As part of a generation fully immersed in technology, it’s no surprise that many of today’s students take for granted easy internet access and the scholastic benefits that come along with it. Middle and high school assignments often rely heavily on internet research, virtual interaction with classmates and online drop boxes. However, these advances in technology can impose a heavy burden on students who do not enjoy the luxury of internet access in their homes.
Students from low-income families are known to struggle in keeping up academically with their web-connected peers. Rather than focusing on the details of an assignment, these students often end up exerting a lot of time and energy on logistically arranging for internet access, sometimes waiting in long lines for limited computer time at public libraries or even skipping lunch to use school computers.
Luckily, there may be some relief in sight for low-income students struggling to keep up with their classwork. At least one large internet provider (Comcast Cable) now offers drastically discounted internet services (and vouchers for affordable computers) to families in its service areas whose children qualify for the free lunch programs in their schools. If the program proves successful in helping students, perhaps other service providers will consider offering similar plans to qualifying families.
It’s been about a decade since I was a high school student, but even at that time, many of my classes required significant online interaction. The educational expectation for students to have access to the internet is certainly stronger today than it was then, and will likely continue to increase with each new school year. Teachers, is a lack of internet access a barrier for many of your students? If so, how do you help students overcome access barriers?