At the beginning of July, we blogged about Qualcomm Education team’s participation at the 2015 Emerging Technologies Forum & Annual Business Meeting hosted by SETDA. We left the event feeling optimistic about overcoming the “homework gap”—the learning gap that occurs between students that have access to broadband Internet connectivity outside of school and those that have inconsistent access only or no access at all.
Yes, Qualcomm may be known better for its mobile processors and wireless technology leadership, but thanks to nearly a decade of supporting mobile learning projects and solving the associated challenges through Qualcomm Wireless Reach projects, the Qualcomm Education team understands the homework gap that exists today in K-12 classrooms across the U.S. As schools and districts have become increasingly dependent upon the use of digital tools and resources, administrators’ concerns over digital equity has intensified.
We chose a school in the San Marcos Unified School District because of the district’s national reputation for innovation in digital learning, as well as its close proximity to our corporate headquarters so we could meet with the teachers and IT staff frequently. The 6th grade team at Alvin Dunn was chosen as the implementation cohort due to the teachers’ familiarity and interest in both blended and mobile learning models for improving classroom instruction, as well as a desire to address the issue that a majority of their students had limited connectivity off campus.
I had to get my grades up… now I can finish my homework and start the work we were going to do the next day so I can get ahead.
— 6th Grade Student, Alvin Dunn Elementary School, San Marcos, California
At Alvin Dunn, the homework gap is real—59% of the 6th graders reported in December 2014 that they did not have access to high-speed broadband connectivity at home. Additionally, 38% of the students stated that prior to receiving the LTE-enabled tablet, they often had trouble completing their homework assignments due to the challenges of accessing the Internet outside of school.
The project started with 77 sixth-grade students each receiving an LTE-enabled Samsung tablet with AT&T mobile broadband service they could use to do homework, research academic topics, and communicate with their teacher and peers 24/7, within or outside classroom walls.
Not surprising to us, the project found that greater access to broadband connectivity resulted in a number of positive outcomes including, but not limited to, students:
- Developing greater self-efficacy and the ability to advocate for their own learning
- Taking more risks within their learning and developing new capacities to do advanced problem solving and troubleshooting
- Providing more peer-to-peer support to each other especially as it applies to writing
- Being more critical consumers of digital content and applying new evaluation and critique skills to their classmates’ writing and research
- Developing different learning behaviors that support academic success
Teachers also felt they benefitted from increased effectiveness and productivity as educators. Said Alvin Dunn 6th grade teacher Nancy Hayashi, “I feel more passionate as an instructor…. they (students) are continuing the learning at home.”
We won’t give away all the details of how this wonderful program rolled out. To see a great piece about it, I encourage you to read Wired Magazine's Schoolkids Don’t Just Need iPads. They Need Data Plans here.
I’ll conclude by confessing that seeing the program in action, listening to the children tell their transformative stories, and seeing that spark of realization in their eyes that learning is a rewarding and positive experience, encourages me to push harder than ever for digital equity and the complete elimination of the homework gap. Don’t forget to read the Wired Magazine story!