Digital Divide: Lack of Internet Access May Affect Homework and Student Performance

Published by Macomb Daily on July 1st, 2019

By Norb Franz

During the Great Recession, the demand for use of computers at the Warren Public Library was so high, patrons were limited to 30-minute sessions.

Residents who had lost their jobs, cancelled internet service because they could no longer afford it or didn’t have a computer at home, desperately relied on the desktops at the library to search for jobs and submit applications online. Printing resumes at the library saved users the cost of paper and ink.

“They were used non-stop,” Warren Library Director Oksana Urban said of the dozens of desktops across the city’s branch library system. “From the moment we opened, there would be people (waiting) in the lobby.”

After the school day ended, children who didn’t have a computer or internet service at home headed to the libraries to do homework. That compounded the demand for even limited screen time and impacted students who tried to complete classroom assignments.

Nationwide, schools have embraced technology for instructional use. An analysis by the Associated Press of nationwide school assessment survey data found over half of all 8th grade public school students reported computers were used in at least half their classes.

However, homework assignments are often a challenge for students in households that don’t have broadband access, internet access or a home computer. Although the economy has improved for many people — Michigan’s unemployment rate is 4 percent — many households still have no computer or broadband service.

The Associated Press looked at what it calls a “homework gap” in its analysis of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) to determine how many households by school district have home internet access.

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