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Behind new efforts to bring internet access to students who need it

Dec 6, 2018 by

The internet is no longer an amenity, it’s essential to thrive in the 21st-century economy. But too many Americans still don’t have access. Here’s a look at where progress is most needed.

Mark

It can’t be touched or seen or heard but it’s at the center of debate among federal education officials. The internet is a crucial resource for students – a White House report on STEM education released Monday listed building computational and digital literacy as one of its “Pathways to Success” – but not everyone has equal access. In 2016, about 90 percent of high school students said their homework required going online at least a few times a month. But about 15 percent of United States households with school-age children still lack a high-speed internet connection. This disparity is known as the “homework gap,” and it disproportionately affects low-income, black, Latino, and geographically remote students. Vikki Katz, associate professor of communication at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., says she’s seen students try to write research papers on smartphones. “It’s important to try to think about just how … frustrating and time consuming of an experience that would be,” she says. To close the gap, some communities have tried unconventional methods. A district in Coachella Valley, Calif., attached hotspots to buses and drove them to local homes. Now, the Federal Communications Commission is weighing plans that would give remote districts free licenses to existing spectrum, known as educational broadband service. A final decision from the FCC was expected by the end of the year, but has now been postponed. – Noble Ingram

Noble Ingram, Karen Norris/Staff

Source: The Christian Science Monitor Daily for December 5, 2018

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