The world has changed for students. Suddenly, schools are experimenting with complete online learning. (There are pros and cons to this in general.) Although the government may say all students must learn online, the technology is not actually ready for this. We need to help students in all our communities.
It’s called the “digital divide,” how low-income and marginalized communities are being left out of all the advances offered by technology like computers and the internet. Check out EveryoneOn, an organization dedicated to changing that.
But what can you, you nerdy compassionate person, do in your community?
Many adults in a higher income bracket are surprised to learn that many students do not own their own computer and no one in their household does either. It is not uncommon. While some schools have applied for grants to purchase personal computers, there are still thousands of needy students.
Some libraries offer laptops to check out like a book for a few months at a time. But those are few in number and in great demand. Do you have a laptop, tablet, or another tech you can donate? It must be new enough to support current internet browsers. Go to Computers With Causes and click on your state to donate. You could also contact your local library or put your computer up on Freecycle or Craigslist. If you are a business with tech to donate, check out EALgreen, which will bring your donations to universities and colleges who then distribute to needy students. Some will even give you a tax rebate for your donation.
What’s even more shocking is that even if a student has a computer, they may not be able to connect to the internet. They will be left out of every online class and all that downloadable material. Gone are the days when the internet was a luxury. It is a necessary tool in all levels of learning and careers.
Some cities around the world offer free wi-fi for all, but that is rare and usually not very strong. If you own a cafe or business with wi-fi, consider letting students sit in for free to conduct their learning. (You can ask to see a current student ID.) US internet providers are giving free internet service to low-income households. If you know someone who may qualify, help them navigate this offer. It is only temporary but will help during this crisis.
Right now, internet providers are not required to bring the internet out to rural areas of the United States. Those students are stuck with dial-up (RIDICULOUS, RIGHT?!), which is useless for modern internet use. Contact your government representatives to demand legislation to bring the internet to all students. Many bills have been already written and struck down by those who consider the internet a privilege. It’s time to change that. If the legislation gets passed immediately, construction to bring internet infrastructure to all will begin and we can help students learn.
Do you know a teacher? Chances are, they are being asked to teach their subjects and courses online. Many are not ready for this at all. Offer your tech-savviness to teacher friends and colleagues. Whether they need help creating a video or setting up a conference call or finding online resources, this is your chance to save the day! Their students will thank you.
While we may not be able to solve all the problems, tech-able people (aka “nerds”) can help students with unexpected online learning! Whether or not you have a student in your household, we as a community can still help our students adapt and thrive during this challenging time.