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Wireless Internet Access Shrinks When Students Arrive at School, According to New Study

By Abi Mandelbaum
October 15th, 2014

Pearson Study Conducted by Harris Poll Reveals Significant Accessibility Challenges Among Elementary, Middle and High School Classrooms

Today’s digital learning resources have the power to transform student learning, but according to a recent study conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Pearson, students face challenges accessing them at school. While the majority (93 percent) of elementary, middle and high school students have wireless access to the Internet at home, the survey revealed that connectivity shrinks when they get to school — only 62 percent have wireless access there, according to the Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey 2014.

The release of the Pearson study comes close on the heels of the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to modernize the E-Rate program, a national program created 18 years ago to support telecommunications in schools and libraries. In July 2014, the Commissioners approved an E-rate order that invests heavily in Wi-Fi connectivity for schools over the next two years.

The survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Pearson between February 13 and March 12, 2014, collected responses from 2,252 students regarding their current use of mobile technology for learning, and how they would like to use it in the future. Survey respondents included 501 elementary school (4th-5th grade) students, 750 middle school (6th-8th grade) students, and 1,001 high school (9th-12th grade) students.

The survey found that students value the ability to access mobile devices in the classroom and would like to do it more often. Seventy-one percent of elementary school students, 67 percent of middle school students and 56 percent of high school students responded that they would like to use mobile devices in the classroom more often than they do now. Additionally, while a majority of students reported that it is important for their schools to provide them with a laptop on a 1:1 basis (51 percent), or a tablet on a 1:1 basis (43 percent), the survey indicates that only one in 6 students actually attends a school where laptops or tablets are provided on a 1:1 basis.

Access at home and school is also necessary for students to do school work. Sixty-one percent of middle and 71 percent of high school students say they need to be connected at school at least twice a week to do their school work, and 26 percent of middle school and 34 percent of high school students say they need to be connected at school daily to do so.

“We are always striving to focus on the learner at the center of all Pearson initiatives and the mobile device survey provides valuable, first-hand insight into how students use, and want to use, technology for learning,” said Douglas Kubach, president, Pearson’s School group. “This year’s findings expose a crucial gap in today’s K-12 learning environments — learners actually have greater access to Wi-Fi at home than in our nation’s classrooms. Many schools still do not have the wireless connectivity necessary to fully realize the power of today’s digital learning tools for preparing students to meet rigorous learning goals and to graduate college- and career-ready.”

Some school districts are finding innovative ways to address this gap in connectivity. In 2012, Huntsville City Schools District (HCS), in Alabama, became the first district in the U.S. to implement a district-wide digital 1:1 program, which provided each of its more than 23,000 students with laptops or iPads and digital textbooks to help personalize instruction for each student and prepare them for college and career. The program, which has been successful in increasing student outcomes across the district, initially met some obstacles in parts of the city where some students did not have Internet access at home. To help bridge this gap, and meet the need for increased bandwidth demands created by the 1:1 program, HCS partnered with the city and local businesses to launch more than 10 Wi-Fi hotspots in key places throughout the city. These hot spots include parks, recreation centers and other places frequented by students in the areas where connectivity is in high demand. HCS also worked with Durham School Services to equip 30 school buses with Wi-Fi, enabling students to work on the way to and from school. To further support the 1:1 initiative, HCS recently partnered with Comcast and the Huntsville Housing Authority to provide more than 70 local families with free cable modems and ongoing complimentary Internet service.

Supplementary topics researched in the 2014 Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey include the impact of tablets in the classroom, mobile device ownership, general mobile device usage, and mobile device usage in regards to school work. The full report is available online. Pearson will also make the complete tabulations and full methodology, including weighting variables, available upon request.

About Pearson
Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, with 40,000 employees in more than 80 countries working to help people of all ages to make measurable progress in their lives through learning. For more information about Pearson, visit http://www.pearson.com.

About The Harris Poll
Over the last five decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods. Contact us for more information.

Media Contact:
Brandon Pinette, brandon.pinette(at)pearson(dot)com, or (800) 745-8489

About the Author:

Abi Mandelbaum

Abi Mandelbaum is CEO of YouVisit.