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Report: Without access to technology, Indiana children fall behind

GREENFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – According to new research from the Indiana Youth Institute, 7.5 percent of children younger than 18 years old do not have a computer at home. Another 12.2 percent have a computer, but no Internet access. Indiana Youth Institute said that lack of access can cause children to fall behind in their education and in future careers.

Research shows if children don’t have access to technology early on, they may not learn the basic skills that have become necessary for college and most careers. This year, Greenfield Central launched a program to address that need, and soon the district will expand it.

Every Greenfield Central High School student now has a take-home laptop, assigned to them at the start of their freshman year. They turn the computer into the school during the summer months, but will get the same computer back the following year.

“The whole idea was trying to continue education throughout the day, it’s 24/7 education. We thought that was important,” said Greenfield Central Superintendent Harold Olin.

The district started the program this year, knowing many of its students didn’t have computers at home.

“Just not having that access to technology can set a child back in learning a little bit compared to their peers who do have access to technology,” said Indiana Youth Institute’s Glenn Augustine.

Teachers can post assignments, videos and extra learning opportunities for students online. Plus, students can work on group projects remotely. Olin said the students are learning more that just the subject at hand.

“It’s preparing students for the world that they will work in. If they go off to college, or if they jump right into the workforce – they will have to be competent using a lot of different technologies,” said Olin.

Indiana Youth Institute says most Hoosier children have access to a smartphone, but it’s not the same as a computer. If parents don’t have a computer at home, IYI said the first thing they should do  is see what options the child’s school district has to offer.

“Maybe it’s enrolling them in an after-school program that gives them access to computers, it can be going to the library,” said Augustine.

Greenfield Central hopes to solve the problem for its students, by giving them access to technology at an even younger age. Next year, 7th and 8th graders will have take-home computers as well. Greenfield Central elementary students have access to computers during school hours, but they just can’t take them home.

“We wanted to level that playing field to make sure all students have more opportunities for learning,” said Olin.

Other schools around Central Indiana have started giving students laptops to use at school. Franklin Community High School students have their own Chromebooks, and even repair the computers themselves. Avon students have laptops as well.