Access to Online Learning Has Become a Right
In follow up to last week’s post introducing the Hello PLATO team, mission, and solution to the world, we’d like to dive a little deeper into why online learning must be accessible to all.
The Homework Gap
When COVID hit, and every student had to begin learning from home, America became aware of a massive problem: 1/3 of American kids don’t have internet access at home.
Whether we like it or not, we’ll never forget that 2020 was the year when all of us had to stop ignoring hard truths.
The hard truth that the U.S. (and the world) can no longer ignore is The Homework Gap. This image of two girls completing their homework using Taco Bell’s wifi went viral during COVID because we were all finally paying attention. But this was a problem for millions of kids before COVID, and it will continue to be a problem for them after COVID. You see, without the internet, students can’t access current online learning solutions at all.
But it’s just HOMEWORK! Why is it a big deal?
You wouldn’t be alone if you admitted to having this thought. That’s part of what keeps this problem a problem. We tend to downplay the importance of homework, but students will sometimes spend more time completing homework for a class than attending the class itself!
Put another way, homework is practice or extension of classroom learning. It’s a critical part of deepening conceptual understanding and fostering skills acquisition.
When a seemingly small difference persists for a long time over many people, it has an outsized impact. Current research conducted by Common Sense Media in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group and examining the effects of the Homework Gap found the following:
In the United States, 7 of 10 teachers assign homework that requires internet access despite 1 of every 3 to 4 students not having access. These students either don’t get to complete that same homework, or they have to go to great lengths to do so. This seemingly small difference leads to learning losses that have material consequences on their GPA and ultimate earning power…for life. Just think about it for a minute. One child can go home and access the internet and complete the required assignment. The other cannot. It’s pretty simple.
COVID Did Not Create the Inequity
This problem is not solved for 15-17M kids once in-person classes resume. Starbucks’, Panera Breads’, friends’ houses…these kids will still have to stitch together internet access when and where they can. In some rural areas, school districts have placed wifi-enabled buses so students can drive and gather to complete homework. But this is not a new practice, as shown by this article dated April 2016.
Kids can’t wait any longer
Our team 100% agrees that we need to fix this by getting internet access to all of these kids. But the signs don’t point to that happening overnight. If you’ve been paying attention, AT&T is running a lovely commercial touting the wiring of America that they’re going to be doing over the next ten years. It’s an impressive 1 BILLION dollar commitment, but it will take ten years! An entire generation lost, at the breakneck pace of changing technology no less! What’s worse is that this report suggests it will take more like $6 – $11 billion to close the digital divide in the U.S. (with ongoing commitments thenceforth in the billions of dollars).
Currently, the investment gap between what we need and what we’re allocating to close the digital divide in terms of both time and money is vast.
We Have a Solution Today
Rather than wait ten years for the others to solve the problem, we created Hello PLATO. An AI learning platform based on Whatsapp, Hello PLATO makes it easy for teachers to deliver online learning to students without the internet at home. They can create simple, rapid check-ins that ALL students can complete at home to build a “GPS” for each student’s learning progress.
We’re on a mission to empower teachers to make online learning accessible and personal for all kids.
Teachers – We Need Your Help!
We’re inviting teachers across America to use Hello PLATO to support their SUMMER LEARNING and LEARNING LOSS recovery programs. It’s an ideal way to reach the students who’ve missed the most.
Think it’s Cool? SPREAD THE WORD!
We’re inviting thought leaders and advocates to spread the word about what we’re doing at Hello PLATO. Please follow us on social media and share your support for our mission.