In the United States, we have the good fortune of referring to all members of the current generation of students as digital natives. We can be fairly confident that at some point in elementary school every student turned on a computer. That every student has written a paragraph using a word processing program or at least created a slide presentation on a home or school computer. That the majority of homes have a computer, and that most students have a cell phone.
We have many debates in the United States over the digital divide. For some, the issue is the level of technology access in the home, at work, or in the classroom. (Note that we’re only arguing about the degree of access; we take for granted that everyone uses technology on some level.) Others may concern themselves with the availability of reliable internet access.
We have a strong vision of a digital future shaped by 21st-century skills and artificial intelligence. While there will be jobs specific to AI, such as engineering and programming, most of the future jobs will be like the ones we have today, including infrastructure support such as hardware, networking, and security. Either way, we don’t worry about having access to training for those jobs.
For most of us, the more relevant digital divide is between those who understand the technology and those who use it. Everyone has used a computer at school or work, everyone knows how to create a document or draw up a spreadsheet. We have the freedom to think in the abstract about technology: How much do we understand the technologies we use? How do we relate to them?
I come from a land of plenty
As an instructor in the information technology field here in the United States, I have been fortunate even by the elevated standards of IT access in America. I teach information technology in the Grayson Technical Education Program at Grayson High School in Gwinnett County, Georgia.
All of my students have desktops with dual monitors. Our lab has a rack full of servers and workstations with graphic cards for development. The students spend their days in a curriculum- and resource-rich environment learning through web-based tools like TestOut’s LabSim. They have the opportunity to earn multiple certifications each year from Microsoft, Adobe, and TestOut — most students earn four or more certifications before the end of the year.
All of this wealth of opportunity is due to our program’s being in the United States, as part of the largest school system in Georgia. Gwinnett County Public Schools is dedicated to providing world-class education and it shows. As an educator, it is a veritable land of milk and honey and information technology instruction.
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