In my Delicious network bookmarks I found this pretty interesting study (pdf) titled “The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age” which concludes:

…Despite new opportunities to engage in such distribution of content, relatively few people are taking advantage of these recent developments. Moreover, neither creation nor sharing is randomly distributed among a diverse group of young adults. Consistent with existing literature, creative activity is related to a person’s socioeconomic status as measured by parental schooling. The novel act of sharing online, however, is considerably different with men much more likely to engage in it. However, once we control for Internet user skill, men and women are equally likely to post their materials on the Web.

The study states that as far as kids are concerned, those with at least one parent with a graduate degree are much more likely to publish, and that “while it may be that digital media are leveling¬† the playing field in terms of exposure to content, engaging in creative pursuits remains unequally distributed by social background.”

Obviously, this is not especially good news, but it’s not at all surprising. The significance of it is clear, however, from one other line in the study:

If we find unequal uptake of these activities then such discrepancies imply the emergence of a two-tiered system where some people contribute to online content while others remain mere consumers of material. Those who share their content publicly have the ability to set the agenda of public discussions and debates. (Emphasis mine.)

I think that’s another bullet point to add to the compelling case for teaching these technologies in classrooms, and especially in those classrooms in lower socio-economic areas.¬† It reminds me of the quote from the Horizon Report a few weeks ago that said:

Increasingly, those who use technology in ways that expand their global connections are more likely to advance, while those who do not will find themselves on the sidelines.

I’ll admit I still marvel at how long it’s taken the system to even show signs of understanding what’s happening and taking steps to deal with it. For any of this to happen, we need teachers in the room who can expand their global connections as well. But the more we can begin to distribute this type of research to the educational leaders in our schools, the more opening we have to starting the conversations.