by Maria Winters DiMarco
Last week, Paul Barnwell discussed five reasons to teach digital literacy in the classroom. In addition to the great points he made, I couldn’t help but to take a step back and think about the growing number of children around the country who barely have access to the digital world, if any at all.
While some students enjoy unlimited access to the Internet and other digital technology, there are other students, just as capable and full of potential, who struggle to learn even the basics of computer use due to a lack of access. Our world heavily relies on Internet technology for everyday communication, education, and work. Over time, students without Internet access will face massive disadvantages, including:
Lack of basic research skills
Lack of networking skills
Inability or extreme difficulty in pursuing a degree in higher ed
Difficulty searching and applying for jobs
Insufficient qualifications for many jobs
Aside from the individual hurdles that students without Internet access may face in their personal and professional lives as they grow older, this issue also seriously affects the country as a whole. A generation of youth with large discrepancies in their ability to utilize technology fluently sets the United States up to be much less competitive in relation to countries abroad in the long run.
Among the world’s wealthiest countries, the United States has one of lowest percentages of internet access. Furthermore, 90% of the countries that have a higher percentage of internet access than the United States also have better test scores. In addition to supporting long-term initiatives that provide Internet access for students everywhere, here are six ways to reach students who lack Internet access at home.
6 Ways To Support Students Without Internet Access At Home
1. Get Them Involved At School
When pairing students off to work in smaller groups, be sure to pair students who are tech savvy with students who are less familiar with computer use. Regularly incorporating computer work into classroom activities ensures that students get consistent access to the Internet, which is vital for maintaining skills and knowledge over time.
2. Encourage Parents To Take Advantage Of Community Resources
Compile a list of places that have free Wi-Fi and computer access in your community and make the list available to parents. Encourage them to visit these spots at night and on the weekends in order to provide their children with more exposure to technology. Many libraries host classes on how to use Internet and computers; let parents know when upcoming classes are available in your area. Also consider coffee shops and bookstores that offer it for free.
3. Start A Tech Study Hall During Or After School
Begin offering a free hour in the computer lab for students (and parents!) once a week to come in and learn different skills or work on homework. Have someone available to answer questions and troubleshoot issues.
4. Have Students Identify Resources Within Their Family
And then design assignments accordingly. Students may lack access at home, but often have relatives that have it. Design assignments so that they can fully take advantage of–and not feel defeated by–intermittent access.
5. “Spin” Intermittent Access As A Normal Thing
Of course they know internet access is desirable, but help them understand that those with only intermittent access aren’t social pariah. Only 56% of Mississippi homes have access. While that kind of inequality will be an issue long-term, don’t make students feel like outcasts (anymore than they already might). Spin it as a statistically normal thing.
6. Incorporate It Into Project-Based Learning
Unless their is reason a home doesn’t want access, help students attempt to address the problem on their own through PBL. Have them write grant proposals, solicit local businesses for donations, or otherwise gain access by their own problem-solving skills.
Is lack of Internet access a large problem for students in your school? How is your school addressing these issues?
Maria Winters DiMarco writes for SIP in an effort to help promote awareness around the growing digital divide; image attribution flickr user jaygoldman; 6 Ways To Support Students Without Internet Access At Home