Can School-based Access to Information and Computer Technology (ICT) Diminish Gender and Social Class Digital Divides?
The proposed paper examines a large (N = 28,000), nationally-representative survey of Canadian 15-year-olds who participated in the PISA 2000 survey which has detailed information about types of ICT use, levels of competence and comfort with ICT. The nested sampling design (individuals within schools) permits an assessment of the role of schools in facilitating the acquisition of computer literacy skills. Canada has invested heavily in ICT in schools in order to prepare students for full participation in the knowledge-intensive society, providing virtually universal access to ICT. Nevertheless significant gender and socio-economic differences in use of, and competence in ICT remain. It is well known that girls are less likely than boys to embrace ICT and boys tend to learn ICT on their own using a trial and error method, whereas girls seem to prefer an interpersonal approach utilizing formal and informal personal guidance. School-based instruction in ICT should therefore be a promising route to minimizing gender differences. With respect to the socio-economic divide, access to computers in schools might be one pathway to minimizing inequalities based on parental income and education. The question is whether access to computers in schools affords the same benefits to lower and working class youth as it does to middle class children. Bourdieu argues that it is more difficult for working class youth than their middle class equivalents to convert access to ICT into a greater volume of human capital. The PISA data will allow us to test this hypothesis.
Victor Thiessen (Canada)
Professor of Sociology
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)