This week the CBC published an article highlighting the province-wide adoption of Google Apps for Education in Nova Scotia. This is a very significant step for an entire province and it speaks to the potential of the Google Applications to meet student needs in different districts that may have quite varied needs. The author was careful to balance all of the many advantages in adopting the platform with some of the concerns that are often raised with cloud computing, specifically security and information sharing. Alexandra Hunnings, spokesperson for Google is quoted within the article as she states that it is the individual user that owns their own data and information and that there are safety protocols in place for data security. Both conventions are very good and go a long way to address the concerns.
There is no denying the advantages in utilizing the Google For Education platform for all learners. The applications serve our collective goal of supporting students as they strive to meet the ISTE standards for students in the field of digital learning. While the article speaks to the ability of learners to access their work and the applications supporting their learning, it does leave one question unanswered. What can be done for the students and families that have no Internet access at home? Accessibility from anywhere is great but only for those that have a means to access the technology in the first place. This reminded me of an article I came across this past April entitled Wi-Fi on Wheels puts two Districts on the Fast Track to 24/7 Access. The piece highlights the efforts of Darryl Adams, Superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School district in California. Adams recognized the disparity in access and set out to make changes to better serve his community. His plan began with the use of school buses fitted with WIFI hubs that were parked overnight in neighbourhoods that had a known need for the service. Initially the hubs ran off of the bus battery but this drained all of the battery power rendering the bus inoperable by the morning. Not to worry, a solution was put in place quickly that included the installation of solar panels on the roof of each of these buses which provided enough stored energy to power both the hub and the bus ignition.
This is much more than a story about innovation and digital learning. It is about the desire to find solutions to the challenges of equity of access. It speaks to our obligation to meet the needs of all learners especially those struggling to remain engaged in digitally supported education. This leaves us with two daunting questions that we must ask ourselves. First considering our own contexts, how can we leverage Google for Education Applications to meet this obligation? More importantly, how can the promise of connectivity and digital learning meet the challenge of equity for all learners?
CBC News - Google Apps for Education finds place in Nova Scotia classrooms. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/canada/story/1.3226800
ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-students
Wi-Fi on Wheels Puts Two Districts on the Fast Track to 24/7 Access -- THE Journal. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2015/04/30/wifi-on-wheels.aspx