I am a veteran educator and Ohio resident with 2 children, currently home due to Covid 19. From the moment the discussion of school closings began, and the reality of equity in education became part of the national conversation, I began pondering various ways to equalize the delivery of online education in our country, since according to Pew Research, some 14-17% of our nations children don’t have access to reliable internet. And, if we can’t educate everyone equally, we’re going to have a big issue giving credit for any of the work done from home, by any of our students.
Reliable internet has been an issue in education long before Covid 19, believe me! I have been an educator for 12 years, most of that time, in Title 1 schools, so I know first hand the inequities that are ingrained in our traditional education system. For the last 2.6 years I have taught Biology in an online school and I can assure you, it is a struggle for lots of those students as well. I have many, many, many students, who struggle regularly with internet issues, even though their families have enrolled them in an online school. Whether internet connectivity issues are the result of monetary constraints or rurality, students consistently face wifi or internet outages and/or connection speed issues. For these kids, their immediate fallback is their smart phone, this is the texting generation, after all, and most, if not all, of our kids have a smart device. However, the issue often then becomes their limited data packages.
This is why, it is tempting to want to try to equalize education by supplying internet to households of all of our students in need. However, I’m here to tell you, it won’t solve the problem. You will still have connectivity issues, based on location and financial means. What may solve the problem however, is supplying all school-aged students with unlimited data packages. This is by no means a fix, but it may be the perfect stopgap measure, as it would allow students to use their smart device(s) directly or as a hotspot, to connect to a computer, if that is an option. The solution of using unlimited data packages, in place of home internet, untethers the delivery of education from student’s homes and allows them to receive it anywhere, regardless of location. This is especially essential, since many of our at-risk students change homes often. It also eliminates all of the unmanageable variables associated with home internet connectivity issues.
While I know this is not the ultimate solution for resolving equity in education, during this time, it would immediately allow all students to receive their education and engage in their online learning equally, at least until other methods of ensuring equity in online delivery are in place.
Hopefully, some, if not all, of our multibillion dollar telecommunication corporations will see, this is a crucial moment for our nation’s children and step in, or dare I say step up, and offer unlimited data packages, and occasionally devices when necessary, to our nation’s school districts, for free. If not for free, then maybe at a greatly reduced cost. Ultimately, our state and/or federal government should, for once, include our nation’s education system in a stimulus package, since every one of our public school students is now paying a heavy price for being left out of them for so long!
Concerned Parent and Educator