Panelists Discuss ‘Digital Divide’ as Online Education Becomes a Necessity

July 11, 2020
Originally published in Talk Business & Politics

The “digital divide” allowing some but not all students access to digital learning involves more than just technology. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for long-term change.

Those were some of the ideas shared during a “Closing the Digital Divide” webinar Thursday (July 9) hosted by the education reform group ForwARd Arkansas. The group is hosting a series of discussions about how education will change during the pandemic and afterwards. It is working in partnership with the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

Panelists noted the challenges educators are facing in a world where students are receiving part or all of their education online. Gary Williams, superintendent of the Crossett School District, said some families in his district live in timber areas where the only way to access the internet is through satellite. Providing devices and bandwidth are challenges that must be overcome.

He said he is concerned about educators’ ability to replicate the classroom regarding accountability and expectations. Sustaining three to five hours of learning in the home is difficult amidst the other routines that occur there. Students’ learning could suffer years into the future.

“Grades may reflect one thing, but what they’ve accomplished may be another, so I’m concerned about what this looks like three to five years from now, 10 years from now, as we move through this period of time if we don’t get our kids back in the building or if we don’t improve our online and in-home engagement,” he said. “That’s going to be challenging and troubling for us.”

Read the full story in Talk Business & Politics.