MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

August 4, 2013

Educators consider options for homes without Internet

Too many unknowns for any decisions to be made yet

One of the questions that arises at each school meeting about digital conversion is: “How will the digital curriculum work for those students who don’t have Internet access at home?”

Judy Goldstein, vice president of operations management for Pearson Education Inc., offered several ideas for the district to consider.

Those include Pearson providing offline content to enable students to do homework or trying to negotiate a reduced Internet rate with local providers for families and trying to get local businesses to install Wi-Fi, she said.

Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina has just completed its fifth year of using digital curriculum through Pearson.

Its chief technology officer recently told Scholastic Administrator Magazine that about one-third of Mooresville’s students did not have Internet access at home when the district began its digital conversion in 2008.

A local cable company offered a discounted package to help many of those families get online, but about 15 percent of students still had no Internet access.

Mooresville also worked with city officials to provide free Wi-Fi at parks, the library and in all municipal buildings.

Muskogee has a similar problem with students and Internet access.

Although an exact number of students without Internet access at home is unknown, officials do know that 80 percent of the district’s students are on free or reduced-price  lunches, and that could mean many students don’t have computer access for homework.

Local educational advocates are interested in helping with expanded Wi-Fi access — but how, when, where and cost are the mitigating factors, and a decision has not been made.

Gwen Coburn, the chairwoman of Action in Muskogee’s Educational Excellence Committee, said there has been discussion about citywide Wi-Fi access.

However, the costs are unknown, and it may not be possible, she said.

“We’re just now pulling a subcommittee together to take a look at it and find out what kind of cost we’re looking at,” she said.

A Pearson executive, Mark Jamison, said one of the more successful ways to address the issue is to partner with or encourage local businesses, sandwich shops, ice cream parlors, stores, etc. to make Wi-Fi access available.

“They’ll find a way to use it,” Jamison said of students. “They’ll get themselves to the local Subway or wherever there is Wi-Fi access.”

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.

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