COVID-19 Educator Help Desk

Prioritizing home internet access

  • 1.  Prioritizing home internet access

    ISTE Staff
    Posted 04-03-2020 11:24

    Hi everyone,

    I saw this statement from a district leader and wondered what people thought. Agree, disagree, somewhere in between?

    Ensuring home internet access for every student should be everyone's priority right now. Without it the next few months will have a devastating impact that some of our children may never fully recover from.



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    Simon Helton
    Director, Membership and Community
    ISTE
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  • 2.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    Posted 04-03-2020 11:53
    I agree that internet access should not be a privilege.  We are living in a world is becoming more of a necessity.  I am not saying that people should have to use the internet, but it should be accessible to all (not just a privilege for some) if they needed to for any purpose.

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    Marcy Brugger
    Dist. Technology Integration Specialist
    Elmwood 322
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  • 3.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    Community Champion
    Posted 04-03-2020 12:37
    While I agree that access should be a top-tier priority, I would say that "Without it the next few months will have a devastating impact that some of our children may never fully recover from." is inaccurate only in its degree. Those who do not have access over the coming months will likely need a lot of extra attention and resources, but in a really well-run environment, those students can catch up.

    Of course, a really well-run environment would be focused on providing the access we're discussing.

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    Rushton Hurley
    Nonprofit Executive Director
    Next Vista for Learning
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  • 4.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    PLN Leader
    Posted 04-03-2020 12:40
    Edited by Suzanne Becking 04-03-2020 12:41
    I know there are ways to access the internet for most people and more and more companies are offering free access. But it can be really difficult for families with limited devices and maybe multiple students at home for the next couple of months. I'm not sure it will have "a devastating impact that some of our children may never fully recover from" if we as educators are committed first to our relationships with students. Home learning in this emergency situation is difficult enough. But let's not ask students to be online daily if they have poor access or lack of devices available. There are ways to connect with them relationally and academically that can bring about continued growth and there are students who are motivated at different levels, especially now. Let's meet them where they are as much as possible and continue to encourage and support. We as educators are learning and having to grow in how we relate in a new way. Remember that students are resilient and every one of them can learn. We need to be there for them.

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    Suzanne Becking, Associate Professor
    Fort Hays State University  skbecking@mail.fhsu.edu
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  • 5.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    Posted 04-03-2020 13:27
    Hi Simon,
    I agree but am pleased to see how many organizations have stepped up to offer free internet to families in need during these school closures.  I also found a page that was incredibly helpful, including the FCC pledge:

    "Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced the Keep Americans Connected Initiative to help ensure that Americans have phone and internet service available. Pai presented the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, which reads:

    "Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:

    1. not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
    2. waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
    3. open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them."
    Here is a link to the site which includes links to companies offering free or discounted services to families for internet/phone access:
    https://www.simplemost.com/companies-offering-free-internet-students/

    I think this is a step in the right direction.  Maybe these will stay in place after this is over?
    Jen

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    Jennifer Cauthers
    teacher/district technology leader
    Mahopac Central Schools
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  • 6.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    PLN Leader
    Posted 04-03-2020 13:40
    Here in the far northwest suburbs our Internet providers are relaxing their previous policies preventing those with bad credit to obtain free internet.  All of our internet providers have allowed those at the lower income levels to obtain home internet at a free or reduced cost.  The barrier for some was that if they had a prior unpaid bill with that provider they were ineligible.  We received information this week that this policy has been lifted for now.

    At least in our area the internet providers are trying hard to ensure students are still able to access learning during this time.

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    Anne Pasco
    Director of Innovation and Digital Learning
    CUSD 300
    @apascoedtech
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  • 7.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    PLN Leader
    Posted 04-03-2020 14:08
    Bridging the digital equity divide is more essential now than ever. I agree that using technology can create equity for students and creates more equitable situations. Students can access learning materials outside of schools in a variety of ways. Supporting learner variability ideally means that more students become deeply engaged in their learning and fewer students will be left behind.

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    David Lockett
    STEM Teacher
    Bok Academy
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  • 8.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    PLN Leader
    Posted 04-03-2020 14:14
    Edited by Jennifer Freedman 04-03-2020 14:23
    I agree we definitely need to ensure all students have access to the internet.  This is not new to our situation.  Even in a non-pandemic world, students without internet access are at a disadvantage.  Districts need to find ways to provide equal access to everyone.  I don't, however, believe "our children may never fully recover" from this disadvantage.  Children are resilient and open to learning.  We have to believe that with care and attention they can catch up  because if we don't believe in them, how can they believe in themselves?

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    Jennifer Freedman
    Library Media Specialist / Education Technology Specialist
    Lindenhurst Middle School
    Twitter: @jlf74
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  • 9.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    PLN Leader
    Posted 04-03-2020 15:52
    The current pandemic is magnifying inequities that have existed for years. Education is has been moving to online instructional resources/tools and  has become part of the fabric of learning.  We do need to ensure that every student has home internet access, and it shouldn't be advising families to "take advantage of this provider's great program" or to "go to a fast food restaurant and hop on to their network."      Ideally, any student who walks into a public school should have access to a network after school at their place of residence.    Moreover, in districts where there is a higher mobility rate, it is difficult to keep subscribing to a service amidst all of the other  stresses that are involved in changing residences.  Issuing hotspots as many districts (including mine) are doing is a temporary solution to a systemic problem.  They provide much needed connectivity and are a good short term solution, but they are often not affordable in larger numbers for many districts.   This challenge is a community challenge.

    With respect to the district leader's statement, there is definitely some truth in his/her words and I applaud the urgency.  With that said, I do agree that students are resilient and that schools are working hard to provide other learning activities that don't need connectivity.  The leader's comment, in my opinion, is a call to action with respect to getting our students connected and getting them opportunities in general.   We have great inequities in most of our school districts, and these are aggravated by connectivity as well as opportunity gaps that are rooted in pedagogy.   Addressing connectivity in a systemic manner with a long term vision is where we need to be going, and this crisis has just magnified this need.

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    Matthew Hiefield
    Teacher on Special Assignment
    Westview High School
    @MattHiefield
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  • 10.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    Posted 04-04-2020 21:15
    Simon,

    If the teachers work with the students without access, then they should be fine.  You also have community college students without internet access and/or devices.  Here is an article about a high school student walking 3 miles to use the schools's Wi-Fi.




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    Annette Hawkins
    Online Educator, Math Instructor
    Kinston, NC
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  • 11.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    Community Champion
    Posted 04-06-2020 06:40
    Like many others have stated here, I agree in that we are increasingly living in a world where internet access is not a privilege but a necessity. Especially in times like these, having the ability to connect and interact with people using technology is vital. Unfortunately, many of our students in my area either don't have access or don't have devices - or both. This definitely makes distance learning more difficult and challenging. However, I also disagree that it will have a devastating impact and we may never recover from it. Yes, our students may be behind in terms of curriculum standards or skills. Potentially, they will need some remediation. But our teachers are professionals and are trained to meet students where they are and to help develop those skills that may have lagged. Additionally, maybe many of our students will emerge from this crisis more empathetic, more creative, more in tune with our world and the outdoors. I'm hoping for some of those skills to develop more in our students.

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    Allison Thompson
    Director of Technology
    St. Gerard School
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  • 12.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    Posted 04-29-2020 12:36
    In between. Right after all this happened, I wrote a blogpost with some access suggestions, but here's something else to consider. Many companies have stepped up to provide loaner devices, laptops, Chromebooks, hotspots, internet service, etc., but will they when things go back to "normal"?

    Once this is over, we are back to #techquity issues again, the haves and have nots. I've seen posts about people saying there will be more use of tools like #GoogleClassroom and #MicrosoftTeams or other LMS options, but, most likely, the students who didn't have access before won't have access again.

    I saw a tweet the other day about tech possibly becoming part of FAPE and I don't think that's far off.  ​​​

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    -Karyn (@Filibuster3)
    Technology Training Specialist
    MIEExpert, MIETrainer, Apple Teacher, Google Certified Educator-Level 2, National Geographic Certified Educator
    https://gktechies.wordpress.com/ (blog)
    https://delivr.com/27zf2 (Accessibility collection)
    http://bit.ly/gktechies YouTube Channel
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  • 13.  RE: Prioritizing home internet access

    Posted 30 days ago

    This issue long predates our current scenario, but it has served to make it omnipresent for everyone. As we seek to find solutions now that we have the attention of parents, school admins, and policy makers, we need to make sure that we clearly define the issue. The phrase "Internet Access" is OK, but as some have pointed out, misleading. Just as we saw during the ERate modernization efforts, the idea that a school was "connected" wasn't good enough. At that time, we borrowed a phrase from the medical community, "Meaningful Use" when we established the SETDA Broadband Imperative (see bottom) recommendations for schools that were later adopted by the FCC as the national broadband targets for schools. The idea behind Meaningful Use is that the resource (in this case, the Internet connectivity) was actually doing its job. So, a dial up connection to a school was Internet access, but clearly not up to the task, so we recognized the capacity of the circuit was critical to be "right-sized" to the school. Additionally, the driver behind pushing to create the category 2 funding and enable wifi as an allowable expense was that even with a sufficient broadband service, if it couldn't reach the student, it wasn't meaningful. (I say "we" here because at the time I was SETDA Board Chair and on the working group).

    ERate was not a vehicle for devices for students, so we didn't go there, but it was left as implied that if you are to bring wifi to the classroom, then you need access devices.

    So, for home connectivity, we (and "we" here are all of you!) need to ensure that policy makers understand that "Internet Access" at home is a combination of 3 critical pieces: 1) An Internet connection sufficient to the task -- enough "speed", 2) Internal Internet access to the device -- likely wifi, and 3) a device adequate to the task for EACH user. In today's scenario, it has magnified that a family with school-aged children very likely needs a device per adult and student because they are frequently accessing an online resource concurrently.

    To the question of whether or not these next few months will have a devastating impact. The reality is, we've been witnessing this devastating impact for decades. We already know that one of the greatest factors in school and life success is socio-economic status. We've all seen the data. We know that families that are struggling economically have a far greater likelihood to struggle academically. And that in turn has life-long impact. Whether it's access to a library to get books to read to a young child to food insecurity, economics has been the driver. The digital divide/homework gap inequity is primarily driven by this same economic reality, and we've seen generations of students whose lives are forever shaped by the realties of their socio-economic status.

    In general, as a nation, we've always prioritized economic growth. In some instances, the infrastructure and policy that was developed to support that growth may or may not have had the common good in mind, but they served to improve the common good. The rural Electrification Act of 1936 and the Telecommunications Act of 1934 were two such examples. In our world of edtech, we saw the modernization of the telecom act in 1996 when ERate was born. I hope that policy makers will find a way to recognize that there are a couple industries where we can overlook short-term profit and instead prioritize the common good -- which will lead to far greater economic health in the long run for everyone -- one is education and connectivity (broadband and devices), and the other is healthcare coverage. Both are fundamentally broken, and this pandemic has underscored and magnified the issues for all to see.

    For your reference:
    SETDA Broadband Imperative I (2012)
    SETDA Broadband Imperative II (2016)
    SETDA Broadband Imperative III (2019)



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    Jeff Mao | jeff@edmoxie.com | @jmao121
    CEO and Founder | Edmoxie LLC | edmoxie.com

    Education Technology Consulting services for schools and developers.

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