What activities, and with what resources, are effective for students to learn about the status and consequences of inequities in computing resources?

Activities could address inequities within a community or across the globe.

Background: The Advanced Placement™ CS Principles course has two "essential knowledge" (EK) statements related to this topic:

  • EK 7.4.1C The global distribution of computing resources raises issues of equity, access, and power.
  • EK 7.4.1D Groups and individuals are affected by the "digital divide" - differing access to computing and the Internet based on socioeconomic or geographic characteristics.

The AP framework indicates these objectives should be associated in the classroom with the computational thinking practice of "connecting computing" by finding ties among computing concepts, impacts of computing, and connections between people and computing. My question is not necessarily constrained that way, though it seems inherent in achieving the objective.

(I came across a resource on this topic that I wanted to share. A related question here did not exist, so I intend to share the resource in an answer but not to imply that the resource or lesson format I share is the best one. Please share other resources and lesson formats!)

  • $\begingroup$ As this is a more casual methodology I'm leaving it as a comment: Talk to your students about usage of Facebook, etc., and ask them how they would cope and what the consequences would be if they no longer had access to the internet, but everyone else still did. (This, of course, assumes most/all of them use Facebook regularly. I don't, but I do use other sites like the Stack Exchange network often.) $\endgroup$
    – JAB
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ The story of stuff — youtube.com/watch?v=sW_7i6T_H78 $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 18:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @richard The Story of Electronics video fiercely advocates halving production of toxics from electronics by 50% every 18 months, "Green Moore's Law." It points out inequity in toxics production from mining and disposal of electronics, a.k.a. advocacy for "environmental justice." I wrote a fuller review of the video and suggestions for classroom use in comment to the video at youtube.com/… $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @BennettBrown I can't find your comment. Could you copy it to an answer here (if it was your comment, you have copyright, so can do that). $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ @richard, the link I provided above takes you directly to my comment, or should. It is purported a reply to the top-voted comment on the YouTube video's page, but only so that it would be near the top. It exceeds a SO comment limit by over 1000 chars. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 4:16

4 Answers 4


This seems to me to be the sort of topic that is best covered with an assignment such as

Write a paper, citing resources, on the topic of XYZ.

There are a number of other things that can be addressed this way. One advantage of such an assignment is that students have to write using natural language, which often gets too little attention in technical fields.

Another advantage is that you can have the work done in pairs or teams.

Another advantage is that you can follow up with class discussion, seeking consensus on the problem.

You can, of course, provide them with an initial set of resources so that they are forced to look beyond Wikipedia and other easily found resources.

You can also ask for critique of the resources that they find, not just reporting. You can even have a debate. Lots of possibilities since the topic is both serious and open ended.


Have students analyze data about the inequity of access to computing resources, and facilitate the discussion of an assigned reading. Here's one procedure for doing that:

  • Students could be asked to read an article (ideally containing tables or figures with large amounts of data with analysis in the text of the article) and write a few sentences about an article as homework.
  • In class, students could discuss in groups of 2 or 3, each presenting one figure or section of the assigned article to their group.
  • Facilitate a whole-class discussion. The discussion could be structured around a sequence of questions such as "How could this issue be addressed with policy, and what might be the beneficial and adverse consequences of such a policy?"
  • Assign a follow-up writing assignment. The assignment could give students practice writing about a particular line of argument. For example, to practice writing about the beneficial and harmful effects of a computing innovation with respect to data flows (one of the two AP CS Principles open-ended assessment tasks), the writing prompt could posit an innovation that makes it easy and cheap to provide Internet access to remote locations and asking students to write about the impacts including analysis of data flows.

Here is one article, covering many countries and focused on data about adolescents, that could be used for this purpose:


The graphics in this article are rich with both data and data concepts. The article summarizes a more exhaustive primary source.


By constructing and using simple examples.

Divide the class into two groups. One half gets to use calculators, the other half uses pencil and paper. Give the whole class the same test. Compare the average scores of the "calculator" and "non-calculator" groups.


Focus on inequities in environmental consequences from mining, manufacturing, and disposal. This was suggested by richard. He also recommended The Story of Stuff: Electronics 8-minute video. I think environmental injustice of computing is worth learning about and considering alongside inequities in access to computing resources.

Understanding the issue helps students digest domestic news and is presumably within the scope of the CS Principles writers' intentions and easily within the scope of the Explore PT. Wisconsin's governor, for example, is pushing for \$3 billion subsidies and relaxed environmental requirements in exchange for Taiwanese Foxconn to make a \$10 billion investment in a manufacturing plant rippling to create 13,000 jobs to make flat screen TVs here instead of China. News articles on the issue would be easy to find for the 2018 Explore task.


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