Closing the Digital Gap Between Home and School
Learning Tools As technology becomes a bigger part of our lives at home, work and school, educators are working to ensure that all students have access to digital tools.
Many of the assignments students work on in their classrooms require, or are made easier by, the use of technology. This makes sense, because students will need to develop digital literacy in order to thrive in the future workforce.
However, some students are at a disadvantage because they don’t have access to the same technology at home. Students who don’t have a reliable internet connection, or a device to access it, may have a more difficult time completing their homework. This can cause them to fall behind their peers who do have access to these technologies.
Technology at home
In the 2017 SpeakUp Survey of Texas students, parents, administrators, librarians, teachers and technology directors, 49 percent of Texas teachers said that “ensuring students have safe, consistent internet access outside of school is a significant barrier to implementing blended learning in school.” This isn’t just a problem affecting Texas students and educators. The ACT's Center for Equity in Learning conducted a 2017 survey on this issue and found that 19 percent of students from underserved backgrounds report having access to only one device at home. When this device needs to be shared with other siblings and family members, it can be difficult for students to count on it as a reliable resource for completing their homework.
So what are the solutions? In areas where access to reliable internet is an issue, some schools have school buses that travel around from neighborhood to neighborhood, acting as mobile wireless hotspots. In Texas, we have the Technology Lending Grants, which have made it possible for schools to apply for funding to implement a program that loans students the equipment necessary to access and use digital instructional materials. These measures are steps in the right direction toward creating a more equitable future for all students.