Without a Net

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Without a Net TV Poster Image
Docu examines digital inequities in public school education.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

There is a digital divide in public school education that is mostly fueled by economic privilege, and it is having negative consequences across the country. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some high-ranking school officials are succeeding in closing the divide, others have not. Academically driven students featured. 

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism

The documentary is sponsored by Verizon. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Without a Net is a documentary that examines the unequal access to digital technology, connectivity, and education in America's public school system. It's informative and offers easy to understand explanations about the digital divide in schools and the short- and long-term consequences it is having on students and on the country. Verizon is a sponsor, and its logo appears at the beginning and the end of the film. The film is informative and relevant, but teens might need some prodding to watch. 

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What's the story?

Produced by Rory Kennedy and narrated by Jamie Foxx, WITHOUT A NET is a documentary that explores how the digital divide impacts education in America. By profiling different public schools in the United States, it offers a detailed explanation of the technological disparities that exist in public education, and profiles schools from across the country to demonstrate how inadequate public school funding makes it impossible to procure hardware, establish and maintain connectivity, and appropriately train teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms. It also underscores some of the consequences of this divide, including inadequately preparing students for college or to get a job with competitive wages in an increasingly digitized world. The failure of some technology-oriented programs, as well as the successes of others, is also discussed. In interviews, folks like CNN commentator and #YesWeCode founder Van Jones and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offer their perspective on the issues and on the need to learn technology in order to ensure America's future.  

Is it any good?

This informative but dry piece underscores the inequality that exists in America's public education system, and how the system is thus failing to prepare students for a digital future. It notes that students around the country, whether in cities, suburbs, or rural areas, are still unable to adequately access and use technology in schools and at home. It also highlights the devastating long-term impact this will have if it isn't addressed, including continued cycles of poverty and reduced competitiveness of Americans in a global digital economy.  

It's not the most exciting of documentaries, but the detail it reveals on how starkly different the access to digital technology and education is among public schools districts is both interesting and frustrating. But some will disagree with some of the ways student needs are being defined, especially when it comes to re-envisioning the role of teachers in the classroom. Nonetheless, Without a Net succeeds at breaking down the digital deficiencies in public education, the reasons they developed, and the reasons the imbalance continues. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the economic reasons why some schools have better access to digital technology and resources than others. Is there anything else besides money that may contribute to the problem? 

  • Are there ways to realistically solve digital divide issues based on how the current public education system is set up? What creative solutions have people come up with to solve them?

  • Without a Net discusses how classrooms and teachers need to adapt to technology. Should it be the other way around? Are there any drawbacks to having technology in a classroom?

TV details

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