Austin is fortunate to have a laptop, smartphone, and Wi-Fi connection at home, so he can make up lost work, fill out online college applications, and Google anything he doesn't understand. Even more basic, he can type his research papers. His classmate, Amanda Brown, writes her papers by hand, and then tries to find time before or after school to type them on a school computer.
"It's time consuming," Brown says. "I have to fit it into my already busy schedule at school."
With everything from driving tests to job applications available online, high schools that fail to prepare students to live in a digital age are setting them up for failure, Albert Bryant, the Everton teacher, says.
[Read why counselors say schools are failing their students.]
"It would be like today, instead of offering a computer applications class, we offered a typewriter class," he says.
Recognizing the need to close the digital divide, rural members of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association partner with the schools in their area to ensure students are connected while they learn, says Mann, the NTCA communications director.
To connect students at home, many of the small, rural Internet providers are also taking on the role of equipment providers, purchasing computers in bulk and selling them to community members at a discounted rate, Mann says.
"Most rural telecom companies view their role as the glue that holds the community together," Mann says. "If they can connect the school, the library, and your home, they can open the whole window of the world in a rural community."
See U.S. News's coverage of Technology in the Classroom.