Black teens are especially burdened by the homework gap: One in four of them at least sometimes struggle to complete assignments because of a lack of technology at home.
And close to half earnings on assignments on the Internet teenagers in the bottom income bracket have to do their homework on a cellphone occasionally or often. Read: The futile resistance against classroom tech From a history-class assignment on the political debate over immigration to required participation in an online discussion board for AP Environmental Science, access to a functioning computer and high-speed internet is all but a prerequisite for success in high school.
This is becoming especially true as schools gravitate toward software where students file assignments and papers virtually, as well as schools that equip each student with a laptop or tablet ; one survey found that half of U. Close to two in three teachers use technology in their classroom daily, according to a separate survey.
The homework gap can have major consequences, with some studies suggesting that teens who lack access to a computer at home are less likely to graduate from high school than their more technologically equipped peers.
Although the big telecom providers offer subsidies to low-income families, these programs are generally underused. And while disadvantaged students can resort to public libraries and other venues that offer free Wi-Fi, such alternatives are still major obstacles to finishing homework every night.
Craig Watkins spent a year and a half observing and interacting with high schoolers to better understand the digital divide. They also tended to rely on other needy classmates to find work-arounds, sharing with one another smartphones and tablets that more affluent students often take for granted, for instance.