Home > Uncategorized > E-School News Analysis of Technology Access Misses Point: Without Internet Access at HOME Economic Disparities Will Persist

E-School News Analysis of Technology Access Misses Point: Without Internet Access at HOME Economic Disparities Will Persist

December 18, 2017

Laura Ascione’s E-School News synopsis of an analysis provided by BrightBytes trumpeted the access to technology in rural schools, but downplayed the impact of the lack of access in the homes of rural children. The BrightBytes analysis, “…which analyzed more than 180 million data points collected via a national survey gauging educational technology access, use and effectiveness across 8,558 U.S. schools” , concluded that “…rural schools outpace urban and suburban schools when it comes to providing technology to students and teachers.” But the details on the findings do not lead to the conclusion that this access to technology at school necessarily translates to equitable access overall:

Rural schools were disproportionately represented among schools scoring in the top 5 percent for access at school, while suburban schools were disproportionately represented in the bottom 5 percent.

Conversely, suburban schools were disproportionately represented in the top 5 percent of schools for access at home, suggesting that suburban students, who are more likely to have devices of their own, could benefit from policies that allow them to bring their devices to school. Rural students still struggle with access to internet and devices in their homes.

Schools with high rates of students receiving free or reduced price lunch scored lower across all domains analyzed except professional learning, indicating that teachers have the freedom to influence their own professional development regardless of their school characteristics.

The conclusions I would draw from this synopsis are:

  • Rural children do not have the same opportunities to use technology to advance their learning as suburban children because they do not have the same internet services or devices
  • Children raised in poverty have fewer opportunities to use technology than ANY students
  • Equity of opportunity in terms of technology will not occur until robust broadband access is available to ALL students and funding for technology is equitable in all schools.

Ms. Ascione and BrightBytes drew a different conclusion regarding the children raised in poverty, though:

However, the data… suggest that teachers are having difficulty transferring new skills and strategies to the classroom due to the impact of administrative decisions on technology integration.

Brightbytes, the author of he report, like all data analysis firms, is more interested in administrative uses of technology than in making certain that EVERY school or EVERY child has access to technology 24/7. Their motto, “turn big data into big benefits for students”, would compel administrators to acquire computers for data analysis before it acquires then for students and it would also prioritize computerized instruction in school over the provision of computers for every student. For those reasons— and from my own observations in rural school districts, I am not persuaded that their findings are trustworthy. 


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