The Broadband Imperative II: Equitable Access for Learning

Very thoughtful report to consider when planning a digital access model.

The Aspen Institute’s Task Force on Learning and the internet, Learner at the Center of a Networked World recommends that,

“every student [has] adequate connectivity—including reliable broadband connections—as well as access to the hardware, applications, digital age literacy and high-quality
content necessary to support their learning.”

Learning doesn’t end when the last bell rings, students need internet access outside of the school day, particularly at home to complete assignments; collaborate with their peers; participate in extracurricular activities; apply for higher education opportunities and even part time employment.

The 2016 National Education Technology Plan (NETP) recommends “students and educators have broadband access to the internet and adequate wireless connectivity, with a special focus on equity of access outside of school.”

Ensure Equity of Access for All Students Outside of School

Digital equity is a topic of concern as inequities related to broadband access persist when some students, particularly low-income and rural students, do not have the same level of broadband and device access as other students outside of school. Gone is an era when students are automatically given textbooks to support their learning. Equity of access includes ensuring access to devices and sufficient high-speed broadband in school, at home, and everywhere else in the community to utilize digital instructional materials, complete homework assignments, and to connect with students, educators, and experts throughout the world anytime/anywhere.

More states are enacting policies requiring digital instructional materials, as legislators are now recognizing the benefits of digital resources. These policy shifts have direct implications on issues related to device and internet access. As content shifts to digital, and typically some of that content is exclusively available online, students must have access to broadband and devices outside of school, particularly at home, to be successful. SETDA recommends states, districts and schools:

• Deliver outreach to families, particularly low income families, about the necessity for out-of-school access

• Leverage community partnerships for access

• Share out-of-school access options