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Another Voice: Closing the digital divide will help students

By Elisabeth Stock

With more than 50 percent of public school students living in poverty, Buffalo has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Given that income level is a predictor for both academic achievement and access to critical educational resources such as broadband, the poverty rate should be a rallying cry for change in this city.

In Buffalo, and across the nation, we have come very far in providing internet access to schools, but we have not done enough to ensure broadband access in every student’s home. Students who do not have broadband at home suffer academically because when they leave school, they cannot access digital learning resources that are crucial to their success.

PowerMyLearning is working to change this reality in Buffalo. Last week we teamed up with Spectrum to spread the word to low-income families about a new low-cost, high-speed broadband solution, Spectrum Internet Assist.

PowerMyLearning brings expertise in family engagement and prior success in increasing broadband access. When we first started working with middle school families in New York City as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program in 2009, about 50 percent of families in our partner schools had broadband access. By the end of the program, more than 90 percent of families had access.

With the collective commitment of community leaders, nonprofits and industry partners, the same results are possible in Buffalo.

PowerMyLearning recognizes that broadband alone will not improve academic achievement in under-resourced communities.

Once equipped with tools like broadband, educators and families need training so that they can best leverage digital education tools to support student learning.
Through our partnership with Spectrum, PowerMyLearning is working with schools and after-school programs right here in Buffalo to encourage the use of broadband for education through our digital learning platform, PowerMyLearning Connect. Currently in use by more than 40 percent of all public schools across the country, the platform supports learning relationships between students, teachers and families.

PowerMyLearning Connect is a powerful tool to engage families in their children’s learning. Parents can link their accounts to their children’s and set up goals and incentives to encourage learning at home. The platform’s interactive games, simulations, and videos also provide a window into what their child is learning at school. Indeed, more than 95 percent of parents in our partner schools report they are more confident in their ability to help their child learn, which research demonstrates increases student academic achievement.

Through greater access to broadband and using a relationship-centered approach to leverage technology for learning, every student in Buffalo can thrive and ultimately compete for jobs in the digital economy.

Elisabeth Stock is the CEO and co-founder of PowerMyLearning.

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