In spring 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a shift to hybrid and remote learning for most students, leaders at all levels took action to ensure students had access to the devices and home internet necessary to stay connected and continue learning. Although progress was made during the pandemic to address the digital divide, issues of home internet access have long impacted students and families, particularly students from low-income, rural, Tribal, and other under-resourced communities. As students return to school buildings, we must continue to engage in the collective problem-solving and foster the collaborative partnerships that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to close the digital divide and strengthen the resilience of our learning ecosystem.
This Playbook outlines seven strategies, or “plays,” that state leaders are taking to address issues of home internet and device access for students. The plays, which can be adapted and implemented across different state contexts, include:
- Play 1 – Find or Form a State Broadband Coalition – Get involved in statewide broadband or digital inclusion efforts to leverage resources, capacity, and expertise across multiple state agencies and create a greater collective—and ensure education leaders are included.
- Play 2 – Collect data on broadband availability, affordability, adoption, and quality and use it to drive decision-making – Collect data to drive decision-making, understand the existing barriers to broadband deployment and adoption, identify the most appropriate long-term solutions, target resources, assess progress, and build public support for broadband initiatives.
- Play 3 – Identify needs and recruit partners to fill specific gaps – Build collaborative, cross-sector partnerships to increase capacity to implement solutions, introduce new expertise and skills, build broad project support, and open new avenues for funding or leadership support.
- Play 4 – Assist Districts with a Menu of Options – Equip districts with information on the available broadband solutions and the factors that will impact their effectiveness to support informed local decision-making.
- Play 5 – Leverage Bulk Purchasing to Optimize Use of Funds – Support districts by offering centrally managed procurement vehicles or contracts that leverage bulk purchasing power or longer contract timelines to increase affordability.
- Play 6 – Provide Training and Technical Support for Families to Enhance Basic Digital Literacy Skills and Effectively Support Remote Learning – Provide families training and support on the use of technology and platforms provided by the school.
- Play 7 – Provide Professional Learning and Resources for Educators to Drive Meaningful Classroom Learning – Provide professional learning opportunities that support improvements in instructional design and empower educators to effectively use technology to support student learning.