Homework Gaps and connectivity canyons : education, broadband, and the shattered myth of the network society
The Homework Gap phenomenon in the United States is a subsection of the Digital Divide that describes the condition of children who face difficulty completing digital homework when the school day ends. The Homework Gap is a major barrier to academic success and contributes to social reproduction in American educational systems. This dissertation examined telecommunications and educational public policies that contribute to technology adoption in US education. The study also explored how parents and caretakers perceive and manage connectivity because the onus falls on parents to provide broadband and technology access for their child or children because of school. The study utilizes a constructivist grounded theory qualitative research design that incorporates individual interviews and focus group meetings with an n = 47 for focus group interviews and n = 29 for one-on-one semi-structured interviews utilizing a convenience sample in eleven cities across the US. The target population consisted of parents with school-aged children, but also included educational stakeholders and policymakers. This dissertation finds that the shift to ubiquitous digital school curriculum in the United States is out of sync with the diffusion of network technology and computing devices, namely broadband Internet, to American homes. Access deficits are intensified by the social, cultural, and digital capital reserves in families with school-aged children. The results of the research identify critical factors that construct a Connectivity Imaginary – that being, the idealized state of connectivity- where students are least likely to experience the Homework Gap. The implications of this study identify that technology has the power to exacerbate social reproduction in the techno-normative school environment. Highly connected, tech savvy families that were supported by social, cultural, and digital capital economies were empowered to support robust Connectivity Imaginaries. Parents lacking robust Connectivity Imaginaries in the study reflected that the normalization of technological systems frequently left them feeling alienated in their roles as participants in their children’s educations and undermined their authority as caretakers. The results illuminate the intricacy of interrelated educational, social, and technological factors rising out of the normalization of school techno-systems and complicate understandings of the origins and phenomenon of the Homework Gap.