- The 2019 State of Digital Learning report from Schoology shows digital device access remains “the biggest obstacle to student learning,” presenting an issue for rural and urban schools alike, eSchool News reports.
- More than half of the survey's 9,200 respondents said their school or district has a 1:1 device program, but only half of those allow their students to take those devices home.
- K-12 teachers reported that home access, finding time for individualized instruction, juggling digital tools and online safety were among their top challenges, while improving assessments, reporting and data-driven decision-making are top priorities.
Digital devices and content can expand student learning in multiple ways, breaking down the barriers to accessing information and creating limitless, lifelong learning opportunities.
However, educators can find that maintaining devices and students' access to learning sites add another challenge to their day, even if they have tech support at their school or in their district. As anyone who has had to troubleshoot an ailing piece of tech or wonder why they can’t gain access to a web site can attest, this is a level of frustration that no educator needs (or has time) to shoulder.
Even creating lesson plans and curriculum that take advantage of technology is challenging. As the Schoology study uncovered, not every student has access to devices at home, with a remarkable 41% of teachers naming that as one of the biggest barriers to student learning in schools with device programs.
This is a crucial finding for administrators and policymakers to consider, especially before they budget funds for digital devices and content. Students who cannot access material at home, in the evenings and on weekends, are at a disadvantage to their peers who have reliable internet access and home computers, tablets and smartphones where they live.
While some public facilities, including libraries, do have working computers often available, students still have to physically get there. That can create a burden on a parent who may have to work, or who may have responsibilities on the weekends and in the evenings that prevent them from taking their child to a location away from home.
Libraries, too, can have waiting lists for computers. And they may have time limits in place, as well — not conducive to long research projects. The New York Public Library, for example, offers just 45-minute sessions as standard on its laptops and desktops.
While digital technology and content are not going away, curriculum designers should consider the access their students have to devices before creating lesson plans — no matter the grade. The goal for educators is to create an equitable educational opportunity for all students. That can only start if every child also has the same tools to succeed.