When I take a minute to consider the impact that the internet has had on my school career it pains me to think that many children go without. Minutes of research is turned into hours without easy access to information. Libraries are of course useful but it goes without saying that all the books in every library in a student’s area still will not contain all that is available digitally online. The link between poor performing students and lack of internet accessibility is painfully clear.
What is now being called the ‘digital divide’ in developed nations sees middle class children, almost all of whom have internet access at home, perform better at school than their working class counterparts who will either have limited home access, have to visit an internet cafe or go without the internet for the most part. Aside from making research much, much more tedious, children without internet access miss out on at-home tutorials and coursework guides that could help them catch up on homework and better understand subjects that they are struggling with. Also, in the UK, the education system makes great use of the internet, pointing students towards online resources, allowing online submission for projects even creating study forums and digital work streams that are almost compulsory for learners.
The E-Learning Foundation has highlighted the divide between rich and poor in a study that shows that 99% of middle class students have a computer and internet access at home versus just 57% of the poorer students. The disadvantages of this are apparent in school performance and also have social implications, with unconnected students excluded from social networking and other school news that will be circulating while they remain on the sidelines.
Clearly the benefits of home internet access are too high for parents to continue to believe that their children will have as successful a school career without it. The BBC quoted a learner who had concerns about the effect their lack of resources had on their school work – “It was bell gone and I have a lot things that I could write and I was angry that I haven’t got a computer because I might finish it at home when I’ve got lots of time to do it.” This begs the question whether it is even fair for schools to rely so heavily on IT seeing that this automatically puts less fortunate students at a disadvantage.
Campaigners are working towards implementing social schemes that will force local authorities to install connections for tenants and provide places where students have free access in either libraries or areas attached to government housing.