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Bridging Education’s Digital Divide

by Zivaro, on Nov 9, 2020 10:44:20 AM

Ensuring every student has the necessary tools to learn in our digital era is more important today than ever before.

Before coronavirus, almost 16 million US students lived in homes without digital devices, Internet access - or both. Shockingly, nearly 300,000 public school teachers also lived in homes without Internet access or digital devices. This year, the digital divide has grown more expansive. Reports show roughly one-third of K-12 students lack remote learning tools, and we’re hearing stories of teachers working in school parking lots or empty buildings because they don’t have home Internet access. 

And the problems are just beginning. 

Remote Learning and COVID

Kids who have missed months of school this year will struggle to keep up when classroom learning resumes. They’ll have a greater risk of falling behind, failing to enroll in higher education, or worse, dropping out. 

The repercussions from this widening digital divide might impact American productivity for generations. 

“Digital and economic divides among school-age children are linked to differences in reading and mathematics proficiency levels across states and between racial and ethnic groups. Proficiency in reading by the end of third grade is an important marker of overall educational development. At the beginning of the fourth grade, it is also essential to learn other subjects and keep up academically. Children who reach fourth grade without reading proficiently are more likely to drop out of high school—reducing their earnings potential and chances for success. Similarly, proficiency in mathematics fundamentals makes college attendance and completion more likely, which increases earnings potential.”—PRB.org

As the pandemic pushes us further into digitization, we need to make sure not to leave families and students who are less digitally equipped even further behind in the post-pandemic world. With thousands of American students struggling to finish the academic year at home because they lack Internet access, now is the time to do something about the digital divide. 

Fortunately, we’ve seen an outpouring of support from tech giants like Cisco.

Cisco supports marginalized kids with affordable remote learning tools like Webex Classrooms and works with states to install external wireless access points at local libraries to provide students with Internet access. They’ve also installed IT infrastructure in public spaces to give free Internet to underserved communities. With their new Rural Broadband Network Solutions, Cisco helps US service providers affordably extend network infrastructure in rural communities.

“An Internet that only serves a portion of the world’s population during a crisis only reinforces the disadvantages of the digital divide and constrains our ability to create a more sustainable, inclusive future for everyone. We must remove these barriers now or face a world where students are unable to acquire the skills to join the workforce.” - Tae Yoo, Cisco SVP of Corporate Affairs

The pandemic shows us that we must address digital equity now - not later. Most marginalized students will still be at a disadvantage compared to their classmates when the giving stops. And the disparity is damaging for us all. 

In the digital era, reliable Internet access is a necessity. Today’s students can’t learn without the right tools because they won’t be ready to achieve in a world dominated by constant change and digital technologies when they leave school. 

It’s time to cross the digital divide in education. 

The digital divide isn’t new - it’s been with us for decades - and we’re not going to bridge the gap overnight, but there are actions we can take today to keep a generation of students from struggling.  

Are you an educator struggling to cross the digital divide? Get in touch - Zivaro can help. 

Topics:CollaborationUnified CommunicationsSLEDremote learningCOVID

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