When the digital divide is made worse by a pandemic

The digital divide is proving one of the most pervasive and stubborn challenges in U.S. education, and its effects can follow students from kindergarten through college. As if that’s not bad enough, the COVID-19 crisis, which forced students across the globe to learn at home while schools closed physical operations, made inequities even more apparent.

Students in schools all over the U.S. struggled to find existing or reliable internet connections, many didn’t have access to appropriate devices to complete online assignments, others waited for weeks until schools managed to organize device-lending programs, while still others had to share devices with siblings and, sometimes, parents who also had to work from home.

Related content: Family tech nights can narrow the digital divide…Read More

Family tech nights can narrow the digital divide

When we talk about digital equity, the conversation often focuses on providing opportunities for all students to learn in an increasingly connected world. We talk about devices and home connectivity. We talk the importance of parental support. We talk about training all educators to integrate digital tools in their classrooms in meaningful ways.

Seldom, though, does the conversation focus on ensuring that parents acquire the same skills we want for our students.

But when schools support students in transferring their skills to their parents, they are narrowing the digital divide.…Read More

Study highlights plight of students with only one device at home

The digital divide is proving one of the most pervasive and stubborn challenges in U.S. education, and its effects can follow students from kindergarten through college.

A new study confirms that, despite efforts to close the space, the gap between students who have access to devices and the internet and those who lack it compounds equity problems within U.S. schools.

New research from ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning shows that underserved students with access to only one electronic device in their home may find it difficult to complete schoolwork. The homework gap, as it is frequently called, is particularly tough on low-income and rural students. Even when families have one device at home, that device is often a smartphone, which isn’t conducive to completing homework or doing research.…Read More

10 steps for bringing connectivity home

This fall, Cypress-Fairbanks (TX) Independent School District is particularly excited about welcoming back 150 of our underserved elementary, middle, and high school students after they’ve enjoyed their first full summer of district-sponsored Wi-Fi. This group of students is the first to benefit from iConnect, a new program that extends our district’s enterprise network infrastructure with safe and secure learning systems into eligible communities.

For our pilot, we delivered remote wireless connectivity and computing devices to families at the Nayeli House Tanner Road Mobile Home Park in our Houston metro district. What’s more, we’ll soon be expanding iConnect to communities served by four more schools within our footprint. Here are the steps we recommend for getting a similar initiative done in your district.

Step 1: Reframe your mission to meet access needs at home
Although we passed a significant technology bond in 2014 that enables providing students with computing devices at school, which included a total overhaul of our network infrastructure, by 2015 we realized a significant percentage of our students had no internet access at home. This meant we were falling short of our district’s mission—to maximize every student’s potential by providing opportunity for all—because so many of our students lacked the connectivity vital for after-hours learning and collaboration. Taking this perspective, we launched a three-year effort to close the opportunity gap by finding a way to bring access to their homes.…Read More

5 things districts are doing to close the homework gap

Despite a brighter spotlight on digital equity, gaps still remain, including the troubling and persistent homework gap–but a newly-relaunched digital equity toolkit aims to highlight the important work districts across the nation are taking to address equity differences.

The 2014 E-rate modernization helped a majority of schools meet the FCC’s short-term connectivity goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students, according to CoSN’s relaunched Digital Equity Initiative toolkit. But because classroom use of technology and digital resources is growing, a gap has continued to grow between students who have internet access at home and those who do not.

Because it tends to impact low-income and rural students harder than others, the homework gap can intensify other income or access issues these students and their families face. And even if a family has internet access, students don’t necessarily have access to a device–or the right device–with a large enough screen or enough data to complete homework.…Read More

3 steps we’re taking to ensure true digital equity

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.…Read More

Can your internet service provider help close the digital divide?

Darriale Bradley and her family spent many nights in the parking lot of fast food restaurants, but not because of the food. It was for the wi-fi. For Darriale, sitting in the parking lot was the only way she could do her online homework since she didn’t have a home internet connection. No child should have to go to such lengths just to do homework, and every child should have easy and affordable access to the Internet and the opportunity that access brings. Yet, sadly, Darriale is far from alone.

The digital divide is a reality for three out of four American families, meaning approximately eight million individuals under the age of 18 are living without internet access. According to Pew Research, 79 percent of surveyed middle and high school teachers report allowing students to access homework online with 76 percent allowing students to submit assignments online. However, only 18 percent of teachers reported the majority of students have access to the digital tools they need at home, which left those students without access to broadband at a significant disadvantage.

So, where does this leave these students and their families? In short, without an Internet connection you are both economically and educationally marginalized. Luckily, this can be solved and we, at EveryoneOn, with the help of partners, are working to help families connect to the digital world.…Read More

3 Google Fiber programs that could help ease the digital divide

Google’s affordable broadband service is already impacting some communities and schools

The latest Digital Equity report from the Consortium of School Networking paints a picture of an educational environment where schools are at least on the right path to providing access to high-speed wi-fi within their walls (though there is still plenty of work to be done). An equally pressing problem is the fact that the number of pupils with fast connectivity dwindles as they move away from their K-12 hubs—and the divide deepens even further when issues like socioeconomic status, income, and race are taken into account.

According to The Pew Research Center, 82.5 percent of American households with school-age children currently have broadband access at home. This is approximately 9 percentage points higher than the broadband adoption rates across all households, CoSN reports, but there are still 5 million households with school-age children which lack broadband in the home.

“Students in these households experience what is being labeled the ‘homework gap,’” reported CoSN, pointing out that more than 75 percent of school district technology leaders have no strategy for addressing off-campus access.…Read More

FCC approves $9 broadband subsidy for low-income households

Expansion of the Lifeline program will affect more than 13 million Americans

A recently-approved expansion of an FCC program will grant millions of low-income households a discount on internet access in an effort to help close what is becoming known as the digital divide — the lack of reliable high-speed internet access for lower income families.

FCC commissioners voted on the proposed expansion 3 to 2 along party lines, as expected. Eligible households (those at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level) will now be able to apply the $9.25 subsidy to broadband, wireless, or a bundled voice and internet package. Previously, the program, called Lifeline, was only applicable to phone service.

According to the FCC, nearly all households with annual incomes of more than $150,000 currently have high-speed internet; by contrast, nearly half of those with incomes less than $25,000 claim the same.…Read More