A new study on the digital divide conducted by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the Family Online Safety Institute, and myCollegeOptions (with data collected in March 2015) suggests that the use of technology and the internet is commonplace in the American high school experience: 98.5% of students (across all racial/ethnic backgrounds) report they use the internet in school, with about half reporting daily use for assignments.

While that’s hardly a surprising finding, the study goes on to probe the role of the internet for teacher-directed learning outside the school building:

  • Nearly all students say they are required to use the internet to complete homework assignments outside of school (96.5% percent).
  • Thirty-one percent of students say they are required to use the internet to complete homework assignments outside of school daily, while 42% are required to use it every few days. The remainder are required to do so less frequently: once a week or every few weeks.

Many teachers assume students have access to the internet to do schoolwork. A new study shows the digital divide persists and affects student achievement.

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Teachers and schools clearly assume students have ready access to the internet to complete schoolwork outside the school building and after the school day. Unfortunately, that’s just not true and this lack of access directly affects student achievement. The data:

  • 49% of students say they have experienced being unable to complete a homework assignment because they didn’t have access to a computer or the internet.
  • 42% of students have received a lower grade on an assignment because they did not have access to the internet.
  • 80% of students say that students who do not have access to the internet have an unfair disadvantage to those students who do.

For those pondering the ethics of this situation for public education – as you should – and what you could and should do about it, I’d note that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights also has some thoughts that might spur action – and this also is an issue that Commissioner Rosenworcel of the Federal Communications Commission has taken up. You can read her remarks on the study release over at the FCC.


**An interesting aside: 57% of high school students with out of school access say they most often use a smart phone to complete homework using the internet.