Building the Education Infrastructure for a 21st Century Economy
The reopening of schools nationwide is leaving parents across the country struggling with the possibility of putting their family’s health at risk. As the reality of returning to the classroom has begun, many parents are turning to hybrid forms of teaching at home to keep their children safe. Even with the addition of masks, social distancing, hand sanitizers, and disinfectants, parents are hesitant to let their children return to school.
In our article, the future of work in a post-COVID world, we discussed some of the pros and cons of remote-work in an office setting. The main appeal of remote learning is based on safety. Still, perhaps it’s time we take a look at a challenge many households face regarding remote learning. We may be able to find ways to help parents and children continue their education as we progress further into the year.
Technology has become an integral part of everyday life. Education is no exception. With a wide array of information and resources available online, it’s now easier than ever for a student to find a learning style that best suits their needs.
We are still finding new ways to interact with our educators and students outside of school settings. Yet, even something as simple as an Email can help one student or parent with a question. With this thought in mind, we need to take a closer look at what technologies and electronics we can consider essential to education.
Most Americans have the luxury of internet, cable, phones, and computers. Still, a growing number of students in the United States are left behind. In a 2017 survey, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration reported a gap in the number of young people ages 6 to 17 who have internet at home. In households with incomes below $25,000, an estimated 14% of American children still have no access. It is estimated that 74% of those children have some kind of internet service at home, compared to 92% of children in households making over $100,000 or more.
In a 2017 survey, the ACT Center for Equity in Learning found that 14% of students surveyed only had access to one electronic device with internet access. 1% reported that they had no access to a device. In many cases, students with access to a single device said it was a shared device, meaning they wouldn’t always have access to it when needed. More than half of those students reported that the device they had access to was a smartphone. It often left students unable to complete their online assignments. It even left them unable to do things such as fill out college applications to seek higher learning
Mobile Hotspots for Education
It is important to remember that we cannot leave any students behind. We have learned that if a student falls just six months behind in reading – especially in the earliest formative years of Pre K and Kindergarten– it will lead to further problems down the road. Parents, Administrators, Elected Officials, and the Private Sector are finding new ways to help. As early as April, some school districts rolled out buses to create mobile Wi-Fi hotspots in neighborhoods that either lacked ready access to the internet or had a large number of homes without access
The COVID pandemic has provided us with an experimental laboratory to try things that were previously considered taboo, too expensive, or too risky. Additionally, some issues go beyond the ability to provide the tools and resources needed by a student. Even when supplied with those tools and resources, we begin to see problems similar to the ones found in our discussion about the future of work: the added difficulties of absence and the possibility of hardware malfunctions leaving students unable to attend their classes.
As the authors wrote in our book “Catalyst: Leadership and Strategy in a Rapidly Changing World,” we must continuously review our assumptions to avoid making the mistakes that so many other companies make when they fail to adjust their process. No matter how we do it, we must help our children return to school, whether by providing mobile hot-spots for them, blending some form of a new hybrid form of teaching, or educating parents on how to teach their children. Whether you have children or not, we should all recognize they are the future workforce and we need them ready for a 21st century economy.