March 24, 2021 – The lack of available and quality broadband access is worsening the disparity between low- and high-income demographics, educators say.
A panel, hosted by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank and discussing the “new future of work” on Monday, said those who are in an “elite” category are getting ahead on education because they benefit from good quality internet. Poorer households, who don’t have good quality internet – either due to where they live or how much it costs – are getting left behind, they said.
The pandemic has forced schools to close, stressing broadband access at home for remote learning. While lawmakers and parents want kids back in school, some educators say students should be able to choose between in-person and virtual learning.
Salman Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a nonprofit education organization, said he believes the country has done a good job in the last 10 years in closing the digital divide. However, the pandemic has virtually undone that progress as many schools remain shuttered. Internet access is inequitable and has turned into an economics issue, not just an educational problem, he noted.
Khan said people need opportunities and incentives to learn at their own pace and to not be sorted wrongfully in the education system.
Not everyone is given those opportunities. Astrid Tuminez, president of the Utah Valley University, was born in a farming village in the Philippine province of Iloilo, and grew up in a hut with bamboo walls.
Her desire for education led her to the United States where she later became educated at Harvard and MIT and joined the corporate ranks of Microsoft before becoming UVU’s first female President.
Tuminez said UVU is an open admission, dual-mission institution, which means it has a community college embedded in a teaching university. She said that UVU’s faculty also needs to have the right training and resources to help close the digital divide, and has since seen 40 percent of the faculty certified to teach online.
With dual-mission purposed institutions like UVU, more support can be given to more students than if it were an elite institution. She said 37 percent of the school’s enrollment is first generation college students. “We don’t care about your past and we see you as you are and we want to support you,” said Tuminez.
Learning opportunities need to be abundant and accessible, she said. Khan said people must be given as much support as possible to learn and stay current on their skills to be competitive.
Peter Blair, who is on the faculty in the graduate school of education at Harvard University, where he co-directs the Project on Workforce, said “similar to Astrid,” he too grew up in a small island nation, the Bahamas, and was able to be educated at private universities and has since taught at public universities.
Blair said lifelong learning is important, and that “we need to meet folks where they are,” meaning educational institutions need to support and see through to the success of students.
Blair said that fewer than 40 percent of workers have college degrees, yet more than two-thirds of new jobs created in America require college degrees—a confusing finding as it is not obvious in many cases why a college degree is required for jobs that shouldn’t require a degree.
Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts
The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.
The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.
“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.
Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.
“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.
Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.
Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”
Not a replacement for real social experiences
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.
“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”
Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.
Fiber Broadband Companies and Consultants Tout Their Work for Social Good
Fiber providers, equipment companies and consultants discussed their work in communities in a session at Fiber Connect
June 16, 2022 – Leading fiber broadband platforms are hoping to positively impact future generations beyond fiber deployment through education programs for youth, scholarship awards, and traditional community service events, said panelists at Fiber Connect event Tuesday.
The panel discussion, according to promotional material for the panel in advance of the session at the conference, “represented a new level of commitment based on the belief that operators have a responsibility to make the communities they serve even better.” The showcase panel was a way for the Fiber Broadband Association to highlight the work of providers, equipment vendors, consultants and government officials.
Companies are particularly focused on how to influence following generations for good. C-Spire is working with schools in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education, and it provides programs for youth to learn coding and participate in coding challenges hosted by C-Spire.
Working with the state of Mississippi, fiber provider C-Spire made computer science education available to all K-12 students in the state and donated $1 million for teacher training. C-Spire also provided more than $3 million in scholarships for higher education.
GVTC Communications, a consultant to the telecom industry, works with local nonprofits, churches, schools, and businesses to donate full thanksgiving meals to families in need every year since 2012.
Listening to the needs of the community is essential to make an impact, agreed the panel. “When you have listening as your core value, you find out things that you can really make a difference in,” said Kevin Morgan, chief marketing officer at Clearfield, a provider of equipment for fiber builds.
Education Executives Tout Artificial Intelligence Benefits for Classroom Learning
Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited, an event heard.
WASHINGTON, May 25, 2022 – Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited and provide extra help for students who need individualized teaching, experts said at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Tuesday.
As policy makers weigh the options for a structure for AI in the classroom, panelists agreed on its benefits for both teachers and students. Michelle Zhou, CEO of AI company Juji Inc., said AI technology in the classroom can be tools and applications like chatbots for real-time questions during class, and post-class questions at home for when the teacher is not available.
Lynda Martin, director of learning strategy for strategic solutions at learning company McGraw Hill, said AI provides the extra help students need, but sometimes are too shy to ask.
When a teacher has a high volume of students, it is difficult to effectively help and connect with each student individually, Martin said. AI gives the teacher crucial information to get to know the student on a more personal level as it transmits the student’s misconceptions and detects areas of need. AI can bring student concerns to the teacher and foster “individualized attention” she added.
Privacy and security concerns
Jeremy Roschelle from Digital Promise, an education non-profit, raise the privacy and security concerns in his cautious support of the idea. He noted that there needs to be more information about who has access to the data and what kinds of data should be used.
Beside bias and ethical issues that AI could pose, Roschelle cautioned about the potential harms AI could present, including misdetecting a child’s behavior, resulting in potential educational setbacks.
To utilize the technology and ensure education outcomes, Sharad Sundararajan, co-founder of learning company Merlyn Minds, touched on the need for AI training. As Merlyn Minds provides digital assistant technology to educators, he noted the company’s focus on training teachers and students on various forms of AI tech to enhance user experience.
There is an “appetite” from schools that are calling for this, said Sundararajan. As policy makers contemplate a strategic vision for AI in the classroom, he added that AI adoption in the classroom around the country will require algorithmic work, company partnerships, and government efforts for the best AI success.
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