Teach Technology, Teach Democracy

There is more to the digital divide than simple ideas of those with technology and those without (DiMaggio, P. & Hargittai, E., 2001; Warschauer, 2003), or conceptions of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants (Prensky, 2001).  If those of us in education do not teach how technology is used to communicate information, we inadvertently become assistants to the emergence of a digital variation of Jim Crow laws:  Those who understand how to critically interpret digitally presented data, and those who don’t .

Teach data visualization.Picture1

Far more than the pie charts, line graphs, and bar charts of years gone by, today’s data visualizations are often artfully created and possibly interactive.  The old adage, “There are three kinds of lies:  Lies, damn lies, and statistics” gets new life when infographics can be easily used for gerrymandering of ideas.

List of 38 data visualization tools

Examples of lessons related to voting using data visualization tools

Teach digital storytelling.

It’s the new language of advocacy.  Beyond the old “who, what, where, and why” of journalism, those who want to be heard also need to have a sense of the visual and auditory.  What does truth in photojournalism now mean when software now supports even elementary aged children editing images and videos?  Is a written editorial about a societal wrong as powerful now as a video showing it captured via cell phone and gone viral on YouTube?

Screencapture and Digital Storytelling Resources

Teach social media.

Although we still have newspapers and televised news, gone are the days when major cities would have two papers–one leaning to the right, and one to the left.  Today’s social media networks are an integral part of politics and the news–often interactive in nature, with TV hosts fielding questions from Facebook and Twitter during live interviews.  With social media, anyone can quickly and easily comment directly to the famous and powerful–and often get replies!

Example assignment using social media for professional development

Teach search engines and web domains.

Just because something’s on the web, it’s true, right?  Well, that depends on who put it there–but how you figure that part out can be a bit complicated.  Beyond basic differences in  .com, .gov, .org, or .edu, there are a number of other factors at play.  What browser did you use for your search?  You may get different results, depending on the browser’s data analytics as well as your personal settings for privacy, cookies, location, history, and more.  Are your devices synced?  Your search engines may be pulling info from those devices as well.  You found an amazingly informative site, but is it true?  Who owns it?

Search Tip Resources


Teach technology.  Teach democracy.


DiMaggio, P. & Hargittai, E. (2001).  From the ‘Digital Divide’ to `Digital Inequality’: Studying Internet Use As Penetration Increases. Working Paper, Center for Arts Culture and Policy Studies, Princeton University.

Hargittai, E. (2001).  Second-Level Digital Divide: Mapping Differences in People’s Online Skills, First Monday, 7:4, ISSN 1396-0466.

Prensky, M., (2001).  Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1, On the Horizon, 9:5, p.1-6, https://doi.org/10.1108/10748120110424816

Warschauer, M. (2003).  Demystifying the Digital Divide, Scientific American, a division of Nature America, Inc, .289:2, p. 42-47. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/26060401

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