The Super Bowl makes for great television ratings. With a reported 114 million viewers, Super Bowl XLIX is now the most watched live television broadcast ever. The game’s popularity has transferred to companies’ willingness to pay big to get their advertisement seen during the game. These ads, which are often in production all year leading up to the main event, feature anything from comedic cartoons to outrageously dramatic car ads, each aiming to go viral. This year’s ads were no exception, from Budweiser’s puppy adventures to McDonald’s Valentine’s surprise.
Nestled in with these ploys was a great story told by Microsoft. In the short clip entitled “What Can You Do?,” they detail the story of Estella Pyfrom and her brilliant bus. Ms. Pyfrom brings technology access to kids, literally. Her bus is a mobile learning station that gives underserved communities access to the technology that will help them reach their potential.
Ms. Pyfrom joins a new trend of schools and community leaders looking for ways to address to challenge of home connectivity. Seventy-nine percent of surveyed middle and high school teachers report allowing students access homework online, with 76 percent allowing students to submit assignments online. However only 18 percent of teachers reported that the majority students have access to the digital tools they need at home, which leaves those students without access to broadband at a significant disadvantage. Recently, West Shores High School has experimented with placing Wi-Fi modems on buses and leaving them parked near communities that house their low-income students who would otherwise go without.
As schools transition to blended learning and 1:1 device programs the need for improved connectivity is clear. The Federal Communications Commission voted to increase funding for the federal E-rate program, which provides money for school districts to access the Internet by $1.5 billion for a total of $3.9 billion annually. But the money goes to schools, not home Internet access, and roughly half of low-income families nationwide lack Internet service.
Learning does not end with the final school bell; children are constantly learning from the world around them and in today’s digital age the Internet has expanded the opportunity for learning. Students with a computer and broadband at home have graduation rates that are six to eight percent higher than similar students who don’t have home access to the Internet. As we prepare the next generation for the future we must strive to afford them every opportunity to succeed. We here at EveryoneOn salute Ms. Pyfrom in her efforts to get kids connected and Microsoft for putting the real heroes front and center.
If you want to get involved in closing the digital divide visit our campaigns page to read about other heroes and the great work they are doing in their communities. You can also donate directly to EveryoneOn and help us achieve Internet access for all.
Amber Petty is the programs associate at EveryoneOn. Follow her on Twitter at @amberdpetty.