This article is one a series of articles by Thomas Hatch looking at what can and should change in education post-pandemic.
At the same time that we try to figure out how to reimagine post-pandemic schooling in the future, there are clear, concrete steps that can be taken right now to make educational opportunities more equitable. In particular, strategies are already available that can provide internet access for many students who remain disconnected. These strategies will not work everywhere yet, but, as the World Bank reports, in combination with strategies to reach students through television, radio, WhatsApp and other means, many more students can have access to online and remote educational opportunities than have had them ever before. But how long will it take? Will the energy and funding dry up before universal access is established?
Part 1 of this 2-part post shared articles that show that providing internet access to all is an enduring problem despite the evidence that many disconnected students and families could be connected using available approaches. Part 2 brings together here a few of the many articles that highlight some of the strategies that are already available to increase internet access in the US as well a few articles from India that illustrate what is possible in other parts of the world.
In the US
Several articles in the US this summer focus on the establishment of the Emergency Connectivity Fund – designed to reimburse schools and libraries for equipment and costs incurred to enable students, staff, and patrons who lack internet access to engage in remote learning.
“internet access has shifted from an amenity to a necessity. Nothing has illustrated that shift more clearly than the pandemic… But for the millions of students and families without internet access at home, adapting to the virtual classroom became extremely challenging, if not impossible.”– For Families Who Lack Reliable Internet Access, Help Is on the Way — $7B of It,
Acting FCC Chair Rosenworcel Unveils Proposed Rules for Emergency Connectivity Fund, FCC
What You Need to Know About the Emergency Connectivity Fund, THE Journal
The FCC’s $7 Billion Fund to Address the ‘Homework Gap’: 6 Key Issues to Watch, EdWeek Market Brief
Beyond funding, a number of articles over the past year have highlighted both overall strategies for increasing internet access and specific initiatives designed to connect students in urban as well as rural areas.
How to Expand Home Internet Connectivity for K-12 Students Over the Long Haul, Education Week
If you build it, they will learn: Why some schools are investing in cell towers, NBC News
Philadelphia widens free internet eligibility for families with children in school, Chalkbeat
Philadelphia expanding ‘PHLConnectED’ free student internet program, KYW Newsradio
Philadelphia School District Repairing Thousands Of Chromebooks For Free As Students Return To Classrooms Next Week, 3CBS
Connecticut Gives Every Student a Computer and Home Internet to Close the Digital Divide, EdSurge
Citing remote learning needs, Cuomo calls for $15-a-month internet cap for low-income NY families, Chalkbeat
Chicago helped 55,000 students get free internet. Much work remains, Chalkbeat
In Rural ‘Dead Zones’, School Comes on a Flash Drive, The New York Times
These Buses Bring School to Students, The New York Times
Sitting on the Roof at Night for Internet: Pandemic Learning in the Navajo Nation, EducationWeek
Lessons In Leadership: How a superintendent tapped SpaceX to help close homework gap, K-12 Dive
Articles over the past year in India, highlight strategies that work to connect students to remote learning through the internet, television, radio, and other means.
“Remote learning during the pandemic has been painful, even for children with the best computers and broadband. Imagine trying to do it all on a cheap cellphone with a 2G connection”– Think Remote Learning Is Hard? Try Using a Phone in an Indian Village, Wall
Jharkhand to set up gadget bank to facilitate online classes for underprivileged kids, The New Indian Express
Learning Through Radio And Television In The Time Of COVID-19, India Education Diary
Karnataka to bridge online school learning gaps by installing TV sets at 5,766 gram panchayat libraries, The Indian Express
Now Odisha turns to radio for classes, The Hindu
Community radio-based blended learning model: A promising learning model in remote area during pandemic era, ScienceDirect
Telangana schools to have chatbot to assess students work, Times Now News
Bright spots in remote learning: lessons from India and Sierra Leone, Education Development Trust
Navigating Education in 2021: From Remote Learning to Blended Learning, Central Square Foundation