Ten months after the first national lockdown, with schools across England once again closed due to the pandemic, it is clear that many students still do not have access to a computer, laptop or data. Here are some of the initiatives that have been launched, or re-launched, to tackle this as a matter of urgency.
The lack of access to digital technology for all pupils is demonstrating existing inequalities in households. Now that the government has agreed that children in England without access to sufficient technology at home may now attend school, school numbers have gone up in many places, and these children and their families face the further disadvantage of being exposed to coronavirus in a way in which more affluent families are not.
One point to make early on: please do not turn up to a school to drop off donated technology. Apart from COVID-19 safety issues, they will not be set up to accept, handle, store, refurbish and distribute technology equipment. You should use some of the services featured here.
BBC launches laptop donation campaign for home learning
Local BBC radio stations are asking for laptop donations for students who need them for online learning, the BBC announced last week.
With all schools closed across England, teaching has gone fully online. However, not all students have access to a computer or laptop. The BBC’s campaign aims to reach these children by asking the general public to donate their unwanted laptops, computers, mobile phones or tablets.
The BBC says it is working with charities to collect, wipe and share the laptops with children who need them. One of these is Business To Schools who are working with schools to connect them with donated equipment.
The BBC said on its website: “Last summer local BBC radio stations helped members of the public donate thousands of old laptops and tablets for schoolchildren to use across England. For those pupils, who were sharing phones at home while learning in lockdown, it made a huge difference. With schools now closed again we’re once more asking you to help those pupils still in need.”
If you are a technology or data company with schemes that can help with access to the internet, or a charity not listed who would like to share details with the BBC’s Make a Difference Give a Laptop campaign, contact your local BBC radio station or email email@example.com.
Find out more about donating a device on the BBC website.
Greenham Trust launches Laptops for Lockdown Learning fund
Greenham Trust has launched a ‘Laptops for Lockdown Learning’ appeal to raise funds so it can ensure every child in its area of operation who needs one, has one.
Hosted on The Good Exchange, Greenham Trust will match up to £250,000 of donations made to the appeal. Every £1 donated will be matched, with the capability to raise £500,000 to help schools buy laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children to learn from.
The campaign initially serves local children in the Greenham Trust’s area of operation, which is the West Berkshire and North Hampshire region. However, if The Good Exchange also attracts other funders, corporates and the wider community onto the platform, similar programmes could be created in other areas of the UK.
Tech for UK
BREAKING: @TechForUK launches 'Lockdown Laptops Map' listing almost 1,000 schools that need laptops for kids to learn remotely, Tech providers who will convert donations, + a guide on how to donatehttps://t.co/yQOES3txlb
— Tech For UK (@TechForUK) January 14, 2021
Tech for UK has published a ‘Lockdown Laptops Map’ to feature nearly 1,000 schools that still need laptops to provide to children to learn remotely. It also features technology providers who will convert donated items, and a guide on how to donate.
Reboot is “an interactive platform providing practical steps which enables schools, charities and community groups to set up your own device distribution programme”. Their free guide explains how you can collect, restore and rehome devices, to give them and their new owners a brighter future.
The site was set-up rapidly this month by Third Sector Lab.
There are an estimated 11 million unused devices which could be repurposed for use in #schools, charity groups and local services. Discover more about how Reboot is helping to reconnect devices and people in a cost-effective way: https://t.co/ui0E6LOrbl #Reboot pic.twitter.com/iMYH3WvlS1
— Nominet (@Nominet) January 13, 2021
Schools fundraising for digital equipment
Some schools and their PTA have set up fundraising campaigns specifically to fund technology donations for all their pupils.
We've launched a GoFund me campaign to tackle the #digitaldivide, alleviate #digitalpoverty and provide ALL students with #onlinelearning during #schoolclosures. If you can help with any small amount, it will be gratefully received. You can donate here:https://t.co/Z205XijOyo
— Cotham School (@CothamSchool) January 8, 2021
Some, like Cotham School, have experienced not only financial donations but donations of new equipment:
One of our most touching donations today from a member of the public who anonymously dropped off a brand-new laptop with this powerful message for one lucky recipient. It did bring a tear to the eye of some of our staff!#digitalpoverty #onlinelearning #digitaldivide #inspiring pic.twitter.com/juVPmw0CKO
— Cotham School (@CothamSchool) January 8, 2021
Fundraising via Amazon wish list
Other schools are fundraising for tech equipment via an Amazon wishlist. In this way they can specify the items they require and in what volume so that donors know what or how much to donate:
I may have failed in my quest to get laptops for our children but I’m now launching an idea to post a new book through the door of every child in our school (all 300 of them). Lockdown Book Post! I’ve created a book wishlist here https://t.co/PSiIvntymC please retweet 😊
— Mr G 🙋♂️ (@deputygrocott) January 9, 2021
Other giving platforms are also running appeals to fund tech for pupils at home:
Is there anything your students need to work from home?
The closure of schools means millions of students won't be able to learn as they don't have access to technology.
Find out more / raise money for devices here: https://t.co/dide2zpACp#DigitalDivide #Schools pic.twitter.com/MODGLmOQlV
— Rocketfund (@RocketFundUK) January 5, 2021
Reduced or free data costs
Studying from home also requires an adequate mobile data or a broadband connection and many families struggle to afford these, in addition to the laptops/tablets required. This was highlighted by MPs in June 2020 according to The Guardian’s Give 1m UK children reliable broadband or risk harming their education, MPs say.
BT is one provider that is helping:
A child’s potential to learn should have no limits, so we're giving families in England who need it most unlimited mobile data with our ‘Lockdown Learning’ support scheme.
We’re also giving away wi-fi vouchers for BT hotspots across the UK and zero-rating educational websites. pic.twitter.com/L711P4Z6Ez
— BT (@bt_uk) January 8, 2021
Established sources of donated tech
Of course there are plenty of charities and organisations that have accepted donated tech products for years in order to refurbish them and distribute them to other charities or individuals. In general it is far better to use a specialist service like these rather than dropping off donated used technology products to schools which are not qualified to store, process and handle them.
— Climate Action Ilkley (@ClimateIlkley) January 11, 2021
Nice opportunity to support @TechTakeback in computer refurbishment and getting much needed laptops and devices to families #circulartech #education #reducereuserecycle #repair https://t.co/tBBEfhKNp4
— Erica Purvis (@TechnicalNature) January 14, 2021
Other sources include:
- Charity Digital Exchange – part of the TechSoup global initiative, they offer software and some hardware to charities, and have helped 32,000 charities in this way since 2001.
- In Kind Direct – accepts donated goods from companies and delivers them to charities that need them. It covers all kinds of products, and sometimes this can include technology products.
Focusing on the right equipment is essential in order to help students and schools now. For example, adding printers to the list of essential technology for home-based students is perhaps a step too far. Printer ink is very expensive and, unless donated in bulk with a printer (and the right kind of ink), is going to limit the utility of the printer in households that couldn’t afford a laptop in the first place.
Lessons that do not require printing is one way approach to avoid adding printers to study-at-home requirement lists.
Schools shouldn't be posting worksheets that require printing.
It's digitally excluding a huge number of families, it involves unnecessary parent intervention, it's bad for the environment and it's 2021.
— Ross McCulloch (@ThirdSectorLab) January 11, 2021
Donating IT to pupils internationally
There are other charities that accept donated technology to donate to disadvantaged pupils outside the UK.
The Edinburgh-based Turing Trust, set up in 2009 in honour of Alan Turing by his family, honours his legacy by providing quality IT resources and training to schools in sub-Saharan Africa. It works in Malawi, Ghana and the UK.
Other government initiatives to support pupils
Are there other resources in the UK for donating laptops and technology for pupils studying from home? If so, add them in the comments below.
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