Ohio Schools & Nonprofits Scramble to Add Remote Learning Options For Students With Limited Connectivity

This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join our free mailing list as this helps us provide more public service reporting. When districts switched to remote learning in the spring, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed a glaring divide: for example two-thirds of students in Cleveland Metropolitan School District didn’t have access to a device, and 40 percent of families didn’t have Internet access at home, according to a survey of parents conducted by CMSD . With Cleveland Metropolitan School District soon returning to school in a remote-only format, the District is currently in a mad dash to prepare students, teachers and families for their first week of school with the COVID-19 pandemic still looming large. The District has its work cut out for it.

What is disconnection? What is digital inequity?

Ohio's digital divide hurts those who can't afford high-speed internet

Computer trainer and former library aide Shenee King has a bird’s eye view when it comes to digital inequity. 

She’s seen students fail assignments because they lack a home computer — and the assignment is in Google classroom. She’s seen middle schoolers fail standardized essay tests because they weren’t taught keyboarding — so they write the test longhand and struggle to type it before their time is up. 

The youngsters are victims of a problem that affects residents throughout Ohio, but the issue is particularly acute in Cleveland.  Digital exclusion consists of a combination of deficiencies: lack of access to affordable networks and hardware; lack of literacy or skills to navigate, consume, and produce content in the digital sphere; and finally lack of access to troubleshooting support when broadband or devices break. The reality of digital exclusion means many, are isolated at a time when the Internet enables daily life. From GPS-enabled cars, to Bluetooth kitchen appliances to virtual medical consultations, digital access determines tasks from the mundane to the crucial. 

The Fairfax Neighborhood where Digital C has aimed their project. (Photo Credit: Eye on Ohio)

“Everything is going digital now, as far as resources for help,” said King, who works with the Cleveland Housing Network.