While technology is allowing school districts across the country to make great strides, there is a downside – notably that many schools and districts are unable to afford the often high-cost of the programs, hardware and communication technology needed.
Indiana has spent millions of dollars to bring technology into classrooms using interactive systems, writes Summer Ballentine for the News Sentinel. In some cases, digital devices are being substituted for textbooks.
Unfortunately, all too commonplace is the fact that many schools and students do without the fast, reliable Internet connections needed for the big digital shift, say many school administrators and education advocates. This disparity is drawing yet another line between the richer and poorer schools.
Poorer schools cannot afford a fast broadband connection or the technological equipment needed to run many new educational programs, write Maureen Hayden for the Kokomo Tribune. Growth is now limited to where sufficient, reliable broadband Internet access in the nation's 15,000 public schools can reach.
The Education Superhighway, a California nonprofit, is teaming up with the different state education departments to create the very first overall survey of the nation's public schools' Internet access.
Some of Indiana's educators are reluctant to use digital devices because the school district does not know how it will pay for the growing demand for fast Internet access:
"Our job is to prepare our students for the real world, and that means giving them the 21st century job skills they need," said Johnny Budd, superintendent of Decatur County Community Schools. "For their sake, we need to make this work."
Across the nation, there are many examples of low-income schools that have benefited from online learning. Some examples include an elementary charter school in Los Angeles called KIPP Empower. At KIPP, 90% of students receive a free or reduced-price lunch; however 95% of pupils scored at or above proficiency in reading and math, highest in the district, writes Don Soifer for the Providence Journal.
Washington, Houston, and Oakland's school districts, which are heavily urban and historically low income, have started strong blended learning programs after seeing the results of technology in similar school districts on a smaller scale.
"Blended learning" is a term that means teaching students with a mix of technology and traditional teaching – online, digital and traditional books and chalkboards.
Several other school districts are integrating their own new blending learning programs, with every district having its own methods, reports Soifer.