Helping students and parents establish continuous days of learning during COVID-19 is a difficult task for schools and teachers alike. The task gets even harder when census data shows an estimated 17% of U.S. students do not have access to computers at home and 18% do not have home access to broadband Internet. Additionally, not everyone takes the census so there is potentially a significantly higher amount of students who lack access.
Luckily there are ways to help students get free internet and data to stay connected to classroom material as schools figure out how to provide e-classrooms and distance learning to students.
Free Data On Mobile Devices
Until May 14th, you can get 3 free GB data packages from Mint Mobile, whether you're a current or new customer. You can add as many free unlimited high-speed data add-ons. To get the data, download the Mint Mobile app (Android and iOS). Tap "Account" and then "Buy more data." You'll have the option to buy either a 1GB or 3GB data bucket. Pick the latter and you'll be required to pay with either a credit or bank card. Input your information and Mint Mobile will refund you within 24 hours. You can continue adding data as long as you use 95% of your current allotment before adding another 3GB to your account.
Verizon is also adding 15GB of extra data for all mobile customers from March 25th through April 30th. The company will also waive overage charges and late fees for those affected by the pandemic, and waive Internet and voice service for those on its discount Lifeline plan.
Another major company, T-Mobile, took measures to provide Lifeline customers with an extra free 5GB data per month through May 13th along with other services. The company is offering free international calling for ALL current T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers to landline numbers in severely impacted countries as well as unlimited high-speed data for legacy plans without it.
Free Wifi + Broadband Internet
The Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai had introduced a new 60-day broadband and telecom industry measure on March 13th called Keep Americans Connected Pledge.
The pledge requests that companies not terminate service for residential or small business customers, waive any late fees incurred due to the economic effects of the virus, and open access to public Wi-Fi hotspots to "any American who needs them."
Pai stated that nearly every major US broadband and telecom company committed to the pledge, including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon that have already made adjustments in light of COVID-19. AT&T suspended broadband data caps from home internet customers while Verizon waived late fees for customers and small businesses. Comcast raised internet speeds on its Internet Essentials tier.
Beginning on March 16, Charter also offered free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who don't already have a Spectrum broadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.
Enable Offline Access On Google
Students can still use G Suite without internet access when your EdTech team enables offline access from G Suite's admin console for all users. Then users need to download the Google Docs Offline extension for Chrome Browser. This will allow them to use Google Docs, Sheets, Drive and Slides without online access. Students can then download the lectures to watch later at home.
For students to submit assignments, create a "file upload" option in a Google Form. Students will be able to submit all sorts of work such as podcasts, videos, and journals.
Don't have G Suite but still want to access Google files? It's possible, but you'll have to allow offline access one at a time. While you having online access, simply access the individual doc, slide, or sheet. At the top header bar, click "File," the drop-down menu will have an option for allowing offline access. Select that and then you'll be able to view and edit the files when you have weak or no access.
Not every student has easy access to free Internet and data, but there are always ways to get each of your students equal access to stellar education.
What resources are you using during COVID-19?
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