COVID-19 has changed the way students across the U.S. are learning. “Distance learning” suddenly became a household word and nearly everyone is learning how to conduct meetings over video chat.
HP Inc. (No. 43 on DiversityInc’s 2020 Top 50 Companies for Diversity) stepped up to help Title 1 and underserved school districts across the U.S. during COVID-19. Title 1 schools receive federal funding because they have large concentrations of low-income students.
HP started HP Turn to Learn, a brand-new program that delivers physical learning materials to both teachers and students who may have difficulty accessing the internet while learning at home. HP also partnered with TIME for Kids in order to remove the paywall on their website and get TIME physical learning materials to students.
The program gives kindergarten through third grade learners in certain school districts access to TIME for Kids, Britannica and NASA for the rest of the school year. The program will expand to K-12 soon, according to a press release.
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“Packets will be printed on-demand through the HP Piazza Platform and delivered to support blended learning at Title I school districts and underserved students across the U.S. We decided to focus on Title I school districts because we understand underserved communities are more vulnerable in this pandemic than others,” Michele Malejki, global head of sustainability and social impact programs at HP Inc told DiversityInc. “More importantly, the digital divide will exacerbate existing inequalities today, which motivates us to dedicate efforts and resources to those that are the most underserved.”
HP Turn to Learn is not the only program the company has set up during COVID-19.
In a partnership with Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Ed) and Comp-U-Dopt, HP identified children in Chicago, Dallas and Houston that need technological devices to complete their homework. The partnership then donated 7,600 new monitors to them, as well as supplies such as printers, displays, paper, ink and toners to the public schools in Oakland, California.
These supplies and materials are critical to millions of students. According to 2017 data from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), 3.1 million households (14.1%) with school-aged children have no wired broadband connection at home. Some of these families might have a wireless subscription but much of the time these data plans aren’t sufficient for extended online learning.
On top of slow internet or no internet at all, nonwhite households struggle even more with affording fast enough internet for distance learning.
Black and Latino or Hispanic households are less likely to have a broadband connection than white households by 6.8% and 3.4%, respectively. When Black and Latino or Hispanic households do have in-home broadband access, they’re more likely than white households to rely only on mobile connections, according to the Pew Research Center.
“Technology, in general, can be a great equalizer to help everyone, everywhere access quality education. When students in low-income communities have devices and a reliable Internet connection, they can access content that’s available to students from higher income communities,” Malejki said. “At HP, we are committed to enabling better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025, and we can’t let this pandemic hold back today’s youth. We can’t boil the ocean, but together we should come to the table with partners to help close the digital divide and provide opportunities for kids that need them the most.”