Teachers on TV? Schools Try Creative Strategy to Narrow Digital Divide
The concept quickly spread to Fox stations in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, all of which partnered with local school districts or teacher unions to get teachers on television. (The initiative ended in Houston and Washington after the spring, but it still airs every weekday in San Francisco and Saturdays in Chicago.)
In Houston, an average of 37,000 people watched the show every time it aired in the spring, and about 2,200 people watched the San Francisco version every day this fall, the television network said. We Still Teach, the Chicago version of the program that began in May, reaches 50,000 households in the region every weekend, according to Nielsen.
“We’re not solving the digital divide, but based on my experience of personal connection getting into a viewer’s kitchen or living room, I thought this could be an immediate way to fill that gap,” Ms. Spaulding Chevalier. “We’ll let you know you haven’t been forgotten.”
The educational gap between families who can afford laptops and strong Wi-Fi signals and those who cannot has been well documented and often affects rural areas and color communities. In 2018, 15 to 16 million students did not have adequate equipment or reliable internet connections at home. This comes from a report by Common Sense Media, a child advocacy and media rating group that receives royalties from Internet service providers who distribute their content.
The gap between owners and non-owners has been exacerbated by school closings. As recently as October, at least thousands of students in the United States were unable to enter remote classrooms because they did not have access to a laptop. According to Nielsen, 96 percent of Americans have a working television.
Ms. Spaulding Chevalier’s sister Tamika Spaulding, who is producing the Chicago version of the program with her friend Katherine O’Brien, said they acted urgently.
“There are many plans to close the digital divide, but there are four-year rollout plans,” said Ms. Spaulding. “So what are you doing today for the student who is not getting any educational content?”