Lessons Learned from the Pandemic
Access to the internet is essential for the modern student. Long before the pandemic, having internet access was important to learning, but online access became critical during the COVID-19 lockdown. Moving forward, a reliable internet connection will remain an essential component for education and student success inside and outside of the classroom.
Communities across Southern California need to examine and improve their internet infrastructure, provide connections, and bridge the digital divide.
In the United States, citizens often adopt the mindset that the U.S. is best at everything we do. This includes education, where the “No Child Left Behind” slogan is often touted. Unfortunately, when it comes to internet access, other countries are making advances while we fail to keep up and connect with American students.
For example, in a global study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the percentage of students who reported having at least one computer or more at home, the U.S. came in 24th, falling far below others including, Denmark, Iceland, Germany, Canada, Austria, Israel, and Slovenia.
In Liechtenstein, the country with the fastest internet speeds globally, youth are trained to use digital tools and the internet via a program called “Medienprofis,” a series of workshops in schools. And in Uruguay, in addition to successfully implementing the one laptop per child program — at primary and secondary levels —the national virtual educational program, Plan Ceibal, was put in place in 2007. By 2020, 100% of schools were connected with Wi-Fi.
Impact of internet
Lockdowns during the pandemic revealed that 4.4 million U.S. households with children don’t have consistent access to computers for online learning; California has a shortfall of one million devices. Additionally, nearly 3 million students in the U.S. do not have the internet at home. California state leaders found that an estimated 1.2 million (one in five students) lacked broadband access for distance learning.
This digital divide causes what many educational experts call the “homework gap,” an inability to complete schoolwork that requires connectivity. A 2018 survey found this is incredibly impactful on lower-income and Black teens where about one-in-five of 13 to 17-year-olds said they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments.
Internet access is an essential tool for today’s students that provide many benefits, including:
- The ability to research topics in-depth, including accessing the most updated content;
- Access to teaching materials such as notes, PowerPoint slides, images, and videos (on the school website or another forum);
- View videos and web tutorials that are cost-effective education tools;
- Connect with teachers and classmates via social media, messaging apps, and chat forums;
- Expand upon or relearn content taught in the school;
- Prepare for exams by rewatching recorded lectures;
- Prepare for college because universities almost always require a high level of digital literacy.