The Digital Divide in Classroom Technology Use: A Comparison of Three Schools


  • Matthew H. Rafalow University of California, Irvine



Education, Technology/New Media, Digital Divide, Teachers, Race, Class, Culture


While concerns about the “digital divide,” or access to technology, remain relevant for many schools, we do not yet fully know how often-expensive education technologies are employed across school contexts. In particular, few studies exist that evaluate how teacher beliefs about student social class and race-ethnicity, as well as institutional perceptions of the value of new technologies, inform everyday teacher practices with such technologies. Classroom observation and interviews were conducted with 5 teachers across three elementary schools that vary by race and class. Results indicated that teachers at middle/upper class schools encouraged dynamic uses of interactive whiteboards, while in the low-income school they functioned like traditional blackboards. Findings suggest that teacher beliefs and institutional perceptions inform how technologies are used in the classroom. In particular, beliefs about the meaning of student race and social class, as well as institutional goals for implementing new technologies, inform the extent to which students are granted agency to learn with new technologies.

Author Biography

Matthew H. Rafalow, University of California, Irvine

Matt Rafalow is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at University of California, Irvine. His research focuses on how educational institutions inform technology adoption. In his dissertation, Rafalow examines how three middle schools, varying by student race and class, construct students as technology users. He explores how school institutions differently frame student technology use as either risks or opportunities, with implications for how prepared youth are in an increasingly technology-driven economy. He received his B.A. from University of Richmond, his M.A. from Columbia University Teachers College, and is a researcher at the University of California Humanities Research Institute.


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How to Cite

Rafalow, M. H. (2014). The Digital Divide in Classroom Technology Use: A Comparison of Three Schools. International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1), 67–100.