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Framing the Issue of the Digital Divide in Education

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Systemic lack of planning for after school online access

A recent report from CoSN, (the Consortium for School Networking) shared this statistic from the Pew Research Center:

75% of school systems surveyed do not have any off campus strategies for providing connectivity to students at home and after school.   

This is a mind boggling statistic with serious implications for our students.   Many districts are making monumental advances in offering technology at school and teachers around the country are converting curriculum to digital platforms.   In addition to classroom organization and electronic submissions, technology is leading to important developments in collaboration, creativity, and efficiency.   In the most dynamic classrooms, teachers are redefining the learning process (See the SAMR Model)

However, this change in education needs to be matched with systemic thinking in school districts across the nation.    The default plan for many teachers is to tell their students to "go to the library after school".  Well, this isn't always possible -- especially at night when students often do their homework.    

When electronic assignments don't come in on time, the lack of online access sometimes doesn't occur to educators (myself included).   If a teacher suspects a lack of online access at home, they should certainly ask students in a confidential way.   Sometimes students will say that they have access, but they are referring to their cell phone.  Many projects and assignments, though, require larger screens and greater bandwidths in order to create and collaborate.     And just as teachers need to recognize issues (and work with students on an individual basis) to provide reasonable work arounds, districts need to plan in a more systemic manner.  Not acknowledging this problem is doing a disservice to students.  The 75% of districts who haven't started addressing this problem need to start thinking of solutions that would best fit their communities.    Home access one of the most difficult problems to tackle with respect to the digital divide, but it is also one of the most important.

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