Many of us cannot imagine going an entire day without checking our email, scrolling through social media, or surfing the net to find answers to a variety of questions that pop up in our daily lives. However, as educators, we must be mindful that there are students who do not have the luxury of internet access. According to the US Census, 78% of homes across the US do have internet access. Yet, rural and lower-income areas are 13 points behind the national average. Regardless of location, schools need to support students without internet access and find ways for them to get an equitable education.
Disadvantages Students without Internet Access Face
In the past, the only thing parents and students needed to worry about having for the first day of school was a pencil and a notebook. Now, students come home from the first day with their login information for Google Classroom, Moodle, Blackboard, or any other online learning platform. Students who do not have internet access are falling behind academically from the first day of school.
This is a critical problem which educators need to address. These students cannot go home and research a topic for their English essay. These elementary students cannot go home and access the special program for extra math and literacy development. Every student, no matter the age, who does not have internet does not have access to the same kind of education when compared to their peers whom have internet access.
Available Resources Outside of Home
It is vital for educators to know that incorporating technology and the use of the internet in assignments is a must even when students do not have internet access at home. This is the way of the world, and we must educate all students on how to use this technology. Therefore, teachers and administrators need to be prepared on how to assist those students who do not have internet access at home.
An easy way to do this is to distribute information at the beginning of the school year as to where students can find access. Another way is to have open computer lab sessions at the end of the school day. Furthermore, students should be allowed to go to the computer lab during study periods. School library hours and community library information should be sent home to parents and students periodically throughout the school year to remind them of this access. Elementary schools can host parents and children one afternoon a week to use educational programs on school computers. Educators must help families around the barrier of no internet access.
Create Assignments, Projects, and Homework that Don’t Require Internet Access
Best practices in teaching always encourage teachers to diversify assignments so that all students, no matter the type of learner they are, will find a way to show what they have learned. Therefore, when teachers are creating assignments, allowing students multiple choices will almost guarantee that all students will be able to show their knowledge.
This will also support students who do not have internet access by allowing them to choose a project that they know that they can complete. Removing barriers that students have no control over, such as using low-tech alternatives, will make a class much for equitable for all. These students will not feel embarrassed amongst their peers. The students may even find joy in doing an assignment that they know they can complete without having to ask a friend to use their computer or having to stay late after school to use the internet there.
In addition to being aware of how assignments and other activities may be inaccessible to students who do not have internet access, we must remember the parents as well. Many school districts use online grading systems, attendance systems, and communication systems. How is a parent who does not have internet access supposed to know how their child is doing if the only communication comes through a portal online?
Additionally, administrators encourage their teachers to post homework on their teacher website. This is a wonderful use of technology, but there are parents who will not be able to see this. Administrators should remind teachers to continue calling parents on the phone if they see a child who is not progressing well, even if the parent has “access” to online grades.
Furthermore, teachers could have parents fill out a form at back-to-school night early on in the school year letting the teacher know if internet access might be a problem. Then, the teacher can be sure to send paper reminders home with that child instead of just through the online portal.
Our world is ever-changing because of technology and the internet. Education is no different. If we do not find a way to support students and ensure internet access to all, the educational gap will never close and will only continue to grow.