The most recent survey of students in our school district indicated that nearly 90% of them had computers in their homes and the vast majority of those had connections to the Internet. Unfortunately, I don’t think that information tells the whole story. If we’re really concerned about the digital divide and providing an equitable education for all students then we need to be asking about the speed of their Internet connections.
I moved into a new house about a year and a half ago and had to go without my high-speed Internet connection for several weeks. It was painful to say the least. Are students using dial-up really on equal technological footing with students who access the Internet at speeds that support a full multimedia experience? I don’t think so. The latest figures I can find show that about 50% of Americans with Internet access use high-speed connections. That leaves millions of students who have either no connection at all or one that allows only basic Internet use. Maybe WiMAX will be the answer. At the very least, let’s change the questions on those student surveys so we get good information about what our students can and can’t do with technology at home.