How computer science education bridges the digital divide

Amid the havoc that the pandemic wreaked on our lives, there were important lessons to be learned. It proved that people skilled with technology could navigate and succeed, and that many of the potential problems of the future could be solved by technology.

Many institutions and people who embraced technology survived–and in some cases, thrived.  But for those without digital skills or access to a computer and an internet connection, it was a very different story.

During the pandemic, the term ‘homework gap’ was used to describe children without reliable or any access to the internet and appropriate digital devices and who were unable to complete their assignments. At the beginning of the pandemic, an estimated 15 million public school students in the US lacked the connectivity needed for online learning. This gap was especially pronounced in low-income, Black, and Hispanic households. As nearly every school adopted some form of online learning, students without computers and connectivity suffered. Schools worked hard to address this situation, but for others, they could only watch their students struggle and fall behind.…Read More

5 ways tech helps create calmer learning environments

When I started as a school counselor more than 15 years ago, technology in the classroom looked much different than it does today. Only a handful of students had their own personal device and the concept of one-to-one models, meaning every student is given a school-issued laptop or tablet, had not yet taken hold. At that time, students were accessing the internet or using digital tools sparingly throughout the school day, and typically only in tech-focused classes. Today, most teens have access to a smartphone and more than 80 percent of K-12 students use a school-issued device as part of their learning. Students are clearly more connected than ever, both inside and outside of the classroom.

This increased access to technology in school has had both positive and negative impacts on students. For some, the internet has proven to be an incredibly engaging and useful learning tool, while for others, the constant stream of information can be overwhelming. Because of this, it is important for educators to help students use technology in a purposeful way that supports learning.

While it might seem counterintuitive, technology and certain digital tools can actually help provide students with a sense of calm while enhancing in-the-moment thinking.…Read More

Teaching ‘stranger danger’ should extend to the virtual world

In recent days, Ukrainian officials have expressed urgent concern that “Russia is planning to launch massive cyberattacks on critical infrastructure.” Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a dizzying series of cybersecurity threats and incidences that have plagued the global community for what seems like forever. Every day our country is fighting a seemingly invisible war against cybercriminals, and our students—the most vulnerable among us—are suffering the most.

According to the FBI’s 2021 Internet Crime Report, more than 14,000 victims of cybercrime that year were under the age of 20, with losses totaling $100 million. Of these victims, about six children per day faced online exploitation or abuse. And these are only the crimes that have been reported to the FBI—about 80% of cybercrime goes unreported every year.

That’s why it’s becoming increasingly more urgent for us to protect our students from the constant threats they face online. Teaching them how to navigate these threats must include four vital strategies:…Read More

Free internet could erase the digital divide

Local leaders must play a critical role in closing the digital divide for 18 million American households that have access to the internet but can’t afford to connect, according to a new report.

The urgent prompt comes from EducationSuperHighway, a national nonprofit with a mission to close the broadband affordability gap. The organization released its second No Home Left Offline report on the action needed to accelerate Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) adoption.

The ACP is a $14.2 billion federal broadband benefit funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that provides eligible households with a monthly discount of up to $30 per month (up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands) and a one-time $100 discount toward a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. 51.6 million households, including 17.7 million unconnected households, are eligible for the ACP, yet only 13 million (25% of those eligible) have enrolled.…Read More

How digital equity enhances cybersecurity in schools

Digital equity in the classroom goes far beyond the need to deliver internet connectivity and devices. All students need and deserve a safe, reliable, and adaptable edtech ecosystem to support and nurture their learning experience.  

Behind the obvious laptops and countless other tech tools used by everyone in today’s schools sits what could arguably be labeled the least discussed aspect of K-12 technology: the vast software systems that nearly all schools use to store and update student data – including their identifying information. Everyone using these systems is impacted by the way in which users are required to log in, as well as interact with, cybersecurity precautions. It’s not energizing to discuss or even manage – but deploying it correctly can make all the difference for countless students. 

Just as all students aren’t the same, their needs for entering and using these systems may vary greatly. Thus, if a district uses the same access process for all, the chance that gaps in digital equity exist is nearly certain. A fifth grader with special needs may face access and access confirmation processes that take away from instruction time in each class throughout the day. Furthermore, imagine facing those same hurdles every day and every year throughout a K-12 education.  …Read More

In post-COVID schools, let’s redouble efforts to support students

The other day, my friend’s high school daughter complained, “It’s not fair!” “What’s not fair?” her mother asked. “Everyone is cheating!” her daughter replied. “They started doing it during COVID, and now it’s a habit.” Unfortunately, academic dishonesty is just one example of the many negative consequences of the COVID pandemic.

In hindsight, we have ample evidence that remote learning during COVID increased hardships for PK-12 students, both academically and non-academically. Some students lacked necessary resources. In one study, even after all students were provided with a laptop computer, internet access, and headphones, low-income students’ school attendance and engagement were consistently less frequent than their higher-income peers (An, 2021). Food insecurity also increased during COVID, partly due to the hiatus of school breakfast, lunch, and take-home snack pack programs (Parekh et al., 2021). And worst of all, children at home during COVID were twice as likely to experience physical abuse and three times likely to experience emotional abuse during the pandemic than in prior years (Park & Walsh, 2022).

Without a doubt, remote learning during COVID was distressing for students, with 71 percent of parents in one study reporting that the pandemic had “taken a toll on their child’s mental health” (Abramson, 2022, para. 2). …Read More

Why E-rate is critical for school technology access

Every year, schools and libraries have access to billions of dollars of funding through the FCC’s E-rate program. Unfortunately, many don’t take advantage, oftentimes because of confusion over who is eligible and what services are available. In this post I’ll break down the importance of E-rate, how it works, and the types of technologies it makes available that are crucial to education.

The importance of E-rate

For students in the 21st century, it’s almost impossible to overemphasize the importance of the internet and digital learning technologies. There is a growing dependence on these resources across the U.S., and they are often seen as critical for connecting students and teachers and preparing students for lifelong learning and jobs.…Read More

E-rate spending reveals schools’ tech evolution

Schooling has changed in many ways in the last two years, but while remote learning, mask policies and increased federal spending in education have gotten lots of attention, another trend has gone nearly unnoticed.

But thanks to the availability of detailed E-rate data, this sea change is now being recognized. E-rate is the federal government program that provides discounts of up to 90 percent for schools and libraries to bring high-speed internet into their building(s) and create internal networks for online access. For years, E-rate applicants have leveraged E-rate to bring fast internet service into their organizations, cobbling together funds and seeking out providers. But today, a new trend is emerging—more funds are being requested to improve internal networks, allowing the flood of devices now used in schools and libraries to effectively get online.

E-rate funding requested in Category One, which includes data transmission services and internet access, has declined for five straight years, largely a function of increasing marketplace competition and decreasing per-megabit prices.  But funding requests for Category Two services have soared in the same time period. Category Two funds can be spent on wireless access points, network switches, data cabling and other resources essential for on-campus connections.…Read More