreadsheets or geometric figures on the computer. Only 17% used statistical programs.
The survey data also shows clear differences among racial groups and income levels. The results might not be what you would expect though.
More than half of the black students in 2011 said they used computers to work on math drills, but only 30% of white students said they did. Similarly, 41 percent of lower-income students (ones eligible for free and reduced lunches) used computers for math drills, while only 29% of students whose families earn too much to qualify for the lunches.
The article points out that "Remarkably, virtually the exact same study, was conducted by Harold Wenglinsky of the Educational Testing Services Policy Information Center in 1998, with strikingly similar findings.
Boser looked at background surveys from the 2009 and 2011 NAEP tests, and Wenglinsky looked at the 1996 NAEP background surveys."
What are we to conclude? Fifteen years and new technology and new software, but the patterns of usage and inequality remain. Is it technology, classroom practice or students?