15 Ways To Support Students Without Internet Access At Home [Updated]
contributed by Maria Winters DiMarco
We’ve discussed five reasons to teach digital literacy in the classroom. In reading Paul’s post, I couldn’t help but take a step back and think about the growing number of children around the country who barely have access to the digital world, if any at all.
While some students enjoy unlimited access to the internet and other digital technology, there are other students, just as capable and full of potential, who struggle to learn even the basics of computer use due to a lack of access.
Why Internet Access At Home Matters For Students
Our world heavily relies on Internet technology for everyday communication, education, and work. Over time, students without Internet access will face massive disadvantages, including:
-Lack of basic research skills
-Lack of networking skills
-Inability or extreme difficulty in pursuing a degree in higher ed
-Difficulty searching and applying for jobs
-Insufficient qualifications for many jobs
Aside from the individual hurdles that students without internet access may face in their personal and professional lives as they grow older, this issue also seriously affects the country as a whole. A generation of youth with large discrepancies in their ability to utilize technology fluently sets the United States up to be much less competitive in relation to countries abroad in the long run.
Among the world’s wealthiest countries, the United States has one of the lowest percentages of internet access. Furthermore, 90% of the countries that have a higher percentage of internet access than the United States also have better test scores. In addition to supporting long-term initiatives that provide Internet access for students everywhere, here are six ways to reach students who lack Internet access at home.
6 Ways To Support Students Without Internet Access At Home
1. Get Them Involved At School
When pairing students off to work in smaller groups, be sure to pair students who are tech-savvy with students who are less familiar with computer use. Regularly incorporating computer work into classroom activities ensures that students get consistent access to the Internet, which is vital for maintaining skills and knowledge over time.
2. Encourage Parents To Take Advantage Of Community Resources
Compile a list of places that have free Wi-Fi and computer access in your community and make the list available to parents. Encourage them to visit these spots at night and on the weekends in order to provide their children with more exposure to technology. Many libraries host classes on how to use the internet and computers; let parents know when upcoming classes are available in your area.
Also, consider coffee shops and bookstores that offer it for free.
3. Mobile Hotspots or Data Plans
Explore the possibility of providing mobile hotspots or data plans to students who lack internet access at home. These devices can provide limited internet connectivity, enabling students to access online resources and complete assignments.
4. Have Students Identify Resources Within Their Family
And then design assignments accordingly. Students may lack access at home but often have relatives that have it. Design assignments so that they can fully take advantage of–and not feel defeated by–intermittent access.
5. ‘Spin’ Intermittent Access As A Normal Thing
Of course, most students know internet access is desirable, but help them understand that those with only intermittent access aren’t social pariahs. Only 56% of Mississippi homes have access. While that kind of inequality will be an issue long-term, don’t make students feel like outcasts (any more than they already might). Spin it as a statistically normal thing.
6. Incorporate It Into Project-Based Learning
Unless there’s a specific reason a home doesn’t want access, help students attempt to address the problem on their own through project-based learning. Have them write grant proposals, solicit local businesses for donations, or otherwise gain access by their own problem-solving skills.
More Ways To Support Students Without Internet Access
Offline Learning Resources
Provide students with offline learning materials such as textbooks, workbooks, printed worksheets, and reading materials that they can use at home. Make sure these resources are aligned with the curriculum and provide clear instructions for self-guided learning.
Where applicable, loan out laptops, tablets, or other devices to students without internet access. Load them with educational software, offline learning apps, or pre-recorded video lessons that students can access and use offline.
Local Library Access
Encourage students to utilize their local libraries as a resource for accessing books, reference materials, and computers with internet access. Help them obtain library cards and inform them about any free programs or resources available at the library.
Design assignments that don’t rely heavily on internet access. Encourage activities that can be completed using offline resources and materials. This ensures that students without internet can still participate fully in their coursework.
Collaborative Study Groups
Encourage students to form study groups with their peers. This way, they can meet up outside of school to work on assignments, discuss concepts, and support each other’s learning without relying on internet access.
Extended School Hours or Facilities
Keep school facilities open for extended hours, allowing students to use the school’s computers, internet access, and resources outside of regular school hours.
Collaborate with community organizations, local businesses, or nonprofit groups that may be able to provide resources, funding, or support to students without internet access. They may be able to offer scholarships, donate devices, or help facilitate internet access.
Provide additional support and assistance to students without internet access. Offer extra office hours, one-on-one tutoring sessions, or dedicated time in the school computer lab to help these students complete online assignments or research.
Maintain regular communication with parents or guardians of students without internet access. Inform them about available resources, offline materials, and alternative ways their child can stay engaged with their learning.
Maria Winters DiMarco writes for SIP in an effort to help promote awareness around the growing digital divide; image attribution flickr user jaygoldman; 6 Ways To Support Students Without Internet Access At Home