School Without Internet is No School At All

Sept. 9th, in San Jose, Ca, the 4th Annual "Youth Tech Summit & Expo" came to town. I had a chance to attend one of the seminars called "Connecting Children & Families - Internet Essentials" hosted by New America Media to bridge the digital gap and bring together the digital community together all across the country. It is an attempt to try to get families with no computer and internet, access to these digital tools. The seminar made me think of myself growing up in a household that didn't have a connection to the world wide web.


Growing up, I never really had a stable computer. The computer we had was always using those free internet disks when the last subscription expired and the computer always seemed like it needed to be fixed. I know that was what my family could afford at the time, but it sucked how the schools would have good computers.

Sandy Close of NAM giving opening remarks at the "Connecting Children & Families - Internet Essentials" forum. 

Let me explain.

I was in high school a handful of years ago. Computers were very much a part of what education was supposed to be. As a student, you would think this was a privilege and I could use the computers whenever I needed to. But really I could only use them when my class signed up for the monthly trainings. In fact, I would end up always having to go to the library after school to do research for assignments. But, even being at the library was no good. Like other kids in my community who didn't have computers, we were the people who filled the library for computer use. So there was always a wait, sometimes short and sometimes long. Most days, I would have to out run these kids who would hog the time on the computers to play games online. There were a lot of times I would fail assignments because I couldn't get any time on the computers to research on the internet.

Until this one day in high school, my boy's girlfriend at the time gave him an Apple computer for Christmas. I was always at his house after he got it. It was wild, all the possibilities in my mind opened up. Instead of playing games, I got a chance to really learn the possibilities of a computer. I learned how to use email, I learned what a social network was, and how to customize my own personal website. At that time, I was going through a lot, dealing with issues, with my family splitting up, problems at school with people, failing classes, and tired of looking broke all the time. So this computer was also an escape for me, a way to think and explore the world beyond my block. I was able to do my homework on it, using the internet to research for papers. I passed a couple history tests because of that computer.

Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen (left), Silicon Valley Education Foundation President and CEO Muhammed Chaudhry, and Libier Gonzalez, associate director with Parent Institute for Quality Education.

Then maybe a year after my friend got his computer, my cousin gave me his old computer. But of course, what good is a computer if we didn't have internet at my house? We actually didn't even get internet until my uncle moved in three years after I barely graduated high school.

I'm actually in schools alot now, since I work as a youth organizer, and what I've noticed is there are many students who still don't have internet access, despie it being 2014 in Silicon Valley. You would think since we live in the Silicon Valley, everyone would have access to computers and/or their phones with internet, but it's not like that. There are still schools with broken down computer labs that kids hafta wait in line for. And there are still families that cannot afford smart phones. I've also been to the schools where students have the opportunity to have technology and internet access in the classroom, and see how the students interact and work. They are able to learn at an accelerated rate, and have more opportunity with their research and coming up with results. In this new day and age, I don't see how the students I described first, can even begin to think of competing with the students with the opportunity technology access. Yet, they only live miles apart from each other. 

Silicon Valley Education Foundation President and CEO Muhammed Chaudhry explains the necessity of technology and how that correlates with the future of education. 

The generation right now needs to have a stable access to the computer and internet technology, since there are much you can learn on the internet. Since, we are in the age of free information, and a lot of youngsters are thinking of multiple subjects at once, I feel they need the internet.

This generation of young folks are getting a really good opportunity with this program that Comcast has created, since more and more teachers are leaning more towards technology to be used as a teaching tool.

I can only imagine if I had a stable computer growing up with internet access, I would have passed more classes and I would of gotten a chance to see what was out in the world that was out of my reach with just clicks on a keyboard.

About Daniel Zapien

Daniel Zapien is a San Jose native photojournalist who has worked for DeBug for over 5 years. He runs the youth editorials teaching how to tell your story through writing and documentary stroytelling through video and photography.

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