Technology has often been called a democratizer in education, allowing students from all backgrounds to access the same resources and tools. Others see potential for technology to do great harm, widening an already substantial achievement gap related to issues of equity. Access to technology costs money and some fear lower-income schools and students will lag behind the frenzy for newer and better devices, faster connectivity and effective teacher training on digital tools.
EveryoneOn is one attempt to make sure that doesn’t happen. The campaign, coordinated by the non-profit Connect2Compete, launched today brings together partners from both the public and private sectors to address some of the most vexing aspects of the digital divide. The program offers low-cost devices and Internet service, as well as access to digital literacy training programs around the country, hoping to give access to the estimated 100 million Americans who have no broadband connection at home and another 62 million who don’t use the Internet at all.
“The consensus is that a big piece of how we are going to work in classrooms is with digital tools, both in class and at home,” said Zach Leverenz, CEO of Connect2Compete. Kids living in homes without the Internet are increasingly at a disadvantage as coursework and workplace skills become more dependent on technology. To help students get access to the Internet at home, the group is working with major Internet providers Comcast and Cox Communications to offer low cost Internet. Families with K-12 students eligible for free or reduced lunch can get a free router and unlimited Internet service for less than $10 per month. And there’s a deal for households with no kids too: half off the cost of the router and $10 for 12 gigabits of Internet service per month. If a family lives in a zip code with a median income of $35,000 or less it immediately qualifies.