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Survey of Frontline Educators Reveals - 10.6M students don't have at-home internet connectivity and 11.8M students don't have computers

Nonprofit Digital Wish Supports Educators in Solving Education Technology Shortfalls

April 27, 2020, MILTON, Delaware – According to a new survey conducted by Digital Wish, 19% of students nationwide do not have internet connectivity at home and 21% do not own a computing device, impacting their ability to adequately participate in remote learning while schools are closed due to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing the dramatic educational equity gap between the “haves” and “have nots,” and a mosaic of stories have emerged from the front lines. Since COVID-19 struck, nearly all schools have closed down nationwide. Based on the survey results, an  estimated 11 million students lack Internet access, leaving them isolated and left behind from any effective distance learning. 

The survey data reveals a large disparity in the needs of school districts based on wealth and geography.  Rural and Urban schools are showing higher rates of disconnected students than suburban. Districts with higher participation in free or reduced lunch programs who often have higher minority representation, are more frequently fighting for devices and connectivity. One school administrator lamented “We have received an overwhelming number of phone calls and emails from parents asking for devices. Ninety percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch. We cannot continue education at home if we don't have devices and Internet for our lowest-income families.” 

Digital Wish has experienced dramatic increases in demand for both computing devices and hotspot donation and subsidized internet programs for schools. According to Executive Director Heather Chirtea, “We’ve seen more demand from educators for internet hotspots in the last 30 days than we’ve seen in the entire previous year”

In tandem, the majority of educators are facing the challenge of adapting to unfamiliar teaching paradigms. One survey respondent explained “Going completely digital is difficult with trying to train teachers on the various pieces of technology and web applications that can be used. Students are having a tough time trying to interact with PDF's that we are providing them with for work.”

The CARES Act included $13.5 billion for K-12 education, with distance learning one of many eligible uses. Heather Chirtea said: “Digital Wish believes that the CARES Act will probably not be enough to fully address the gaps in connectivity and computers identified by our survey. This nation needs dedicated educational technology funding that will equip those millions of displaced students with hotspots, connectivity, and computing devices so that they can continue their education.”  


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Full survey results are available here.

Please contact Digital Wish if you need interviews or quotes with attribution.  We have educators who are willing to be interviewed. 

Contact: Heather Chirtea, Executive Director, Digital Wish, 802-379-3000, heather@digitalwish.org

About Digital Wish

Digital Wish is a 501c-3 nonprofit on a mission to solve technology shortfalls in education. Every child deserves a technology-rich education to provide them with the skills necessary to thrive in the global economy. Digital Wish partners with technology providers to distribute free or reduced-cost educational technology such as refurbished laptops, tablets and internet “hotspots” to schools and teachers. Digital Wish manages a community of 64k educators in the US, assisting them with their technology needs through lesson plans, fundraiser campaigns for their “technology wishes” and access to affordable educational technology used in the classroom. Since its inception in 2006, Digital Wish has granted over 31,000 technology wishes to educators worth over $17 Million, and administered grants together with Verizon, Dell, Motorola, Henderson Foundation, and Microsoft. For more information, please visit www.digitalwish.org.

Methodology

Digital Wish conducted an online survey from April 1 to 19, 2020 asking U.S. school administrators and technology educators on the front lines to report their data on student connectivity and to share their stories. All data is voluntarily self-reported by educational leaders who are contending with disruptive COVID-19 changes. In partnership with the analyst team at Information SuperHighway, we confirmed the validity of the data as follows: 

  • We confirmed the sample is representative

  • We cleaned the sample dataset

  • We confirmed the reasonableness for metrics collected.

For more information, see the “Survey Methodology” section in the article on our website.

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