When the internet was first developed, it was nothing like it is today. With limited speed and bandwidth, the early internet was used exclusively by a few government agencies and, later, universities. In the 1990s the internet became a premium consumer service not unlike cable television. Internet access and the required devices—at first computers, then later mobile devices—eventually became commonplace. While those with the resources to do so have enjoyed internet access for years, far too many people still lag behind in access to what has become a must-have for communication, entertainment, and—perhaps most importantly—education.
The internet was already being used for education when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and made online learning a necessity. This global emergency also revealed some shortcomings in online education. Not all teachers are trained to deliver classes in the online format. Further, access to internet tools and services, while commonplace, remains far from universal. This is the “digital divide.”
The Digital Divide’s Impact on Education
The statistics that demonstrate the digital divide in education are sobering. Studies from just before the pandemic show that 40% of schools do not have broadband internet access, which is a must for real-time interaction between teachers and students. As the pandemic got underway, 36% of surveyed lower-income parents said their children would be unable to finish their schoolwork due to their lack of computer at home. And based on data from a 2020 survey, it’s estimated that 76% of Black Americans and 62% of Hispanic Americans may lack the digital skills needed to qualify for many jobs by 2045.
Digital literacy stems from having access to internet and related technology and is directly connected to professional potential. Digital literacy, like traditional literacy, begins at home and in school. It is therefore crucial for homes and schools to have access to robust internet service and tools if students are to get the educational and professional opportunities they need to live rewarding lives.
What’s Being Done About the Digital Divide
The movement to provide all Americans access to broadband internet service has recently become a priority at both the national and state levels. In 2021, Democratic Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina introduced the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act (H.R.1783), though it has not yet been approved by Congress. In May of that year, the Federal Communication Commission gave assistance to almost 4 million households through its Emergency Broadband Benefit. Congress also passed a COVID-19 relief package with more than $3 billion allocated for helping low-income families afford internet access and devices in late 2020.
Texas became a pioneer in bridging the digital divide with a project called Operation Connectivity, which delivered more than 4 million internet devices to school districts in 2020. Governors of most states have now begun to address internet access and technology gaps through various initiatives. Still, according to U.S. Census Bureau data shared by the National Governors Association in July 2021, about 9 million households have access to neither a computer nor the internet. That’s more than 20% of the estimated 44 million households in the United States with schoolchildren. Clearly, more needs to be done.
What Else Can Be Done
Efforts to bridge the digital divide in the United States are moving in the right direction. That’s good news, since the internet has become a key learning tool for young people and adults alike and is expected to remain so. Apart from motivated federal and state government leaders, our country needs more leaders at the school level advocating for their students. One of the primary responsibilities of today’s school principals is ensuring that students get all the educational tools they need, including access to internet service and technology. Their job, in part, is to ensure there’s no digital divide to prevent students from living up to their fullest potential as educated individuals.
Our Online Educational Leadership Program Can Help You Help Others
You can lead the charge for generations of students to be raised in a world of digital equality. If you aspire to move up to the role of principal in a K-12 environment and have an accredited bachelor’s degree, we strongly recommend that you apply to The University of Texas Permian Basin’s online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program. You can choose from six start times per year and may be able to complete this ELCC-recognized program in as little as one year! During that time, you’ll prepare to become an education leader through an exploration of key topics including:
- Instructional leadership
- School law
- Public relations
- Human resources management
- Cultural diversity
Offered through our CAEP-accredited College of Education, our MA in educational leadership program aligns with Texas SBEC Principal as Instructional Leader certification competencies. If you live in another state, we encourage you to confirm whether the program meets your state’s eligibility requirements by consulting with your state’s certification agency.
The Benefits of Our Online Program
Our online educational leadership master’s degree program wouldn’t be possible without the internet. And while the curriculum, faculty, and overall quality match what you’d find in an on-campus program, our online program offers some additional advantages that you can’t experience with campus-based learning. This program is presented in an asynchronous online format that gives you the flexibility to complete coursework at your own pace from virtually any location in the world with adequate internet access. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Texas, in Toledo, Ohio, or in Toledo, Spain. This provides a tremendous advantage when you’re trying to juggle your professional and personal responsibilities.
See the impact you can make on generations of students by earning an educational leadership master’s degree!