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Legislators Introduce Bill to Promote Digital Access for All

Legislators Introduce Bill to Promote Digital Access for All

U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) have introduced a bill called the Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015 that aims to find ways to help all students have access to internet and digital resources outside of the classroom.

Classroom instruction is becoming increasingly reliant on digital tools, and as a result low-income and rural districts are known to suffer due to not all students having internet access at home.

"Whether completing a homework assignment, communicating with a teacher outside of the school day, or applying for college, twenty-four hour access to the Internet, as well as the countless digital learning tools that accompany it, has become a fundamental educational resource in today’s highly-connected world," said the legislation's press release.

Many districts across the country have found creative ways to help all students have access to internet when not in the classroom and when doing work at home. For instance, in the Coachella Unified School District in California, buses are equipped with Wi-Fi for students to use while commuting to school and to act as overnight Wi-Fi centers while parked in neighborhoods where internet access is scarce.

And in the Kent school district in Washington, it has placed Wi-Fi hotspots kiosks across the community to help students without access, made possible by partnerships with local businesses.

But while many districts are finding innovative ways to expand access, according to a survey released last year from the Consortium for School Networking , 82 percent of schools do not have initiatives in place to help provide internet access to students. 

The Digital Learning Equity Act, according to King and Capito, will promote districts looking into initiatives that would provide all students internet access and therefore level the playing field of learning. After all, according to the release, one-third of all low-income districts lack high-speed internet access.

"This divide, also referred to as the homework gap, disproportionately impacts minority students as well as those in rural states like Maine and West Virginia, where high-speed Internet connections are not always accessible or affordable," the release said.

So far, many big names in education have come out to endorse the legislation, including most recently The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).

"Broadband access is critical for educators and students to have powerful, personalized learning at their fingertips. It also enables increased student access to teaching and learning through online courses and blended learning. Providing improved connectivity will increase the educational opportunities available and prepare all students with the skills they need to be successful in college and careers," said iNACOL's CEO and President Susan Patrick in a statement.

Read more about the legislation here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

06/22/2015

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