Setting the Stage for Digital Inclusion

I am always amazed at how time to reflect changes what eventually ends up in a blog post.  This post is a great example of this notion as I originally thought I might write about these topics in different posts, but now I  think the ideas are more powerful together.

I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the  1:1 Computing Conference  this fall with  Ed Doadt.  It was great to meet so many passionate educators at the event. Two ideas from this conference really struck me.

First, I was amazed at the high number of schools/districts that were declaring “singular”  IT strategies: we use ONLY iOS or win 7/8 or  chromebooks or BYOD devices.  This is an all in approach with no flexibility or notion that different devices have different strengths/weaknesses, that students will have varying comfort levels with different devices, that technology will continue to develop and change at a torrid pace never experienced before or that a variety of devices might be a better fit to support learning.  I feel strongly that our approach at  WRDSB  to use and support a variety of devices  to support learning will yield better results than a singular strategy approach.

Secondly, I was really taken by the keynote presentation by  Alicia Banuelos   outlining the powerful state of digital inclusion – a community approach to full wifi coverage for the San Luis community in Argentina – schools and community, access for all students and community members. The work to build access for all is based on the idea that those without access will have less opportunity to: learn, work, develop networks (people connections) and lead productive lives.  A very powerful idea indeed.  Since hearing this presentation and meeting Alicia, I have been reflecting on what this would mean in an Ontario context.

ontario-map1

A few months ago, the Ontario K12 IT Leaders authored the  Manifesto for 21C Learning  document outlining the need for a powerful Ontario provincial network (meaning internet & WAN) to support not only K12 needs, but an infrastructure that would create opportunities for learning, working, business and innovation with an eye to need, scalability and sustainability – digital inclusion  for Ontario residents.

I typically listen to  Craig Norris  on  CBC KW  on my drive into work. On a recent show, Craig was hosting an interview about business investments in the area of transportation between Toronto and the KW area and how that would be beneficial to facilitate business opportunities in the technology area. While listening to the show, I couldn’t help but think about the opportunities that would come from investing in an Ontario network. Now, one can not deny the initial large investment (some estimates of over $2B have been estimated) that would be involved to truly achieve a state of  digital inclusion of this magnitude. Yet, this seems like such an important need, how can we afford to avoid tackling it?

fibreoptic_cable1

I believe a high speed provincial network an achievable goal, and that the money is around, but you must  THINK  differently.  The money would need redirecting. Consider the annual profit margins in the banking and financial sectors.  Perhaps a pension plan (teachers?) investment could be part of the solution.  Strategic partnerships.  JUST  BE  CREATIVE.

Achieving this goal would:

  • recognize this as a critical need,  rather than an  item on a political agenda
  • be for all Ontario citizens and
  • be affordable.

I believe achieving this is about collective will,  and not “what if”.   What does a future Ontario look like to you?

~Mark

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6 thoughts on “Setting the Stage for Digital Inclusion”

  1. “a high speed provincial network an achievable goal”

    Indeed!

    As a teacher in a near north board (and I suspect our situation is better than those the far north), I have plenty of students without high-speed access.

    As our school and board increasingly pushes the e-learning agenda, I feel like a large number of our students are disadvantaged without addressing this fundamental flaw.

    Could telecommunications companies have to alter their fees for customers who DON’T have access to affordable high-speed Internet? This might be a starting point…

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