Popular media, prominent politicians, and technology enthusiasts convey rich imagery about the transformative educational potential of the Internet. Compelling visions are epitomized in a speech given by U.S. President Clinton:
children in urban, suburban and rural districts, rich, poor, middle class – for the first time in the history of America, because of these [Internet] connections, we can make available the same learning from all over the world at the same level of quality and the same time to all our children. It will revolutionize education.(Sioux Falls, SD: 1996)
Indeed, there is little argument about the fact that universal Internet connections would provide many students with access to a vast array of information as well as to potentially enriching opportunities to interact with distant others who would not otherwise be available.
However, it is less certain that Internet access in and of itself will end up making available the same learning for all school age children; strong evidence indicates that existing attitudes toward, interest in, and use of technology are clearly related to variables such as gender and race. For example, gender and race have been shown to predict Internet use even when financial barriers to access are removed, with young, European American males dominating (Kraut et al., 1996). Boys are more likely than girls to use computers during discretionary time (Durndell & Lightbody, 1993; Hess & Miura, 1985; Hoyles, 1988; Schofield, 1995) to enroll in computer science courses, particularly as the required level of expertise increases, and to earn computer science degrees (Hoyles, 1988; National Center for Education Statistics, 1997; Schofield, 1995).