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Daily Dish: Getting Students Connected Inside and Outside of the Classroom

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February 16, 2016 04:08 pm

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A new report shows that although 94 percent of low- and moderate-income families are connected to the internet in their homes, many are “under-connected,” with access to the internet only through a mobile device and not a computer. The study, called Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Low-Income Families, was released by Rutgers University and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and is explored in an article in the Alliance’s Straight A’s newsletter focused on the consequences of this disparity in access as it relates to education.

The article highlights several key findings of the report, including that:

  • 23 percent of families below the median income level and 33 percent of those below the poverty level exclusively rely on a mobile device for internet access.
  • Of these families, 29 percent have hit data limits on their plan in the past year and 24 percent have had their phone service turned off within the last year due to lack of payment.
  • 52 percent of low- and moderate-income families with home internet access, say their connection is too slow, 26 percent say too many people share the same computer, and 20 percent say their internet has been cut off in the last year due to lack of payment.

“It’s no longer a simple question of whether or not families are connected to the internet,” said study coauthor Vikki S. Katz, associate professor of communication at Rutgers University, “but rather how they are connected, and the implications of being under-connected for children’s access to educational opportunities and parents’ ability to apply for jobs or resources.”

When it comes to getting connected within the classroom, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured a story on a new regional network that will provide schools with better internet access at a lower cost. The new network will save these local districts anywhere from 40 to 70 percent in costs, the article notes, while serving students with better service. “The new contract will affect electronic learning at virtually every level in the county, from preschool students using smartboards at the AIU’s Head Start in Carnegie to high school students in the South Park School District using online software to design a project for a 3-D printer.”

Digital Learning Day, tomorrow, February 17, will kick off with a 9:00 a.m. (ET) conversation on digital equity and access. The day will begin with a Twitter chat with Gigi Sohn, counselor to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler, using #DLDayAccess, on how the FCC is proposing to support broadband access for low-income households. Viewers can then turn to a live webcast “Digital Equity and Access: Connecting Students Beyond School,” at 10:00 a.m. (ET) for a discussion with FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on the federal role in supporting digital equity, and Coachella Valley Unified School District (CA) superintendent Darryl Adams on CA’s unique approach to tackling connectivity gaps in rural California. See the complete DLDay 2016 schedule at www.DigitalLearningDay.org/equity.

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