The Summer 2016 issue of Ed Tech reports on several programs across the country that are leveraging mobile hot spot technology to increase access to broadband for all students within certain school districts. Innovative programs in New York, Virginia, and Texas are using this technology to expand access to school internet networks on school buses, in student homes, and, in some cases, into the communities beyond. By equipping buses with mobile wifi and providing free hotspot devices or SIM cards to eligible students, these districts are making it possible for all of their students to make full use of school digital learning resources, regardless of family income.
According to Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking. “digital access in the home is now the most critical inequity” for students and schools across the country. In many schools, especially those in more economically disadvantaged areas, hundreds of students may be without home internet access and thus unable to complete assignments or have access to learning resources. This “homework gap” can lead to real disparities in performance between those students with broadband access at home and those without. “Just as we wouldn’t tell a child whether or not they can have a textbook based on their address, we don’t think that that should be the case with their ability to access digital resources either,” says CIO Vincent Scheivert of the Albemarle Public Schools in Virginia. By leveraging existing broadband networks provided through cell phone signals, mobile hotspots can bring full access to students without home broadband, thereby increasing their participation, improving their performance, and effectively closing the homework gap for students in their districts.