As technology becomes a more and more significant part of everyday life, it’s also apparent that it’s here to stay in the world of education. Mobile devices, online solutions, and the plethora of apps for education are helping teachers and students deepen learning and collaborate in the classroom. However, this increasing use of technology can pose a challenge for students who don't have access to devices or an Internet connection at home. They’re often left at a disadvantage in comparison to students with access to the wealth of information that technology offers, and in turn, the economic divide in education increases.
How can educators make sure that students have access to the technology they need outside of the classroom? Here are a few helpful resources and strategies:
Hit the Library
It’s becoming very common for students to have homework that needs to be completed online, and for students with limited Internet access at home, libraries are an outstanding resource. Library access is always free and offers students the chance to log in to online programs, utilize word processing and presentation software, or check out online publications. Students can complete homework, work on projects, conduct research, print materials, or of course, simply do some reading. Look into the locations and hours of libraries close to your school, as well as any special programs for students that they may offer, and make sure that information is posted in a noticeable spot in your classroom. You may also consider creating a flyer to send home with students or give to parents on conference night.
Take Advantage of Internet Connectivity Initiatives
In some households, students have consistent access to mobile devices but not the Internet. Recently, there has been a significant push to close this gap in connectivity, and many major Internet providers have unveiled programs that offer affordable, high-quality access to low-income families. Exact offerings vary based upon location and local providers, but federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ConnectHome initiative and the EveryoneOn organization are two good places to start looking. Check out what’s available in your area and make this information accessible to your students and their families.
Innovate at Your School
Educators are on the frontlines witnessing the impact that home access to technology has on students. So, why not start at your school to offer students more options? Educators across the country have come up with brilliant ideas to help connect their students to devices and the Internet outside of the classroom—without busting already tight budgets. For instance, California superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams wanted to provide his students with easier access to the Internet so he equipped the district’s buses with routers, turning them into rolling Wi-Fi hotspots. Now, the buses are often parked in neighborhoods where lots of students lack Internet access so that they can continue working on school projects at home. Estella’s Brilliant Bus is another great example of an educator bridging the digital divide for students. Her traveling bus provides access to devices and a variety of online learning programs to underprivileged students in Florida. Collaborate with your fellow teachers to pool resources and dream up your own innovative ideas to bring technology to your students outside normal classroom hours.
In today’s always-on world, no student should be put at a disadvantage because of difficulties accessing technology at home. Bridging this gap will take time, collaboration, and communication, but it’s critical work to do in order to level the academic playing field. Looking for more information and resources? Check out the White House’s ConnectED initiative!