18Equity, Access, and the Digital Divide in Learning Technologies: Historical Antecedents, Current Issues, and Future Trends

Marshall Jones and Rebecca Bridges

18.1 Introduction

The terms “equity” and “access” raise a number of issues in learning technologies. Operationally we can define access as an individual or group having unfettered and unfiltered access to both information and the tools needed to use and manage that information. Equity refers to the parity between individuals and groups of people in regard to access to both information and tools. When discussing ideas associated with equity, it becomes apparent that one cannot really speak of equity without speaking of access.

The application of equity and access will vary based on one’s discipline and perspective. For example, access defined by people with particular physical limitations, such as sight or mobility, would produce one set of issues, needs, and research. In such cases, examinations of assistive technology and universal designs for learning (UDLs) would be appropriate. Equity and access can also be defined based on other issues, such as age, economics, geography, socio-political issues, and culture, to name but a few.

This chapter will focus largely on aspects related to economics, culture, geography, and the role of learning organizations and purposeful initiatives as they apply to equity and access. This focus is often dominated by the term “digital divide.” This widely used term refers to the separation, or divide, ...

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