Illiteracy and lack of access to education remain to be a huge problem around the world, especially in some developing countries where one in four young people are unable to read. This “global learning crisis” not only wastes billions of dollars a year in education funding, it also increases the gap between the rich and the poor, even in developed countries.
Luckily, technology is on education’s side. The Internet, in particular, has continuously shown its potential as a valuable tool for both students and educators. Not only does the Internet make a wide variety of learning resources accessible to even the remotest of places, it also addresses several aspects of the digital divide at the same time.
Wireless Broadband: the Alternative Infrastructure
The high costs of infrastructure deployment and geographic challenges are only a couple of the challenges that need to be addressed in order to build the necessary infrastructure for broadband connectivity. However, wireless technology has made it easier to circumvent such problems. Not only do wireless broadband structures take up less space, they also need minimal equipment, construction time, and manpower to completely set up, thus reducing overall costs.
Using point to multipoint broadband service solutions, for example, schools in far-flung communities will be able to connect to the Internet, enabling educators to gain access to important educational resources. These schools will also be able to interact with other schools and educational facilities like libraries, museums, and research institutions in more developed locales. Fixed wireless broadband also helps in gathering relevant data from multiple locations, which helps government agencies and lawmakers in enacting measures and allocating budgets for education-related projects.
Meanwhile, mobile wireless broadband ensures that teachers always have access to the vast educational and training materials available on the Internet. They can also exchange knowledge with their colleagues and mentors, thus increasing their competency and fostering collaboration even when they’re on the go and separated by wide geographic distances.
On the other hand, students not only gain 24/7 access to educational materials online, which increases their digital literacy, they can also cultivate meaningful personal and professional relationships through different platforms like social media sites and learning apps. This is especially important in creating positive relationships among students, between teachers and students, and between students and potential employers or future business partners.
Marrying Traditional and Digital
Wireless broadband also makes it easier to incorporate digital elements into traditional educational techniques. Complicated concepts like coding can be made more comprehensible and enjoyable through mobile games and applications. Students can also feel more engaged and immersed using digital media, whether they are creating their own materials for a project, for example, or using it as a learning resource.
Internet access also levels the educational playing field for students. For example, if a student is unable to attend class due to a prolonged illness, recorded lectures and digital notes from both teachers and classmates can be made available online almost immediately, ensuring that no student falls behind. The relatively low cost of establishing wireless broadband connections also helps in maintaining an educational balance, especially for students in disadvantaged communities.
Lastly, while textbooks and other printed material remain to be the most dominant educational resources, the early, consistent, and proper use of digital media trains students to consume, interpret, and share knowledge in various forms. Outside of the academia, responsible use of digital media and resources also promotes critical awareness about current social issues and allows students to learn in a real-world context.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for education target to provide equal access to affordable education for men and women by 2030, among other objectives. It may seem like a lofty goal, but by harnessing the power of technology and its potential for good, we may be closer to providing quality education for all than we think.