Families & the Community

National Parental Involvement Day Focuses On Improving Internet Access

By Karla Scoon Reid — November 19, 2013 2 min read
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National Parental Involvement Day, on Nov. 21, will highlight a new partnership that aims to provide low-income families with free or discounted Internet access, computers, and training to enable parents to communicate more effectively with their children’s teachers and schools.

Project Appleseed, the St. Louis-based nonprofit and founder of National Parental Involvement Day, has joined forces with Connect2Compete, a partnership of IT companies and nonprofits that connect low-income Americans to the Internet. Connect2Compete is a nonprofit organization supported by Comcast, Cox, Freedom Pop, Arrow Electronics and CDI Computer Dealers. It receives financial support from the Knight Foundation, Carlos Slim Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, Citi, and Microsoft. Read more about Connect2Compete here.

Kevin S. Walker, the president of Project Appleseed, found a quote he gave a publication in 1994 where he boldly predicted: “Cyberspace would tie America’s parent constituency together.”

Walker added in an interview last week: “It hasn’t worked that way.”

Instead, he said poor parents have been left out as schools have adopted technology to improve parent engagement efforts, including accessing students’ grades online and communicating with teachers via email. Walker said technology also is an essential tool to recruit and organize parents. Using social media and email to connect parents to a school or to rally around a cause can quickly bolster participation.

And teachers in higher-level courses are using technology more frequently in their lessons and to communicate with their students. According to a February poll of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project:

  • 79 percent of teachers have students access assignments online
  • 85 percent of teachers seek opportunities to incorporate digital tools into their instruction

In recognition of National Parental Involvement Day, Project Appleseed is calling on parents and schools to identify families in need of free or low-cost Internet connections and computers and assist them in registering for the national program. Connect2Compete hopes to reach 100 million Americans who do not have home broadband Internet access. About 70 percent of American adults have high-speed broadband access at home, according to a May poll conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Unlike the federal government’s problem-plagued health-insurance website, finding out if a family qualifies for this program is simple, just click here to start. (I tried it.)

For those doubters out there who can’t fathom that there are people who don’t know how to use a computer or don’t have access to one, simply visit a local school. My boys are in elementary school and I’ve had super tech-savvy teachers who text me during the school day and send photos of my children to me via email. Then, I’ve had others who disavow email entirely and still cut and paste—with glue and tape, not a computer mouse—their homework newsletters. True story.

Still don’t believe me? Watch how nervous and elated this first-time computer user is in this public service announcement from the Ad Council below.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.