WORCESTER – A recent survey of Worcester public school students found more than a quarter of respondents had no technology in their home to do homework on.
The survey, which the School Department conducted earlier this month and drew responses from 10,703 students in second through 12th grade, also found more than half of students did their homework on a cell phone.
Sarah Kyriazis, Worcester’s Manager of Instructional Technology and Digital Learning, said the district will analyze those and other findings from the online survey as well as the results of a recent paper survey the School Department is still sorting through.
“I’m really glad we did it,” she said. “Once we get all the data, we’re really going to take a look at the results and see what we can do about them in the schools.”
But given some of the data released so far shows a large portion of students have limited or no access to technology in their homes, “I really see this as a community issue, not just a school issue,” Kyriazis said.
The surveys coincide, however, with the district’s recent increased investment in classroom devices. Thanks to additional state funding this summer, for instance, the School Department plans to acquire 5,000 new Chromebooks, according to a report to the School Committee; as a result, the district would achieve a ratio of one device for every student in the seventh and eighth grades, and a ratio of one device for every two students in the other grades.
The School Department’s recent online survey shows many students are sharing devices at home, too: of the 74 percent of respondents that had some kind of technology to do homework on, half of those students were sharing that device with more than one person.
Fifty-four percent of students reported doing their homework on their cell phone – a rate Kyriazis said was “not surprising,” given the ubiquitous of the technology in many kids’ lives and comparative lack of laptops and desktop computers in their homes.
The survey results showing 26 percent of responding students had no technology at home to do homework on, meanwhile, was a little more startling, she said.
“I thought it was going to be 18 to 20 percent,” Kyriazis said. “I didn’t think it would be so high.”
The data doesn’t mean those students don’t get any access to Internet outside of school hours, however. Many students may be staying after school to use their school’s WiFi, or going to the library or a local business.
Kyriazis said schools also haven’t completely moved on from paper homework yet, although the gradual migration of schoolwork to online has meant many students prefer to do their homework on a home device.
She hopes the new survey results will prompt a citywide exploration of what can be done to help students without consistent access to technology. There is concern, for instance, those students will be disadvantaged by a “digital skills divide” that is emerging as more curriculum – as well as testing – goes online.
Kyriazis is hopeful, however, that Worcester “can help close that gap” through a collaboration between the schools, the city and local partners.
Scott O’Connell can be reached at Scott.O’Connell@telegram.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottOConnellTG