According to communications scholar Sasha Constanza-Chock, “access remains deeply structured along intersecting lines of class, race, gender, age, and geography. Indeed, as transmedia organizing emerges as a crucial strategy for social movements, digital inequality is more troublesome than ever” (Constanza-Chock, 2104, p. 105). With the pandemic, issues of inequalities were more visible and materialized quickly. One of the most apparent inequalities was the lack of access to reliable technology for marginalized, underserved communities. When educational institutions were forced to adopt a distance learning model immediately, students and their parents were left grasping for any resource available. Elementary schools offered free Chromebooks for their students, but did not address the technological gap that left parents out of access to their children’s education.
Parents found themselves incapable of taking control of their children’s education, because they did not have experience accessing the internet or even the practice of working with a computer. Zoom was one of the applications that people quickly learned and regularly used to communicate with others. Yet, low-income and digital illiterate people could not access Zoom.
As part of a team working to address the digital gap, I worked with university undergraduate students by delivering virtual support to the parents of elementary children who needed help navigating the computers the district loaned them. To help them, my team had to get the parents onto Zoom. Zoom became the portal to address a wide range of issues that were important to the parents. The feature to share screen became significant to learn, because once we saw the parents’ screens, we were able to guide them through the different sites the parents needed to access. Together, we navigated sites such as Google Classrooms. From there, we could take them to other sites to find out information that could help their children, their community, and themselves. They could attend virtual PTA meetings and city council meetings. They could once again advocate for their children and community and be heard.
Community members can now use Zoom to advocate for themselves and their community in another platform, expanding their voices. More needs to be done to bridge the digital gap. The pandemic exacerbated the lack of digital access to underserved communities, especially communities of color.
Costanza-Chock, S. (2014). Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets!. (OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks).) Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Guerrero, Juan C. (9, march 2021). As pandemic drags on, North Bay student's struggle with distance learning worsens. Abc7 News