Virtual Schooling: Reality Sets In – NO Device, NO Internet, NO Electricity!

In my last blog, I introduced the concept of Integrated Learning.

Visionary leadership and aspirational teaching can only go so far in pushing the merits of integrating technology into education. Following the initial panic where schools, teachers, students & parents started using anything, everything available to them, after 2 months, reality is now setting in with questions asked around sustainability of these solutions and the future of technology in education.

Limitations of technology and the online only model are becoming more apparent by the day. Understanding these limitations is critical to integrating technology into learning. For the majority of the population education technology is a careful price conscious combination of software, hardware, telecom network & data package. Add to this the unreliable electricity in many rural areas of developing countries (where Per Capita Income is US$ 2000 to US$ 10,000 p.a.), and you have a really limited choice of options, if any. Therefore, the simple choice of Microsoft Teams Vs Zoom Vs Google Meet, doesn’t cut it.

Even in the UK, the government announcement to provide free devices to the underserved just highlights the scale of the problem globally. More than half the world population live in countries with a varying number of infrastructure limitations, and in many cases limited to a smartphone for a device. Delivering virtual schooling for all, while a noble dream, is still just a dream.

Therefore, Integrated Learning can only be successful if you have a program and structure that:

  1. Works online and offline,
  2. Is accessible in a low and high bandwidth environment,
  3. Can be accessed through multiple devices from the basic smartphone to the high-powered computer.
  4. Is based on a credible platform – most governments tend to limit their selection to either Google or Microsoft,
  5. Is easy to use for teachers (technical capabilities vary widely in different regions)
  6. Is available in multiple languages & dialects to reduce barriers to learning
  7. Is secure and affordable

Given the wide variety of challenges and the disparity of IT standards, integrating technology into the core of classroom teaching, is the only way to level and standardise access in the medium term.

Presently, the pandemic has focused learning from home, but with schools already partially reopening and learning likely to remain disrupted for an extended period, a lot of thought and planning needs to be given to sustainable solutions that support both onsite and home learning.

In my next blog, I shall cover the process of creating a sustainable solution for the new normal. Until then, stay safe, keep reading and keep learning!

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