President, National PTA
In today’s learning environment, technology and education are a package deal. This was especially true when so many schools had to shift to online learning with the spread of COVID-19 this spring. And as the pandemic continues, online learning is continuing into the 2020-21 school year.
While technology provides great opportunities for teaching and learning, many teachers lack the connectivity they need to instruct and support student learning, and students do not have the proper technology to continue their studies. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated inequities in our public education system, particularly when it comes to accessing the internet and dependable devices.
According to Pew Research, 37 percent of rural Americans do not have broadband internet access at home, and 35 percent of students from households with annual incomes below $30,000 do not have access to high-speed internet. Additionally, 25 percent of African American households and 23 percent of Hispanic households with school-age children do not have access to high-speed internet at home.
The tools they need
It is critical for every teacher and student to be equipped with the appropriate tools they need to teach and learn — and access the wealth of online learning materials available. It is vital that we take immediate steps to make a dedicated financial investment that will close our nation’s connectivity gap.
We must advocate at the federal, state, and local levels to make these robust and equitable investments in education and technology. Here are five ways you can advocate for change:
- Learn more about the barriers to access in your community by visiting EveryStudentConnected.org.
- Participate in district and school board meetings and speak about the issue.
- Send emails and letters, and make phone calls to decision-makers.
- Conduct meetings with decision-makers and their staffs.
- Use social media and work with traditional media outlets to get your message out, garner support, and mobilize.
When speaking with school district leaders, school board members, and local, state, and federal lawmakers, ask them how your school district’s technology plan ensures all teachers and students have equitable access to technology and broadband. If there is no sufficient plan in place, ask what steps they’re taking to ensure every child and teacher has access to the technology and connectivity needed to teach and learn in a virtual setting.
It is our duty to raise our voices to ensure every teacher and student has access to technology, and the opportunities that help them teach, learn, grow, and thrive. We can work together, especially during this challenging time, to ensure our teachers and students are well equipped to have a successful school year.