An overwhelming response from schools to our Laptops4Learning initiative led to a small army of ABCN partner companies joining forces to battle the digital divide.
As soon as it became clear that students would be learning from home during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ABCN started asking our partner schools if their students needed laptops. One teacher we spoke to promptly burst into tears. She said the school was desperate to help their students, many of whom were trying to do their schoolwork on a mobile phone shared with other family members.
This stressful situation was familiar to many of the 200+ schools in low socio-economic communities we work with. An estimated one in 10 low-income families do not own a laptop and only have mobile phones at home. A laptop allows for much deeper student engagement because it encourages students to pursue ‘connected learning’ based on their interests and their links to peers.
ABCN created the Laptops4Learning emergency response initiative to help fight this digital divide. A coalition of 14 ABCN partner companies moved swiftly to get 1,320 laptops into the hands of students who needed one. Accenture, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Ecstra Foundation, Experian Australia, EY, Fuji Xerox Australia, J.P. Morgan, KPMG, Microsoft Australia, MinterEllison, nbn, TAL, UBS and Visionstream contributed to the initiative – either through a direct donation of unused devices or funding the repurposing of old devices through the social enterprise WorkVentures.
A total of 34 schools nationwide were involved in distributing the donated laptops to their students. One principal, Catherine Mcmahon of Collingwood English Language School, said the laptops delivered to her school went to 50 recently arrived refugees in Years 11 and 12 who have no computer at home. She said these students (some of whom are pictured above) often have little digital literacy and the laptops will be an invaluable tool to help them bridge the digital divide, transition into mainstream Australian life and build their futures.
Getting laptops into the hands of hundreds of other such young people will help make Australia significantly more digitally savvy in the ‘new normal’ beyond the COVID-19 crisis. It is a gift that will keep on giving long after students return to face-to-face learning at school.