If This is About Digital Equity…
Apr 1, 2016
Yesterday, the FCC voted to “Modernize Lifeline.” This was the culmination of a long process to provide families which qualify for the lifeline subsidy for their home telephone to now be able to use this subsidy for access to broadband.
While addressing the CUE conference on educational technology just a few weeks ago, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, “There was a time when access to broadband was a luxury. No more. And nowhere is that as clear as it is in education.” Rosenworcel has been a huge proponent of the “Modernization” of Lifeline. She has actively campaigned for the FCC to take measures to “Close the Homework Gap” by providing access to broadband through the Lifeline program. I am THRILLED by this vote. I agree with Dr. Paul Lasley:
Much of the talk concerning this Modernization vote centered on filling in the “Homework Gap” for students from low-income families. As an example; 31% of all students in New York have homework that requires the use of the Internet on a daily basis. According to data from the FCC; one in three households in America does not have broadband access. To access their homework students in these homes resort to hanging out in fast food restaurants, standing in long lines at libraries, or even sitting outside dark school buildings just to get the opportunity to get online (Rosenworcel, TimesUnion 3/29/16).
My first reactions to Commissionar Rosenworcel’s comments were: WOW! I am completely shocked 31% of New York students have homework every night that requires the use of the Internet!? As a Principal/Assistant Principal for the past 10 years (and educator for 18)…I can’t imagine 31% of my students having homework requiring Internet (especially considering only 10% of my students’ households had Broadband). As a mother of two Elementary/Middle School Students I always hope the only homework they have is reading.
Lifeline’s Modernization is a great thing for our students (& their families) who will now be eligible for Broadband service, but please, let’s not sell this new access short by saying it’s great simply because it will allow them to do their homework. There is so much more.
*Homework isn’t all that’s cracked up to be in my opinion:
In March I had the opportunity to attend SXSWedu in Austin where I had a conversation with Lord Jim Knight @jimpknight the Chief Education Adviser at TES. It wasn’t that long ago Lord Knight was the equivalent of what we in America would consider he Secretary of the Department of Education of England. During his tenure he worked with Government & School Administrators to create something similar, yet more advanced than what we are doing here with the Lifeline Modernization. It was a program that enabled every student to have an electronic device with Internet access. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? Students’ whose families couldn’t afford it received a government issued “debit card” that enabled them to go to a regular store of their choice and buy the device of the student’s choice; ie.. the stigma of “poor kids getting one certain device” was eliminated. (MY FAVORITE PART!) Remember, this didn’t happen yesterday…this was several years ago! How amazing that a great program like this happened in a country we consider to be one of our peers. (@jimpknight) We obviously aren’t the only ones struggling with these equity issues.
My hope is this access to Internet opens up new exciting experiences for all students and that it’s just the beginning of an Action to Equity in American Education.
I hope Lifeline Modernization negates any barriers students without home Internet service have encountered regarding school…BUT JUST AS IMPORTANTLY…I hope these students find WONDER, JOY, FUN, LAUGHTER, CREATION, HAPPINESS, SADNESS, REALITY…and so much more that their peers are already discovering. Access allows CONNECTION: something that has been missing with so many of these students. I believe this lack of connection has been a huge contributor to articles like this: Children in Poverty More Likely to have Problems with Friendships, Study Shows flip.it/1-j8L
Children need to experience life with friends. As soon as my 12 year old is in the car headed home she is on Instagram, in a text with her 4 best friends, and recording a Musical.ly…and that’s just in the first 5 minutes. The world has changed and the basic way in which children communicate has to.
This is what I hope Modernization of Lifeline CAN DO:
I hope it brings Equity of Experience to our Students;
not simply access to homework.