Bridging the “Homework Gap”

As the digital divide moves into what’s being called the “homework gap,” described as the difference between students who have reliable, broadband internet access at home and those who do not, schools and communities are looking for solutions. Not surprisingly, the Pew Research Center found that low-income families are far less likely to have high-speed internet access at home that their higher-income peers, and prior research has indicated there continues to be an urban/rural divide as well. These facts pose substantial challenges for school district leaders who are looking to transform teaching and learning through the use of collaborative digital tools.

The solutions, however, are also emerging. There is no one-size-fits-all answer unfortunately, but as educators we have likely come to accept that there is no such thing. While WiFi sheep may be legitimately promising in Wales (and potentially some places in the U.S.), this solution is entirely unfeasible in Brooklyn. Schools and communities are rising to the challenge, piloting solutions such as check-out hotspots, WiFi-enabled buses parked in communities after hours, and partnerships between providers and non-profit agencies. Even the federal government is on-board, voting in June to include broadband Internet connections in a program that subsidizes telephone service for low-income individuals and families. We are far from solving the problem, but we are certainly heading in the right direction.