When high school senior Raegan Byrd needs to write a research paper, she faces a problem: She doesn’t have a home computer. Raegan isn’t alone. According to a recently released study, nearly three million U.S. students lack access to computers or the internet at home. The phenomenon is called the “homework gap.”
Research shows that students with home internet score higher in reading, math, and science—and in classrooms around the country, access to laptops and the internet is common. That’s not so in many urban and rural communities.
Some school districts, local governments, and others have tried to help bridge the homework gap. They've installed wireless internet on buses and loaned out hot spots. Communities have compiled lists of wi-fi-enabled restaurants and other businesses where children are welcome to linger and do schoolwork.
Still, some students end up studying in the parking lots of schools, libraries, or restaurants—wherever they can find a signal.
English teacher Susan Johnston. “I have kids all the time who are like, ‘Can you just give me a paper copy of this?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, no, because I really need you to get familiar with technology because it’s not going away,’” she says.
Students in the homework gap tend to be poor and minority students. But some students don’t have computers because they simply can’t get a strong internet signal.
Many households without home internet cite expense as the main reason, according to federal Education Department statistics. In the area surrounding Raegan’s Hartford, Connecticut, school, less than half of households have home access.
Raegan tries to make as much progress as possible while at school. At home, she uses her smartphone and a data plan paid for by her grandfather. That involves scrolling around on a tiny screen and tapping out papers with her thumbs. Glitches sometimes keep Raegan from submitting assignments electronically, so she writes them out by hand. Her diligence is commendable. She says, “At least I have something, instead of nothing.”
Do you agree with the idea that students need to get familiar with technology? Why or why not?
(Third-grade student Miles Stidham uses an East Webster High School laptop to do homework in Maben, Mississippi. The Stidhams are unable to get internet at their home in the country, so they take advantage of the internet in the school’s library. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)