In Internet Dead Zones, Rural Schools Struggle With Distanced Learning

from KQED

The past seven months have been a big strain on families like Mandi Boren’s.

The Borens are cattle ranchers on a remote slice of land near Idaho’s Owyhee Mountains. They have four kids — ranging from a first grader to a sophomore in high school. When the lockdown first hit, Boren first thought it might be a good thing. Home schooling temporarily could be more efficient, plus there’d be more family time and help with the chores.

“I thought, I’ll be able to get my kids’ schooling done in a few hours and then they’ll be to work with dad, and no problem it will be great,” Boren says, chuckling. “Well, it didn’t turn out so great.”

That’s because all four kids — in addition to Boren, who telecommutes — were suddenly plugged into the family’s satellite Internet, which is spotty on a good day. You can forget trying to use Zoom or Google Classroom.

“I soon found out that our Internet speeds were so slow, we had to spread it out all week long actually,” Boren says. “We were doing schooling on Saturdays and Sundays as well.”

More here.

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2 Comments

  1. This article covered a topic that I was very curious about when some schools had shifted to all online. My grandparents live in a rural area and most of the residents of the area are elderly, but there are still some kids; They don’t have Wi-Fi in their homes, most food delivery services do not go back there, and everything is a semi-far drive away. Another obstacle to that would also be that if you do want Wi-Fi, it is usually through a hot spot and very expensive. The example from Mandi Boren is very important because I think it exemplifies how we all thought about this pandemic at first, more family time, homeschooling, and extra help with the chores. Fortunately, at my own home, I was the only one on my Wi-Fi connection in the house. Mandi Boren explains how difficult it is when they had 5 people trying to use the same internet connection and how it required them to spread the school out over the week which had them even doing schoolwork on the weekends. The rural-urban divide is something that people must keep in mind, but it is to preserve an individual’s health. I think that there should be a federal system in place that gives students either a hot spot or a computer with Wi-Fi to try and help eliminate this problem. Wow, one of the statistics that I think was the most shocking was when Dr. Leslie Molina was talking about a school district that was 80 miles from a Wal-Mark and with all 1105 students receiving free or reduced lunch and that 75% of the students do not have internet at home. It is just unfortunate because online school is so ineffective for their students and staff but with an airborne disease going around it is difficult to meet in a confined place like a school and outdoor school is not plausible. Last semester when the pandemic started, and we were shifted to online it was a surprise so there were a lot of things that were not adaptable. This time around, there was time to plan so I am glad that the idea that I mentioned earlier about a tablet/computer with Wi-Fi built-in is something that is an actual possibility for these students. I hope that they can continue to find ways to help these kids so everyone can have a fair opportunity.

  2. Within the Coronavirus pandemic, we have had to transition into all online everything. The worst thing to have right now is bad internet connection. My internet at home is very slow with me and my 3 other family members all trying to use the internet on a router that is over 10 years old at this point. The online learning environment is already hard enough, with new illnesses such as Zoom Burnout coming to the surface we now know that this is serious. I haven’t been able to learn to my full potential at all. And now schools in dead zones are sending packets home for students to teach themselves, school has become a family wide issue. Mothers and fathers are having to take time off from work to aid to their children and the homework that they haven’t been taught. This is not good, as online is already stressful enough with certain teachers having bad handwriting trying to illustrate how to complete a math problem over Microsoft teams and it just isn’t working for me. If the amount of schoolwork being handed out is bleeding into people’s weekends because they don’t have the latency or wifi connection to complete them in a quick fashion, things need to change. I personally have been worried about some of my grades because I feel as if I am teaching myself some of my classes. (Definitely not BLAW because I have a very informative professor who puts on an entertaining class, unlike many other professors.) But anyways, as the article says relying on hotspots will only be effective for so long because that reception is spotty in itself. In the time we are in right now everyone must have access to wifi and it is clear after reading this article that too many people do not have that vital access and I’m glad to hear that money from the CARES act is going to a great cause here. With the technologically driven world we live in today, the Government should begin a program that brings at least semi-decent wifi to 100% of our nation to ensure that during these trying times, students have the connections they need to facilitate their classwork and further their education.

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