One might assume that all independent school families have good Internet access at home. Most independent school populations are more heterogeneous than one may expect. Our PNAIS accreditation visiting team of 2004 recommended that we assess the ability of our upper school laptop program students to access the Internet from home. Here are the results of a recent survey on that topic.
High-speed: 254 (89%)
Neighbor’s wireless: 6
More than one household, not all of which have Internet access: 3
A different computer, not my school laptop: 2
No Internet access: 0
Students With Limited Internet Access
10 students report that limited Internet access makes it harder for them to get work done.
“It is very difficult when I do not have internet connection.”
“It’s really hard to do research.”
“Finishing a paper at night can be difficult when the wi-fi is failing and any nearby coffee shops are closed.”
Students With High-speed Internet Access
We also assessed the effects of fast, reliable Internet access on students’ ability to do schoolwork.
102 students reported that fast, reliable home Internet access has a positive effect on their ability to get work done for school.
“I wouldn’t be able to get work done if I didn’t have high-speed internet.”
“Helps with research, downloading documents from course Moodle sites, and email which is crucial for a CG student.”
“It’s basically a must to have high-speed internet access with Catlin’s curriculum.”
“I think it’s really helpful because I can use online copies of books (like the math textbooks).”
55 students reported that good home Internet access has either no effect or a net neutral effect on their ability to get work done.
“It doesn’t really have any effect on my ability to get work done for school.”
“Instantaneous distraction/knowledge. Evil and Good live side-by-side.”
12 students reported that the negative effects of distractions outweigh the positive effects.
“Negative. Very distracting, thank you Netflix instant play.”
“Sometimes I wish my internet was still dial-up, so I wouldn’t be so distracted by Youtube.”
“It negatively affects my ability because I go on Facebook too much.”
We will get some adults together to determine how best to support students who are having difficulties getting work done at home due to their Internet situation. Some possible actions:
- Raise teacher awareness about which students have home Internet challenges.
- Speak with students and their families about the potential to upgrade their home connections.
- Pay for home Internet for families that meet certain criteria.
An Indirect Measure Of Internet Use For Teaching and Learning
As a school IT professional, it is encouraging to see the fruits of our labor (intranet website, laptop program, teacher training) widely in use across the Upper School program. Many students mentioned Moodle, research, email communication, posted assignments, and online textbooks. At first glance, students may be using laptop computers more frequently at home than in the classroom.
Assessing the Distraction Factor
Only 12 out of 285 students reported that the negative effects of distractions outweigh the positives (Netflix, Facebook, YouTube). 55 students reported that home computer use brought positives and negatives. Most stated that they were able to keep those in balance. These figures should help address teachers and parents who express concern about laptop computers and student distractability.