Districts offer loaner laptops to counter summer learning losses
- More school districts across the country are making the decision to offer laptops to students over summer vacation in an attempt to lessen the impact of "summer slide" learning losses, according to NPR. In addition to games, educators hope students will use the connectivity as a means to continue studies.
- 12.6 million mobile computers were sold for K-12 classrooms in 2016 alone. Though experts like NYU Professor Susan Neuman say that districts must do more than simply offer the device to curb learning losses and inequality for those low-income students that don't have access to a laptop; they must also offer parent education on how to guide their children to use the technology, showing them substantive sites and applications.
- But at the same time, Matthew Boulay, the interim CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, notes that it is also important to ensure that summer learning does not come across as punitive, but as a way for students to enjoy a break from conventional school-year classroom lessons.
Like with literacy, the digital gap between low-income students without Wi-Fi access and those with the service can be targeted through technology. A lack of broadband access can make learning opportunities restrictive for students, even if they do have access to laptops such as Chromebooks, or if they only have mobile online access. In fact, A 10” screen size is considered the minimum for productive learning for most districts. Meanwhile, students may be forced to seek Wi-Fi from different sources; the NPR article, for instance, mentions students who are using free Wi-Fi at a McDonalds on their Chromebooks during the summer. Offering the technology is a more accessible option for students, but administrators should try to better understand the connectivity capabilities and challenges their students may face during the summer break and adjust accordingly.
Further, purchasing and utilizing Chromebooks can save school districts in additional costs later. In an Education Dive interview, Tim Bobrowski, the superintendent for the Owsley County School District in eastern Kentucky, said that purchasing Chromebooks allowed the district to completely eliminate the purchasing of textbooks; now, funds that would be allocated to buying new editions of physical textbooks can be put towards other uses. As school districts try to enhance blended learning opportunities and new tech in the classrooms when faced with diminishing budgets, eliminating such a sizable purchase can be a huge benefit.