Tech for Learning

Digital Equity Toolkit Spotlights Tactics to Bridge the Homework Gap

The "homework gap" hasn't gone away. According to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the lack of access to the internet at home continues to put a sizable number of students at a "significant disadvantage." Whether because of economic or geographic reasons, students without home access to broadband had lower assessment scores in reading, math and science. In addition, because so many teachers now rely on digital education resources and districts have adopted online communications methods, students in homes without internet are at a disadvantage for finishing homework and families have a harder time supporting their students and their schools.

Because the problem of access persists two years after CoSN first introduced its Digital Equity initiative, the organization has relaunched the toolkit (actually, a 31-page report) with updated examples of strategies that districts are using to address the challenge, among them:

  • Working with community organizations to create "homework hotspots";
  • Making families aware of low-cost broadband programs;
  • Deploying mobile hotspot programs;
  • Installing WiFi on school buses; and
  • Building private LTE networks.

However, the work should begin, the report's authors pointed out, by "identifying the scope of the problem." While teachers and principals may be able to identify specific students who lack internet access, their schools should "quantify" the extent of the gap with survey data among students and parents.

Also, the report outlined four steps school leaders can take in working with local governments and their communities in developing a "broader, more holistic approach to digital access":

  • Assembling a team and developing a shared vision;
  • Tapping into existing community resources;
  • Engaging stakeholders and partners; and
  • Developing and executing a project plan.

Access to the internet and all that it brings to learning "has become the civil rights issue of our time," the report asserted. "Schools and district leaders should include digital equity as an essential aspect of all equity and inclusion initiatives." But they also need to remember, the authors noted, "There is no silver bullet, no one-size fits all solution to our nation's digital equity challenges. Every digital equity initiative must be customized to fit the local context."

The toolkit is openly available on the CoSN website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.