As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the nation, more and more school districts are continuing remote learning into the fall. Even those that are reopening are also planning for the need to close again if an outbreak occurs. As a result, districts are racing to get technology and internet access to students who do not currently have those resources. Providing computers and hotspots is just step one in closing the digital divide, however. Schools will also need to address disparities in computer literacy, so that students who are unaccustomed to using computers regularly are not left behind.
A recent study from the Alliance for Excellent Education found that nationwide, 16.9 million students do not have home internet or a computer. Students of color, students from families with low incomes, and students in rural locations are far likelier than their peers to lack these essential resources. Even if schools are able to provide computers and internet, these students will be operating at lower levels of computer literacy than students who use computers regularly. Without directly addressing this additional barrier, the opportunity gap between these students and their white and wealthier peers will continue to grow.