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When the Maine Learning Technology Initiative launched the country's first and only statewide 1:1 laptop programs in the fall of 2002, other states looked to Maine as a shining star in the 1:1 world. And since 2010, 100 percent of middle schools and 55 percent of high schools have participated in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative 1:1 program.
We are looking forward to connect and learn their secrets for success during the ACTEM (Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine) 2015 conference. The enthusiasm from the ISTE Bus Trip (#ISTEBus), which included 50 Maine educational technology leaders and teachers who journeyed to ISTE 2015, had us excited before we even arrived at the show. Of course, meeting them in person was even better.
Roughly 7 in 10 teachers assign homework requiring broadband access at home, and one-third of those students lack home Internet access, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Those 30% are caught in the Homework Gap.
What does that number look like in Maine?
We estimate the number of students requiring connectivity is 20% of the free lunch numbers. In Maine 85,232 students are on free and reduced lunch. 46.6% percent of the total student population a 4% increase from the previous year. Based on our experience, Kajeet would estimate 17,046 students do not have Internet at home.
Maine is driving much of the discussion towards closing the Homework Gap. Early this year, the Maine State Library launched its “Check-out the Internet” program to selected libraries in the state. We applaud this initiative to reach out into the community and take a step forward to level the playing field for students and bridge the digital divide. Rural communities, specifically, were affected by the lack of connectivity at home and loaning hotspots to students (similar to library books) is one way the state addressed closing that gap.
Along with the efforts initiated in Maine, Kajeet Education Broadband™ is helping educators close the Homework Gap in other districts around the country. In many of those districts students are borrowing Kajeet SmartSpot® devices as a "check out" from the school's media center or library.
Maine Senator Angus King saw this as a huge issue in his own state and co-introduced the Digital Learning Equity Act – a bill to support the development, implementation, and evaluation of innovative strategies and methods to increase out of school access to digital learning resources. It is terrific to have lawmakers acknowledge and begin to address the Homework Gap with legislation. Along with the 5 main purposes of the bill, we’ve included you some districts who are already working to successfuly make change for their students with Education Broadband.
The purpose of the Digital Learning Equity Act is to:
1. Increase student participation in the classroom, including the ability to complete homework assignments and participate in innovative digital learning models.
We have seen increased student participation with all of our districts, particularly in Chicago Public Schools. The education process for these young Chicago students using technology for assignments, both in school and out, has increasingly become a seamless series of learning events, both self-directed and teacher-directed, that can happen anywhere.
2. Improve student access to post-secondary education and workforce opportunities by increasing the ability of students to apply for employment, post-secondary education, and financial aid opportunities.
Currently Cincinnati Public Schools is seeing positive results after the first year of their AP Blended Learning Program. Sixty-four students completed the AP Geography exam, who wouldn’t have had the opportunity before, and one student was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley.
3. Increase the education technology and digital learning resources options available to educators to support student learning by ensuring methods and resources used during the school day remain accessible during out-of-school hours.
In DeKalb ISD (Texas), teachers are telling us that access outside of the class is changing the way they teach. They are not afraid to assign homework because they know everyone has access.
4. Increase student, educator, and parent engagement by facilitating greater communication and connection between school and home.
The parent, educator, student communication is alive in Richland 2. They identified families who were in need via their EOSL program. Parents are invited to a launch event at the beginning of each year where students are giving the Kajeet SmartSpot. The district sees this as an opportunity to support the whole family.
5. Increase the identification and dissemination of strategies to support students lacking out-of- school access to digital learning resources and the Internet, including under served student populations and students in rural and remote geographic areas.
Look no further than Pontiac School District in Michigan where 85% of students are on the free or reduced-cost lunch program. For these students, paying for home Internet access just isn’t a possibility. They are distributing Kajeet SmartSpot devices through a library check-out system in their media center. Students are able to borrow the Kajeet SmartSpot for seven days and can bring them back for renewal.
Kudos to Maine for continuing to be at the for-front of the Homework Gap—The Way Education Should Be.