Access to Technology

With much of our lives, we tend to make assumptions – sometimes to things we think we know, but in reality, don’t.  Maybe because we’re rushed to find answers, we jump to thoughts based on what seem to be logical conclusions.   Or maybe our prejudices obscure the reality.  Either way, the quest for truth demands a more thoughtful approach than reliance on personal observations and feelings.  Sometimes, a simple survey can bring to light ideas and false perceptions we lazily “guess-timated” in the past.

Case in point:  For years, we made an assumption that led us to believe many of our students lacked internet access at home.  We knew some students had internet at home and some did not, but we never really knew the percentages.  The prevailing thought however was – due to the financial and economic stresses our families often face – as many as one out of two boys lacked internet connectivity at home.  And if the families had an internet connection at home, it would often be the first item to do without during tough times.  This foundational belief has in turn played a role in our curriculum.  For instance, why would Verbum Dei ever roll-out a one-to-one initiative for our students if we believed half of the student body – lacking internet access – could ever complete homework assignments at home?    Similarly, how could a teacher “flip” a classroom with the intent of having his-her students watch online lectures if they lacked the basic connectivity to do so?  Looking for ways to get around this dilemma, we needed to know what we were up against.  In terms of access to technology, how bad was Verbum Dei behind the 8-ball?

We sought answers to these questions in a survey completed by our students in September.  Here’s what we found:

  • 91% of our students have internet access at home.
  • 84% of our students have a computer at home.
  • Only 62% of our students have a printer at home.

What do we take from this?  Well, there good news and bad news to share. The good news is that nine out of 10 students have internet at home.  This was surprisingly higher than we had presumed.  However, only 70% of the students who said they have a computer at home told us that their computer was internet enabled.  Also, four out of 10 students could not print out an assignment at home.  Thus, depending on the type of assignment given to any verbum Dei student, we calculated that as many as 29% of the student base could not “complete” a school assignment at home.    Sadly there is still a reliance (for some) on completing school work on personal smartphones.

Although the survey results gave us a healthier and more encouraging outlook on our student’s ability to access technology at home, there is still much work to do.  In the short term, the school has increased computer lab hours this school year to answer the need; we’ve added three hours of lab time after-school to enable students to complete their homework and/or print their assignments.  This simple solution to our access issue has been an over-whelming success.  We will continue to offer after-school computer access next year.   And moving forward, we are committed to finding any potential one-to-one – or even hybrid one-to-one – solutions that can best assist us in achieving our accessibility goals.

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