Technology is the way of the world these days. Everywhere we turn computers, smart phones, and tablets are commonplace. It is hard to imagine a world without them. The world of education proves to be no different. Just in the past two years my old high school jumped on the revolution where every student is to have an iPad in order to follow along in class and complete their assignments. During the 2014-2015 school year Liberty County, Georgia did the same launching their one-to-one iPad initiative called the Liberty Learning Experience. While the plan– hoping to bridge the digital divide– seemed great in theory one very large problem quickly became evident: broadband access.
The district soon discovered that over sixty percent of their student population did not have access to the internet at home. While students used their iPads and digital textbooks in school, when it came time to go home they could not complete their homework assignments and with this the risk of students falling behind academically grew.
The district has some limited options for finding publicly accessible internet at local libraries and student media centers, but Pat Millen, co-founder and president of Eliminate the Digital Divide, voiced the concerns of many on the issue saying:
“Think about that same kid walking home in the dark through some of the toughest neighborhoods in the area…Then think about this very same kid going through the motions of walking through the rain and the dark or the heat and the sun to get to the library that’s two miles from his house. Then think of him taking measure of his life’s prospects. “I can’t get this work done. I’m not going to be able to pass this class. My family is so poor, shouldn’t I just go ahead and drop out and go try to find a job?””
Concerns were universal in the community. Liberty County district officials moved to fix the problem recently with the creation of twenty-four mobile “homework zones” on school buses! After the Kajeet wifi equipment is installed in the school bus units, the buses will be parked in areas where low income students can have access to the internet between the hours of 2:30pm-11:30pm in order to complete their studies and further their education. John Lyles, director of transportation for the Liberty County School District, said it best: “We want to ensure no student is left behind because he or she doesn’t have the tools for success.”
This initiative comes shortly after our story on the shut down of internet access in Pinetops, North Carolina. In light of that story, it raises the question…What about the children of Pinetops?