Bowling Green, KY. (October 2, 2019) – It’s tricky for schools to figure out how to have the broadband internet and technologies needed to teach students the skills of today and the future. Implementing digital technologies in classrooms has proven difficult, particularly in rural schools. The integration of digital curriculum and content has been and will continue to be a significant shift in classrooms all over the country. Then the the bell rings, and students become disconnected, yet they still must do their homework. That’s not a problem if students are fortunate enough to have a quality broadband connection at home and the necessary devices to complete the work, but what happens if they don’t? Those who don’t find themselves in the homework divide.
The answer for many students throughout the country is to travel to a public library, McDonald’s, or other businesses that offer free Wi-Fi and do their homework either inside these establishments or while sitting in a car or on the sidewalk. This is a reality for far too many students and families across the country. Schools are struggling to keep up and offer the curriculum needed for these students, while at the same time having to mitigate the problems created because of the lack of connectivity for students when they leave school.
In the past several years, there have been several pilot projects offering Wi-Fi on school buses, allowing students to have connectivity while traveling from school to their homes. But this is a limited solution, even in places where kids may spend more than an hour on a bus.
T-Mobile’s EmpowerED 2.0 program is another option that some schools around the country are beginning to consider as an answer to help their students with
both connectivity and devices. In order to qualify for the program, 80 percent or greater of the school’s geographic zone must have T-Mobile 4G LTE coverage. Then there are some preferred criteria, such as 40 percent free and reduced lunch amongst enrollment, high school dropout rates of 15 percent or more, and 15 percent or more students not grade-level proficient in math and reading by 9th grade. Districts and schools in areas where T-Mobile have limited availability will likely have a difficult time; however, the company’s coverage map shows significant coverage throughout the U.S.
The program works through a $20-a-month subscription per student, providing unlimited 4G LTE service, and the schools typically receive a $200 per contract/student discount to be used toward devices for students.
While this isn’t a perfect solution, schools could go about funding this program in many different ways. Combined with the support of community foundations and potential grants, the costs could be significantly reduced for the schools while offering a way for students to access vital connectivity and eliminate the need to sit in parking lots at night to complete and submit school work.
The homework divide in the U.S. is a real issue, and innovative and creative solutions such as the one from T-Mobile are going to be required to help close that gap for as many students as possible.
About the Author: Wes Kerr is Connected Nation’s Director of Community Solutions. Wes helps ensure the implementation of Technology Action Plans developed for communities through Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program (Connectedsm) and works closely with clients and stakeholders to provide solutions that will help them meet their technology goals.
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