Educating High Need Students for Engagement in the Digital Age
By Diana Owen
The civic education of high need students—students living in poverty, minority students, English language learners, and special needs students—often is shortchanged, contributing to a “civic empowerment gap.” This study examines differences in the pedagogies employed by teachers of high need students and non-high need students, focusing on the extent to which they employ techniques that will prepare students for citizenship in the age of digital politics. The study addresses the core question: Are there differences in the pedagogies, activities, and digital media use skills teachers of high need and non-high need students employ in the classroom? Data on 700 middle and high school teachers nationwide are used to examine the question empirically. The findings support the hypothesis that teachers of high need students are less likely to incorporate digital technology into the civics classroom than teachers of students who are not high need. The disparities in the use of technology in the classroom are apparent for accessing information as well as civics-related activities. The inequities in civic education that contribute to the civic empowerment gap are growing in the digital age. Students in high need schools are not receiving civics instruction that keeps pace with the augmented requirements of engaged citizenship.