The Detroit school district has begun distributing tablets and WiFi hotspots to students, part of a $23 million philanthropic initiative that was announced this spring.
It’s a potential game-changer in bridging the digital divide in Detroit. Many families lacked internet connectivity and devices that were needed for online instruction after the state ordered school buildings closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Students who couldn’t learn online received paper packets of academic materials.
The new devices, which will be distributed through August to each of the district’s 51,000 students, will be needed for summer school, for students who opt to continue learning at home in the fall, and especially if a surge in coronavirus cases causes another school shutdown.
So far, the district has received positive feedback about the effort.
“Parents are indicating through our survey that they appreciate the system we have created to pick up devices. ” Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said. “We are excited about starting the year with a one-to-one student to device ratio. It will help us reduce class sizes for COVID safety and ensure online learning can happen during the evening and weekends.”
Parents have turned to social media to ask questions about the devices as they await their arrival. We’ve answered many of the most pressing questions below.
When will devices be available?
The district started distributing devices and Wi-Fi hotspots in mid-June, starting with high schools.
“We have started with our high schools so graduating seniors can pick up their devices before leaving for college or entering the workplace and students who need to make up courses can do so,” said Vitti, referring to the credit recovery classes that will be offered in summer school, which will begin mid-July.
Select school sites will distribute the devices throughout July and August.
How can I get a device?
An email will be sent to a student’s school email account with a survey link. The survey will confirm a student’s interest in a device, update student contact information, and ask the student to sign an agreement for the device’s use. The survey must be completed in order to receive a device. Once completed, details on pickup times and locations will be sent. If you do not receive a survey link, contact your school staff.
When picking up a device, the district encourages family members to wear masks even if they are waiting in their cars. School staff is working to limit long wait times and crowds to ensure the device pickup process goes quickly. Each student will receive a 10-inch Magnus III (Windows 10) tablet with a detachable keyboard. Along with the device, each student will receive a starter guide to help with setup. They can also watch a video tutorial here.
What if I can’t access the internet or my child’s email address?
Parents can access their child’s school email through Clever, an online portal that houses the district’s learning tools. This guide can help you navigate it.
If a parent or student is having trouble accessing the student’s email or does not currently have access to a device or internet, contact the district’s service desk at 313-567-0100 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or contact the student’s school.
Is a translated version of the survey available?
On the upper right-hand corner of the survey, there is an option to translate the survey into one of the district’s core languages, including Spanish.
If you need translation support in a language not listed, go to this support page for help.
Who can get a device and Wi-Fi hotspot?
All K-12 students who were enrolled in a district school by February 2020 are eligible. Devices not claimed by current students will be given to new students in the fall, depending on availability.
What can devices and Wi-Fi hotspots be used for?
Devices will be used for learning, but as a family-owned device, they can also be used for any other important life tasks that must be completed online, such as telemedicine or for job searches and applications.
What if my device isn’t working and I need help?
The district is collaborating with human i-T, a national organization that connects low-income communities with technology, internet, and digital resources. They will be available to answer technical support questions related to the device and any issues related to the district’s online learning tools.
Human i-T can be contacted by phone, email or text.
For connectivity problems, you can text INTERNET4CF to 562-372-6925 or fill out this online form.
For device and technical support, you can text HELP4CF to 562-372-6925 or fill out this online form.
What happens after the six months of free internet connectivity ends?
The district is encouraging families to contact human i-T directly to enroll in low-cost internet services after six months.
The district plans to subsidize internet service past six months to 15% of students facing homelessness or housing insecurity and for those in foster care.
For more information, visit the district’s FAQ portal here.