Starting today, and every day I will be posting stories from our beautiful USA. Stories of children unable to learn, adults unable to apply for jobs, elderly unable to see doctors because broadband is still not ubiquitous. Electrification, postal service, we all have access, so why do we allow a digital divide? I invite you to share your story with @techzebu, @ShapingEDU, @paulsignorelli. in hopes that the collection will make an impact.
At parent conferences, I spoke with a parent who was having difficulties hearing me. She took her phone to the bathroom to visit with me. Come to find out, the bathroom was the only room in the house that consistently had a decent, not good, signal for a cell phone conversation. We had just returned from a week of remote learning and her child hadn't turned in everything. So I was asking her about that. She explained that the things that were only done by computer were hard for them to do. They have a hot spot, but sometimes the hot spot couldn't connect up. Sometimes the only place it would work was in the bathroom. So this child had to sit in the bathroom to try and work - when the hot spot would connect. Until we take care of all of our children, we're going to continue to have huge gaps in achievement. NO MATTER WHAT THE SCHOOL DOES TO TRY AND HELP EVEN THE PLAYING FIELD. Without good internet access for everyone, everyone loses.
The availability of broadband is a very real problem for rural areas. We are a school system located in South Georgia, close to the Florida line. Our system, Lanier County Schools, is relatively small, a Title I system, most of our students are from low income homes and reside in rural areas. When our system had to do virtual teaching, chrome books were provided for students. Those students that did not have internet access, had to complete paper and pencil work, with the teacher checking in via telephone. (Thankfully we have not had to do this very often.) Our students need access to broadband in order to have the access to resources. Parents are willing to have broadband service if it is available to them. Another issue for some, is they can not afford broadband.
Lack of broadband also impacts educators. My daughter recently built a house. Her home falls in the gap between two internet providers. She had to get a wifi device from the cell phone company. Well that leads to another problem, having enough data to stream all her devices.
Thank you for taking on this project! Technology is here to stay as a part of our educational system, therefore everyone must have access to broadband.
I was a 5th-grade math teacher in a small, rural district in Texas when the pandemic hit. I was trying to teach in one room, our 7-year-old son was trying to learn in another, and my husband was trying to work in the spare bedroom. We would have to work/learn in shifts on the “bad internet” days.
The district was not 1:1 and the internet in the area is sparse. What is available is expensive, especially for a district that hovers around 60% of students on free or reduced lunch. We were paying $80/month for a capped wireless DSL plan, but it became unreliable once demand increased. (It’s also not even an option for many families on the west side of the district.) We now pay $200/month for a hotspot and it’s not crazy fast or even unlimited. My husband had to buy additional parts and supplies to mount it to the roof of our house, just to get a reliable signal. Those DirecTV install skills from a decade ago are coming in handy now. 😂
I have since moved to another district where access to reliable internet is almost a given. (NOT at all why I left, just a fact.) It’s astonishing to see the difference. These two schools are only 20 minutes apart. The lack of reliable internet is only one factor that plays into the school and student performance divide, but it is, nonetheless, a big one.
I hate COVID! Well, who doesn't hate COVID? But in addition to the frustration over teaching travails I am truly HEARTBROKEN! My heart breaks for those kids who will collectively go through a dark period in their lives; who will no doubt have a learning gap of almost 2 years as a result of this insidious disease. My heart aches for the students who now, in the wake of hybrid learning opportunities, must make a difficult decision (or perhaps their family has already made it for them): stay home to ensure the safety of loved ones who are at risk, like grandparents or parents, or even themselves, or to come to school to receive an in-person education.
When I began the school year, like every other teacher, I experienced first hand the distance learning glitches like dropped calls, slow internet transmission, and students who were disconnected literally and figuratively. Knowing the importance of continuity in education we teachers bear it and give it our best effort. But our headaches can't compare to the frustration, anger and hopelessness that some of our students and their families are experiencing. Our school has the means and resources to send out the instruction but, sadly, some of our students are getting left behind due to no fault of their own. Some have slow connections, some have spotty connections and have to redial several times after being dropped from the meet. I have students in situations where they live with divorced parents and their living arrangements create a discrepancy in ability to access the internet altogether. I have students whose parents must work and so they must go to their grandparents' house where they're lucky if there's any reception at all. Some of my students have had to go outside of their own homes in order to get connected.
Perhaps most frustrating of all is that, out of our student population, the ones who are most severely affected tend to be students already at risk: students with low test scores, emotional issues, and 504 learning plans. I have several students who cannot attend in person because they fear for their family's safety yet can't access the same education that their fellow students from more affluent households that can afford higher speeds, or those fortunate to have a solid internet connection. This lack of universal access is appalling, and furthering the educational inequity in our country. I want nothing more than to see my classroom filled again with students who can hear my voice and see my enthusiasm in person, while hopefully adding some of their own, yet I know what we're up against. This viral monster is going to be with us for some time and, despite all the scientific efforts and breakthroughs, I don't doubt we will continue with this hybrid model which is not serving our diverse population equally . If I can't see my students in person, I want to at least see their faces and hear their voices on the Meet, rather than see their logos (because to turn on their camera will slow their connection or even kick them out of the meet); I want them to be able to share their screen so we can all see their work; I want them to truly feel a part of the discussion so that they will feel empowered to take contribute their thoughts, to literally have a voice in the class.
I don't fool myself; I realize that some of our students will not be compelled to engage fully, but right now in my classroom I can't distinguish those who've turned off their cameras to engage in other diversions from those who are truly lost and kept out of the hybrid learning environment. We owe it to the students who want to learn, to give them a reliable platform with which to do it.
In our county, we have a range of students with and without the ability to have access to high speed internet and many do not. We have more than enough hotspots to give out to those that need them - however in many places, for the students in the Burns Middle/High zone, the signal is not consistently strong enough. We have Verizon and AT&T hotspots but many in my school still have issues connecting due to lack of strong signal.
We also have many of these who may live down a road where internet providers may be at the top of that road but it is too costly for homeowners to pay for the company to come down the road. A few parents were told it would cost them thousands of dollars to get the internet provider to come down their road. That does not even include the monthly bill that they expect to pay. To me, that is ridiculous to force someone to pay that high price when internet access should be like electricity and phone hook ups. Access to it should not be impeded.
Note: We have 766 students in our school and about 30-40% do not have high speed access except through our hotspots. And even that is not high speed and sometimes they cannot connect because the tower is at full+ capacity. (Yes we have called the providers)
I live in Kodak, TN. I am a teacher and have two boys in high school. On my road there are at least 7 other school aged children. We cannot get internet unless we use satellite internet or a phone Hotspot. The problem is the weather disrupts reception and lag time makes google meets very hard to conduct. I've checked with Comcast and have been told that I would have to pay $47000 to get internet here and even then each of the 7 homes on this road alone would have to pay $500 a month in services. The crazy thing is, not a mile away, Comcast is available. We have had landline phone service before, so I am not sure why this seems to be such an astronomical feat for them.
Thank you for what you are trying to accomplish