At the National AfterSchool Association (NAA), the premier membership organization dedicated to the professional development of afterschool practitioners across the U.S., we are equally concerned about the homework gap and digital divide that occurs after the bell rings and most adversely affects low-income students.
Afterschool programs have long been known as a solution to help students and families complete homework with mentors and support, and now with access to technology, new research indicates afterschool programs can play a major role in addressing inequities.
Our research, developed by Policy Studies Associates in Washington, D.C. and released in November 2017, took a close look at the experiences of the 10 million elementary, middle and high school students who participate in afterschool programs. The report found that afterschool programs are uniquely positioned to support technology use to address the 'homework gap' and encourage meaningful and creative uses of technology rather than simple consumption.
Through research we know that afterschool educators will need support developing the capacity to serve as facilitators in a digital environment. With the right professional development, afterschool professionals can help the neediest students actively navigate the technology to create deep learning experiences and develop digital citizenship and responsibility in a safe, facilitated setting.
In May, NAA released a free, online Afterschool Tech Toolkit to guide the effective integration of technology in afterschool learning programs. The Toolkit was developed as part of a $500,000 grant from Google to maximize technology-based learning in afterschool, with an emphasis on ensuring all students - especially those in underserved communities - have equitable access to high-quality digital learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
Google has long supported efforts to close education gaps in schools around the world, providing over $160 million over the last five years alone. Their support for NAA will help both students and educators access necessary tools to maximize technology-based learning after school.
As the demands placed on the education system go beyond what teachers and schools can do alone, afterschool programs have become even more critical. The National AfterSchool Association will be here with tools, training and networks to help professionals provide equitable access to high-quality digital learning.