Moviegoers reveal their surprised reactions to the digital divide
Amanda Acevedo spends hours sitting in her bedroom using her mother’s phone. No, she’s not scrolling through Instagram or trying out Snapchat filters – the determined sixth grader is doing her homework assignment for school. That’s right. She’s typing a paper with just her thumbs because of her school’s lack of technology and access to Internet.
“When I start writing a lot of paragraphs – when I go like this – you can hear [my thumbs] cracking,” she says, reenacting how she does her homework on the mobile device. “It’s nasty.”
It’s also unfair, according to Jeneena Hubbard, Amanda’s teacher at PS 171. “Something that takes fifteen minutes takes her an hour because now she’s trying to type, she’s trying to edit, trying to make sure she her paragraphs are clear – you know? What kid should have to do that?” she asks.
The Digital Divide
The Rory Kennedy documentary “Without a Net – The Digital Divide in America,” which aired on National Geographic Sept. 26, proposes that same question. The film, which features Amanda and Jeneena, tackles a widely-unknown challenge facing our educational system today: the digital divide.
Unfamiliar with the digital divide? It’s the inequality of access to technology due to economic and social circumstances. Check out these startling statistics featured throughout the film that highlight the current challenges and captures the success of on-going solutions.
- 60% of teachers feel they are inadequately prepared to use technology in the classroom. - Samsung Electronics America
- By 2020, 77% of all jobs in the U.S. will require computer skills - US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- 1:1 laptop programs significantly increase K-12 achievement in writing, mathematics and science. – University of Michigan via Education Week
- Since 2014, Adobe, Apple, Verizon and others have committed over two billion dollars to improving K-12 educational tech. - ConnectED Initiative
- In 2016, districts with Gates-funding had a 95% graduation rate, 7% higher than the state average. - Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative
New York Film Festival
During the 2017 New York Film Festival, moviegoers’ had their reactions captured following the screening of ‘Without a Net – The Digital Divide in America.’ The response? Many didn’t realize the widespread nature of the challenges our educational system faces today.
Sage Ramadge, Director of Social Impact at Grand Central Tech in New York, had a very personal connection to the documentary, noting that while watching the documentary, he could see the children he works with in the film. “We’re the wealthiest, greatest country in the world. We should have access. All of our children should have access to these opportunities. How else will we continue to lead?” he questioned. Moviegoer, Devika Nandall, added that she “didn’t realize [the digital divide] affected so many kids.”
To me, I think the future rests in the hands of young people. We’re the future leaders of the world, we’re the future educators, we’re the future of everything,” Zendaya said. “And right now in the future that we’re living in, everything is done with technology. And so, if you don’t give every child an opportunity, you’re setting them up to fail.
The Red Carpet
While on the red carpet, we caught up with proponents of the film, including actress and singer Zendaya who was chosen by Verizon as a spokesperson because of her close connection to the issues. She's seen the digital divide first-hand with her parents having taught in schools at both ends of the digital divide spectrum.
“To me, I think the future rests in the hands of young people. We’re the future leaders of the world, we’re the future educators, we’re the future of everything,” Zendaya said. “And right now in the future that we’re living in, everything is done with technology. And so, if you don’t give every child an opportunity, you’re setting them up to fail.”
Rory also has a personal connection to this issue. She and her family have a long history of support in the educational field, which is just one of the reasons why Verizon decided to partner with the Academy Award nominee. “It can enable these kids to envision a different kind of world,” she explained the importance of technology and how it impacts the lives of children.
Bridging the educational gap
One way the gap is being bridged is through Verizon’s Innovative Learning Schools program. Over the last five years, the Verizon Foundation has equipped every child and teacher at select middle schools with always-available access to technology through their #weneedmore initiative. Verizon also provides each school with extensive teacher training and support with a unique, exciting, immersive curriculum that engages students to become creators, innovators, entrepreneurs. This opens their eyes to the new possibilities of the digital world.
Rose Kirk, Verizon’s Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, shared the benefits that come along with these efforts.
“With Verizon Innovative Learning, every single day we’re giving free access, free technology and immersive hands-on learning so we benefit as a nation, our communities benefit, our society benefits - economically we benefit. Why wouldn’t we want to do that?” she inquires.
Awareness, education and grassroots efforts are needed to level the educational playing field. As poignantly stated by Diego Scotti, Verizon Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Producer of ‘Without a Net - The Digital Divide in America,’ “Just get involved. Spread the word. That’s what we do in the documentary and that’s what you can do today.”
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