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 internet access. Our world heavily relies on technology for everyday communication, education, work, and much more. Over time, students without internet access at home 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
Among the world’s wealthiest countries, the United States has one of the lowest percentages of internet access, and 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.
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 wifi 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 the internet and computers, so 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. 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 internet access.
5. Spin intermittent access as a normal thing. Of course, most students know internet access is desirable, but help them understand that those with only intermittent access aren’t social pariahs. While Internet inequality will be an issue long-term, don’t make students feel like outcasts any more than they already might.
6. Incorporate access to the web into project-based learning. Unless there’s a specific reason a home doesn’t want access, help students attempt to address the problem on their own through project-based learning. Have them write grant proposals, solicit local businesses for donations, or otherwise think about how to gain internet access using their own problem-solving skills.
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