Helping Connect Families with Learning Through Technology – Digital Promise

Helping Connect Families with Learning Through Technology

February 5, 2016 | By

Earlier this week, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center released a study summarizing their findings around how lower-income families access and use the Internet. This study takes a deep dive into digital inequality and helps us understand how many families are engaging with technology. Some key findings:

  • Ninety-four percent of lower-income families do have some form of internet access, but they often have inconsistent or unreliable connections.
  • Cost drives whether or not lower-income families have Internet or devices in the home.
  • Families are learning together. According to the study, “Children and parents frequently learn with, and about, technology together, especially in families with the lowest incomes and where parents have less education.”

At Digital Promise, we’re committed to helping close the digital learning gap. These findings are especially relevant to the work we’re doing with the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS). In this initiative, we’re working with 21 middle schools across the United States to provide students with always available access, in and out of school. Every student and teacher in the school receives a tablet device equipped with a 4G data plan regardless of whether or not they have access to data plans at home.

The tablets aren’t only for use at school — they go home with the students, and the data plans provide an Internet connection that the entire family can use. For some families, this may be the only reliable home connection. In the video below, teachers and students from two schools in Ypsilanti, Michigan share the impact that the tablets and connectivity have had not only on student learning, but on their families.

“Our kids don’t usually get what everybody else gets, and now they have more.” –Kari Safieddine, music teacher

For teachers at these schools, the benefits of having both devices and data plans for all students to use in school and at home truly has been a game-changer. They can assign homework that requires downloading files or getting online and be confident that every student has an equal opportunity to participate — no more homework gap. Parents can become more involved in their child’s education and are able to easily communicate with teachers.

As the Cooney Center study notes, many families learn about and use technology together. By having tablets to use at home, learning can extend beyond the students themselves to their parents and siblings. Agosto, a student from Ypsilanti, shares a great example of this in the video above. By using his tablet and Internet connection at home, Agosto helps his younger siblings with their homework this year. Without these resources, many students and families would be missing out on critical digital learning opportunities.

Remaining connected at home gives both kids and their families broader access to do things they are interested in, like learning a language online or computer coding skills. Through our work with Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, we continue to help students and their families improve their opportunity to learn.

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