Mind the App Gap?

Last month, the New York Times ran a story about the “app gap.” The gist of the matter is that over half the kids from families earning over $75,000 per year have experience playing with educational apps, while children from lower income earning households have little to no knowledge, let alone access to emerging digital technologies. The debate as to the significance of this new research is still very much up for debate. The technology is too young to know whether or not it is actually educational or really just another way to avoid being a hands on parent- a distraction to keep the kids out of your hair masked as “educational,” or if apps really are engraining kids with access to them skills that will give them the upper hand in the future.  

At our recent first friday happy hour mixer at Ubermind, an acclaimed app developer, I inquired about the said “app gap” and the answer i received from a project manager who shall remain nameless was frank and to the point… the people that don’t have access to app technologies do not matter. “They are not a market that will bring in revenue one way or the other. They will continue to behave in whatever ways they do np matter what, so we don’t put any effort into reaching them.”

The poors are seen as a force that will act on their savage untamable (ahem…unmarketable??) instinct so what’s the point, am I right??? (sarcastic font).  Well, one way of boiling down the issue is that maybe just maybe these “educational apps” aren’t actually helping kids learn their ABC’s and 1 2 3’s any better than Sesame Street, but what they are doing is helping kids with access to them to develop a digital literacy that is an integral part of the fabric of our culture and economy.

As Foster Kramer of Beta Beat points out, “There’s obviously a good point to be had in this, which is: technological competency as a prerequisite for having any kind of chance in the job market could become less of a variable than it already is due to those who can afford technology as it innovates, and those who can’t.”

Digital literacy, like regular old literacy, is becoming a basic necessity to become a thriving member of society.  It then becomes highly problematic that a third of low-income parents don’t currently even know what an app is.   Whether we fully understand the ramifications of apps in the development of young minds or not remains to be seen, but it is obvious that their is a set of skills that are necessary in the tech-saturated landscape that has become reality. Think Progress sums it up nicely.

“According to a white paper from the Arizona State University College of Teacher Education and Leadership:

It is difficult to gauge what is actually happening, because the little that is known about the effects of digital media on emergent literacy skills development comes from educational television and computer studies, as well as from a few studies of other media and surveys…Digital media may be transforming the language and cultural practices that enable the development of emergent literacy skills. A new generation of young children is experiencing a new kind of interconnectedness in the language they see, hear, and use.”

When it all boils down though, the Atlantic Wire   puts a whole hell of a lot of things into perspective. Poor kids may not have access to iPads and Apps, but they also don’t have access to breakfast, nutritional foods, or health care.  So many gaps to mind. So many people who don’t care because they view those without disposable income as “unmarketable.”

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