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Study finds online literacy gap reflects family income

Craig Clough | September 24, 2014

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Online Literacy family income gapA new study confirms conventional thinking, that an online literacy gap is emerging among students in America, with lower-income students lagging behind their more affluent peers in the ability to navigate the Internet and use it to enhance their studies.

According to the New York Times, the study, led by Donald J. Leu at the University of Connecticut, tested students’ abilities to search for and evaluate academic information online and found that students from a community with a median family income of more than $100,000 “demonstrated slightly more than one extra school year’s worth of online reading ability compared with students from a community where the median family income was close to $60,000.”

“This is more likely a comparison between a wealthier district and a middle-class district,” Leu told the newspaper. “So the gap that we found, we would expect it to be greater if the economic differences were greater.”

The Times noted that the study also found a general lack of online skills for all students, and that few teachers are focusing on digital literacy in their classrooms.

The study comes just weeks after LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy suspended the district’s controversial $1.3 billion iPad program, aimed at getting an iPad into the hands of every student and teacher in the district.

Deasy long hailed the iPad program as a way to close the technology gap for low-income students, but halted it in late August in the face of mounting criticism that he and a former deputy may have influenced the bidding process that gave the deal to Apple and Pearson. Deasy has said that a new bid process will begin soon.

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