Access to online resources including digital content, interactive education apps and websites, videos, experts and peers is no longer a “nice to have” but rather a necessity. Unfortunately, teachers and students are often unable to be sure there will be dependable, robust access outside of school depending on family and community circumstances.
In “Closing the Homework Gap: Equity of Access for All Students Outside of School,” Rhonda Schroeder, EdD, principal, Arthur Elementary School, Oklahoma City, OK; Mike Cory, EdD, principal, Gettys Middle School, SC; Barbara J. Nesbitt, PhD, executive director of Technology, AITS, School District of Pickens County, SC; and Christine Fox, deputy executive director, SETDA, presented solutions for providing out-of-school access and digital resources to students based off their own experiences.
1. Communicate with Families
To ensure equity of access for all students outside of school, SETDA recommends working with families, particularly in low-income areas, to help them understand the importance of out-of-school access.
2. Leverage Partnerships
They also encourage schools and districts to leverage community partnerships by working with libraries, community centers, mobile community hotspots, or local chambers of commerce. However, Fox noted the importance of having safe WiFi access, as many students can access WiFi in public places like fast food restaurants that do not provide the safest options for high school students to study at night.
States, districts and schools are also uniquely positioned to share reduce cost or no cost out-of-school access options for families.
3. Provide Out-of-School Access on Devices
Dr. Schroeder shared the story of how Arthur Elementary School transitioned from having one computer per classroom to having a 1:1 iPad program, establishing goals for out-of-school access. To help close the homework gap, the school currently provides 5gigs of 4G access to students via their devices and is staring to work with more community partners.
One of their most successful partnerships has been the district’s partnership with the ONECard initiative, run by the Metropolitan Library System, which provides students with access to all local library services.
Traditionally, the responsibility of homework has relied 100 percent on students and parents, despite some parents being absent or unable to help. By providing out-of-school access to digital instructional materials, students now have more opportunities to personalize their own learning and support to complete their homework.
“Teachers are available to even collaborate after hours and comment right then and there on the actual documents,” said Dr. Cory. Reliable out-of-school access levels the playing field for all. Students are no longer limited by location or income level, have unlimited access to thousands of resources, and are empowered by what they can learn on their own time.
About the Presenters
Dr. Rhonda Schroeder is the principal at Arthur Elementary School in Oklahoma City Public Schools, Oklahoma’s largest and most diverse school district with approximately 45,000 students and 2,700 teachers. She has spearheaded the district’s first 1:1 iPad program where more than 700 students are afforded 24/7 personalized learning opportunities. She holds firm to the belief that student access to technology is the great equalizer. As a result of that belief, Arthur Elementary achieved a 14-point gain on the state school report card given by the Oklahoma State Department of Education—the largest gain in the district. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Central Oklahoma, Master of Education from the University of Oklahoma, Master of Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma, and a doctorate in educational administration from California Coast University.
Dr. Michael Cory is Principal of Richard H. Gettys Middle School in Easley, South Carolina in the School District of Pickens County. He is an experienced educator with a passion to progressively revitalize educational systems. Currently, he also serves as Principal Specialist for a turnaround school in another middle school in the School District of Pickens County. His school was the first school in their district to pilot the Bring Your Own Device initiative and was featured in Men’s Health Magazine as the magazine’s first FitSchool, and an award winning STEAM school. He earned a B.S. degree in accounting from Clemson University, a master’s degree of educational administration from the University of South Carolina, and a doctoral degree in educational administration from Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. He serves on the Financial Literacy Committee of Pickens County United Way and is an advocate for his students and their community.
Dr. Barbara Nesbitt is an educator with 30 years of experience in public school education. Dr. Nesbitt has been a teacher, instructional coach, instructional technology coach, independent consultant, district-level coordinator, and director. Currently she is the executive director of technology for the School District of Pickens County in upstate South Carolina. She is also a visiting professor at Clemson University in the School of Educational Leadership. She earned a B.S. degree in early childhood and elementary education at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, a Master of Education degree in School Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Virginia, and a PhD in educational leadership at Clemson University. Dr. Nesbitt is on the K-12 Institutional Executive Board for IMS Global, a non-profit member collaborative committed to enabling plug & play architecture on digital ecosystems. Dr. Nesbitt is also one of ten members on the National Council on Digital Convergence. Dr. Nesbitt’s passion is to help teachers learn to engage students in critical thinking skills through the use of engaging technologies and 21st century pedagogy.
Christine Fox is the deputy executive director for SETDA. As deputy executive director, she collaborates with the executive director in charting strategic direction, administration, planning and financial decisions involving SETDA. She also facilitates the members’ professional learning opportunities including planning and implementing the content for SETDA’s virtual and in-person events and newsletters. In addition, she manages many of SETDA’s research and product development projects from conception to publication. She has worked as an educational consultant and curriculum developer for a national whole school reform model, ESOL coordinator and 3rd grade teacher.
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