Closing the Gap

January 24, 2020
ON THE ROAD Students in Talladega County, Alabama, do homework during their bus ride.
COURTESY GOOGLE

Students in Talladega County, Alabama, are given a laptop or a tablet. They use them in class and at home.

But Talladega County is in rural Alabama. Many students live in small towns or in the countryside. Internet access is delivered using towers and underground cables. But they don’t always reach these areas. In some homes, it’s impossible to access the Internet.

Experts call this the “homework gap.” That’s because it’s difficult for some students to do homework online. “When you go home at the end of the day and you can no longer access the same information and technology tools as some of your classmates—that’s the homework gap,” Beth Holland told TIME for Kids. She works at the Consortium for School Networking.

Driving Change

About one in five homes with school-age kids doesn’t have high-speed Internet access. That’s according to a Pew Research study. And 17% of teens say lack of steady Internet sometimes means they can’t do homework. “Kids are being excluded from learning opportunities,” Holland says.

Schools around the country have found creative ways to close the homework gap. In some school libraries, students can borrow mobile hot spots. These use cell-phone networks to access the Internet. Students in some communities have created Wi-Fi maps. These let kids know about local businesses, such as cafés, which provide Internet to their customers.

Talladega County created “rolling study halls.” Many students ride the bus to and from school each day. The average ride each way is an hour. Some are as long as 90 minutes.

In 2018, wireless Internet was installed on six school buses. Now students do homework while they ride. A teacher comes along to help.

Vicky Ozment is the deputy superintendent for Talladega County Schools. She says rolling study halls have “leveled the playing field.”

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