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Digital divide plagues schools adapting to viral hurdles | Nationwide

When April Schneider’s children returned to the face-to-face classroom this year, she thought she had forgotten more than a year of distance learning. There is no more problem with the borrowed tablet. There is no day I missed any more lessons because her children couldn’t connect to their virtual school.

However, a case of coronavirus in a New York City classroom and subsequent quarantine of her children returned her children to learn from home. Schneider said that without each child’s personal device, they would be doing almost nothing while stuck at home.

“So we go again without a computer and the COVID returns to a square in a small way as if we had started over,” Schneider said.

As more families return to distance learning amid quarantine and school closures, reliable and consistent access to devices and the home Internet remains elusive for many students who need to keep up with their studies. is.Home internet Improved student access Since the pandemic occurred with the help of philanthropy, federal relief funds, and other efforts, obstacles such as device shortages, slow speeds, and financial hurdles have remained.

Vikki Katz, a professor of communications at Rutgers University, said concerns about the digital divide have shifted to families with “insufficient connections” and only sporadic access to the Internet.

“It’s about whether you can withstand the turmoil of these fast pivots in a way that doesn’t upset your learning,” she said.

In two studies conducted in 2015 and 2021, Katz and other researchers investigated low-income families with young children. Home Internet access and computer ownership have risen significantly, but the proportion of low-income households with unreliable or inadequate Internet access is about the same.

A year after the pandemic, more than half of the families surveyed by Katz reported that their children’s ability to attend online classes was somehow impeded.

Race and income inequality continues with home Internet access, according to data from the Pew Research Center.one Research According to a survey conducted in April 2020, when schools were first closed, 59% of low-income households needed to log on from their smartphones, did not have devices, and had sufficient home network reliability. there is not.

About 34% of households earn less than $ 30,000 report The same is true for 25% of people who have problems paying their home internet bills and earn between $ 30,000 and $ 50,000.Compared to white households, black and Latin families Unlikely You can access broadband and your home computer.

For Schneider’s children, the lack of sufficient work equipment at home during the previous school year for distance learning meant a lack of tasks and classes. The children had a hard time concentrating on their work, even if they received the paper assignments. She said they could not participate in almost any guidance during this year’s quarantine period.

“Without equipment … in their experience they were off rather than on,” Schneider said. “As soon as they said the school would back up … I had to seize the opportunity to send them. They didn’t have to take a break from school anymore.”

Even before the pandemic has moved most schools to some distance learning, classrooms are increasingly embracing the role of technology in education, with a “homework gap” between those who have access to the Internet and devices at home and those who do not. Is occurring. According to pre-pandemic census data, about 2.9 million school children lived in homes without internet access, and about 2.1 million lived in homes without laptops or desktop computers.

Some families are dissatisfied with what has not been done to fill the gap.

When her grandson Pittsburgh School moved to online learning in March 2020, Janice Myers and her four grandchildren shared a laptop. One month she struggled to pay an internet invoice for her fixed retirement income. She tried to access a $ 10 / month fee for a company designed to stay connected with low-income children during a pandemic, but said she wasn’t eligible because she’s an existing customer. I was.

According to Myers, children were well acclimatized to face-to-face learning this year until the quarantine returned home for a week. Before and after Thanksgiving, the school closed face-to-face classes again. This time it was almost 3 weeks. In both cases, the school did not send the children home on tablets. She said there were few instructions, except for a thin packet in the worksheet.

“In my opinion, you spent a year learning how to get better prepared, to act proactively, and to incorporate Plan B just by wearing a hat,” she said. rice field. “There was no reason why not all students received or stored their laptops when they returned to school.”

Chula Vista Elementary School District in California is one of the districts that is using some of the federal bailouts to enhance home Internet access. It incorporates the cost of hotspots and other internet services into the budget for the next three years. Prioritize internet hotspots for children who have the most difficulty connecting to school, such as foster children and young people experiencing housing instability.

Assistant Superintendent Matthew Tessier discovered that the district could allow many low-income households to access the Internet via radiotelephone, but with restrictions such as data caps and monthly minutes. Said faced. These caps often made it difficult for children to connect to homework and online resources, even before the pandemic.

According to Katz, identifying which children need more and having the device ready can minimize the impact of learning interruptions.

“All these conversations we continue about learning losses make children responsible and responsible for what they have learned from their students and their families, whether or not they use the term. … not yet recognizing that this is the responsibility of the school, to fill this gap when they send their children home, “Kats said.



Digital divide plagues schools adapting to viral hurdles | Nationwide

Source link Digital divide plagues schools adapting to viral hurdles | Nationwide

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