Across the nation, school districts are investing in one-to-one computing programs and supplying digital devices for their students to use as learning tools. While these tools can be very empowering, giving each child a device isn’t enough to close the digital opportunity gap that exists between students of varying economic means.
This issue is near to our hearts in the Manor Independent School District in Texas. We’re a very diverse community, with a significant population of economically disadvantaged students. About 73 percent of our nearly 9,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and 36 percent are bilingual or speak English as a second language. We want to make sure all of our students, even those from the poorest homes, can contribute to our digital future.
Over the last few years, we’ve built a very strong technology infrastructure to prepare our district for a digital transformation. We have a fiber network connecting our 13 schools. We have a one-to-one initiative in our high schools, and we’re looking to extend that opportunity to our middle and elementary schools as well.
But we realize that’s only a starting point, and we need to do more than just give every child a mobile device. Here are three other steps we’re taking to ensure true digital equity for our students.
1) High-speed internet access at home as well as school
At school, students have access to high-speed internet service. Away from school, however, students from low-income families often struggle to get online. As a growing number of assignments require internet access, this phenomenon has become known as the “homework gap.” Some students forgo extracurricular activities so they can use the school or public library to complete their homework during business hours. Others skip doing homework altogether because they’re ashamed to admit they couldn’t get online.