What Web Access Means to Students
For decades, students have been feeling pressure to succeed earlier and earlier in their academic careers. It is also considered a universal truth that academic success is a key stepping stone in breaking the cycle of poverty.
Although upper-middle class and “rich kids” naturally enjoy access to more educational resources, the public library has always been an equalizing factor. In recent years the Internet has largely replaced the brick and mortar library as an educational resource.
The Internet is The New Library, Where Ever You Can Find It
As the Internet becomes a more important tool for student’s to research and make contact with their teachers, access to the ‘net is increasingly important to student success. This access shows serious holes in universal access for rural poor students.
Students in homes with 24 hour access to the net are simply able to do more and better homework than those who have to leave the house to acquire a WiFi signal. Educators are using cloud based lessons and tools to extend the learning day, but students who do not have web access simply miss out.
Drive In Restaurants Are For More Than Cheap Dates
Across the country, managers of McDonald’s fast food restaurants (which offer free WiFi) report an upsurge in business from students using the Internet, especially in the hours after the public libraries close. The cliché of young professionals hanging out in Starbuck’s does not fit as well for these underprivileged students for no other reason than there are more items on the McDonald’s menu that fall into the price point of a poor student than at Starbuck’s. (WiFi is available for free at both McDonald’s and Starbuck’s, and it is the corporate policy of both chains that purchase is not needed to use the service, but most students feel obligated to purchase something.)
Education and Cloud based technology are a natural fit, and educators are quick to recognize that Internet and computer skills are as important to students as arithmetic and reading. It seems criminal that the students who stand to receive the greatest benefit from Internet based education opportunities will miss out due to the geography of Web Access.
The FCC reports that strides are being made in bringing broadband availability to all Americans, including the rural poor. The technology exists to make this a truly wired nation, all that lacks is the political and financial will to make it so.
By Peter Knight