EdTech recently ran an article full of good ideas to help extend the school network to students without access at home – broadband and/or device access. If you’re interested in student access it’s worth checking out for the details. For all of us I’ll pull out the sidebar of good ideas aimed at the higher level…
Stepping Up for Equal Access
Every school district recognizes that the digital homework gap is a major dilemma, but 75 percent of them are not doing anything about it, says Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking.
“For 50 years, school leaders have had a responsibility to think about equal educational responsibility, and digital access in the home is now the most critical inequity that needs to be dealt with,” Krueger says.
Other schools just don’t know where to start, says Krueger, but there are easy steps school officials should be taking to begin closing their digital homework gap. They include the following:
- Know your reality. Survey parents and students about the availability of both Internet access and computing devices in the home. However, schools need to carefully word the questions, says Chad Jones, director of technology development for Lamar Consolidated Independent School District. “Some families will tell you that they have Internet access because they have a smartphone and a cellular connection, but for homework purposes, that’s not good enough,” he says.
- Reach out to new partners. School leaders should talk with the mayor or county superintendent about what broadband connectivity fully means for learning, says Krueger. Beyond that, schools should reach out to local and regional economic development organizations, power utilities, public safety agencies, universities and community colleges, and the philanthropic and business communities. “Ubiquitous broadband is a problem that a lot of people want to solve,” Krueger says.
- Leverage what you’ve got. Take an inventory of school assets and determine if any can play a role in your solution. As an example, Krueger suggests that officials map out every school-owned property within the district, including bus garages and maintenance facilities, and consider them as filtered Wi-Fi hotspots for students living nearby.
- Get creative. Until a more comprehensive solution can be built, you may need to rely on a collection of stopgap measures. These include extending school and public library hours; partnering with local businesses, such as laundromats and coffee shops, to provide students with access to free Wi-Fi; and encouraging school foundations, student groups, local charities and local businesses to raise funds to help subsidize those families who can’t afford the monthly Internet access charges.