Home > Uncategorized > This Just In: Internet Applications Leave 5,000,000 Students Unable to Learn

This Just In: Internet Applications Leave 5,000,000 Students Unable to Learn

October 28, 2017

At a time when “reformers” are touting on-line learning and on-line applications as a means of teaching students and engaging parents, there is a literal disconnect. According to a Hechinger Report article authored by John Branam, executive director of the 1Million Project, a national effort to help one million high school students who do not have internet access at home reach their full potential by giving them devices and free high-speed internet access, the digital divide first identified over a decade ago has not closed. He notes that even though 70% of the teachers give assignments to students that require the use of the internet, more than five million families with school-age children do not have internet connectivity at home. While his article doesn’t say so, it is probable that the 30% of teachers who do NOT require the intent for homework do so because they know that their students do not have access, and that adds to the learning gaps that exist between those raised in affluence and those raised in poverty. Mr. Branam writes about this divide with passion, concluding with these paragraphs::

This disconnect leads to dramatic – and unfortunate – effects on kids’ daily lives. Arguably the most profound effects, however, are felt by high school students whose challenge to complete homework in safe, predictable and productive environments can have lifelong impacts on their ability to achieve their full potential.

With few exceptions, all students are curious, want a bright future and are willing to work hard to earn it. Regardless of the color of their skin or their family’s income level, all high school students deserve access to the internet at home so that they can translate their potential into meaningful achievements.

During the last many years, governments and non-profits have made terrific progress wiring America’s classrooms, but learning should not end when a student leaves the school building. Students should be able to continue learning wherever and whenever works best for them.

A lack of internet access at home should not be a locked gate that prevents students from achieving success in high school and life. Potential is everywhere. Opportunity not.

And what is frustrating is to witness the complete about face that has taken place at the federal level on this issue. A year ago the head of the FCC effectively declared that the internet was a utility: that everyone in the country was as entitled to internet access as they are to electricity, water, and indoor plumbing. The FCC today is vowing the internet as a commodity that can be divided into sectors that are more costly for some services than for others, an action that will exacerbate the divide in place already. And the notion that the federal government will provide the necessary access for all Americans as part of a grand infrastructure upgrade is completely out the window.

If we hope to unite our country and strengthen our democracy, step one should be to provide everyone with the same level of access to information. The goals of unification and a strong democracy, though, seem to have moved down on the priority list of late.


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