Lesson Plan: Choice Board - How Can the U.S. Close the Digital Divide?

The Digital Divide in Education

Allen Pratt, director of the National Rural Education Association, talked the impact on rural students of online learning in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Prior to the pandemic, communities throughout the U.S. experienced inequity with broadband connectivity for a variety of reasons. The disruptions that occurred as a result of COVID-19 highlighted those challenges people across the country faced as they sought ways to connect to learn, work and engage with healthcare providers. In this lesson students will view videos to discover how the public and private sectors are approaching solutions to closing the digital divide, and the federal government’s role related to this issue.


  • SET-UP:

    This lesson offers several options for you to use with your students whether you are teaching in class, using a hybrid model, or engaging through distance learning. It can be completed in steps as a class or students can move at their own pace and complete the activities independently.

    You can post links to the videos in the lesson along with the related handouts and engage in discussion to share responses on a discussion board or learning management system.

    You can also save and share the following Google resources for students to use with this lesson.

    Vocabulary Chart: How Can the U.S. Close the Digital Divide? (Google Doc)

    Handout: How Can the U.S. Close the Digital Divide? (Google Doc)

    Choice Board: How Can the U.S. Close the Digital Divide? (Google Slides)

    In Google, choose "File" then "Make a Copy" to get your own copy. You can make any needed adjustments in the instructions such as which activities students need to complete, when it is due, etc. and then make it available to them via Google.

  • WARM-UP:

    As a class, have students share their experience with broadband connectivity. Some ideas to consider:

    • What technology devices do you have in your home?
    • Describe your speed and reliability.
    • How have you been impacted by distance learning during the pandemic?
    • How do you think the issue of broadband connectivity should be addressed in the country?

    Have students view the video clips below or choose one from the collection to watch. Then, engage in class discussion using the related questions to establish background before students move on to the exploration.

    VIDEO CLIP 1: The Digital Divide in Education (1:46)

    Allen Pratt, director of the National Rural Education Association, talked the impact on rural students of online learning in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    • Where does Allen Pratt see the deficits for online availability for education?

    • Approximately how many students across the nation are impacted by the connectivity issue?

    • For which policies is he advocating?
  • VIDEO CLIP 2: NEA President Becky Pringle on the Digital Divide (1:50)

    National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle talked about the "homework gap" and the digital divide among students across the country.

    • Explain the “homework gap” that Becky Pringle describes.
  • VIDEO CLIP 3: Broadband Internet Access and Education (1:57)

    Margaret Spellings, former Education Secretary, talked about the lack of reliable broadband internet access around the country that was exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    • Explain the deficits in education that Margaret Spellings discusses.

    Have students view the following video clips. They can choose one to watch independently, or with a partner or group, and prepare responses to the questions.

    VIDEO CLIP 4: Keep Americans Connected Pledge (4:06)

    Outgoing Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai talked about broadband connectivity during the pandemic. He discussed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge which supported broadband and telephone service for Americans during the pandemic and how service providers and trade associations signed on to offer support.

    • What were some of the elements of the Keep Americans Connected Pledge that offered support to consumers?

    • According to Chairman Pai, why would it have been a mistake to nationalize broadband networks instead of taking the approach the FCC did?

    • How did the U.S. benefit from the public-private partnership approach as opposed to Europe who has utility style regulations?

    • Explain the challenges the FCC faces regarding the expansion of broadband as Chairman Pai describes.
  • VIDEO CLIP 5: The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (2:50)

    Outgoing Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai talked about broadband connectivity and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

    • Explain the purpose of this program as Chairman Pai discusses.

    • How are companies expanding or improving their connectivity services with the incentives that Chairman Pai explains?

    • How many Americans do not have access to high-speed broadband?
  • VIDEO CLIP 6: Broadband is the "Electricity of Our Age"

    Microsoft President Brad Smith explains why he believes broadband is the "electricity of our age" and discusses solutions to deliver connectivity to rural areas. (2:55)

    • Why does Brad Smith contend that broadband is the electricity of our age?

    • Describe the technology Microsoft developed with partners to deliver connectivity to rural areas.
  • VIDEO CLIP 7: Bridging the Digital Divide with Improved Broadband Maps

    Rep. Ben Luhan (D-NM) talked about the digital divide among communities in New Mexico. He and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel address the issue of developing effective broadband maps at the local level. (2:12)

    • Why do Rep. Luhan and Commissioner Rosenworcel believe that the best broadband maps will be built by people across the country, not in Washington, DC?
  • VIDEO CLIP 8: Broadband Adoption and Affordability

    FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (D) discussed broadband access in rural and urban areas in the U.S. and the issue of affordability for these services. (1:55)

    • According to Commissioner Starks, what action can be taken to deliver broadband to Americans?

    • What incentive does this offer to providers?

    In small groups, have students who viewed different videos share the information they learned.

    Then have students respond to the following question in whole class discussion and/or on an exit slip:

    • How can the U.S. close the digital divide?

    Students can choose a topic to research on broadband connectivity. They can use one of the following links or do an internet search to get an update on one of the topics covered in this lesson. They can report back on the issue, or share what action they would take in response to their findings.

    Rural Broadband Access & Connectivity - Microsoft CSR

    NEA Report: The Digital Divide and Homework Gap in Your State

    Keep Americans Connected | Federal Communications Commission

    Rural Digital Opportunity Fund | Federal Communications Commission

    Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers | Federal Communications Commission

    E-Rate: Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries | Federal Communications Commission

    Universal Service Fund | Federal Communications Commission


  • 5 G
  • Access
  • Advocate
  • Anchor Institution
  • Consensus
  • Constituent
  • Consumer
  • Deficit
  • Disparity
  • E-rate Funding
  • Equity
  • Grant
  • Incentive
  • Infrastructure
  • Ingenuity
  • Legislation
  • Migrate
  • Partisan
  • Policy
  • Public-private Partnership
  • Regulation
  • Rural
  • Subsidy
  • Universal Service Fund
  • Urban


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