Is the digital divide a family affair?

As children adapt to new technology, David Tindall considers whether adults are being left behind

Q: Technology in education is constantly evolving, what do you think was the most significant edtech development in 2015?

A: From our perspective as an ISP, by far the biggest development was BT’s announcement that they’ll be deploying the next generation hybrid-fibre G.fast broadband technology across the United Kingdom from 2016/17.

At the moment, most primary schools receive their broadband via hybrid Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology, which delivers download speeds of up to 80Mbps. This works by running a fibre optic cable to the local street cabinet and then using the existing copper line from the cabinet to the school. G.fast works in a similar way but utilizes a broader radio spectrum that will give download speeds of up to 500Mbps. This is going to give schools a real boost and they’ll be able to download large files much quicker and take advantage of more cloud hosted applications.

Q: Were we successful in reducing the digital divide this year? How do you think we can improve on this in 2016?

A: With laptops and tablets now having reduced in price so significantly, they are now well within the budget of most UK households and many children now have access to their own tablet.

Whilst there’s still somewhat of a divide globally, this too is being alleviated by the availability of mobiles. 4G could mean that even those living in remote areas in developing countries can access the same cloud-hosted resources and systems that we have in the developed world.

What seems to be lacking now, is not the technology itself but the knowledge on how to use it to its best effect. Whilst children seem to adapt quickly to new technology, adults are often left behind and lack the knowledge to pass onto young people. This is becoming more and more the case as technology evolves at such a rapid pace. 

Many adults grew up in an age before the internet was even accessible and often don’t understand the potential dangers that can lurk online. They’re not always able to give their children advice on how to use the internet safely. Awareness courses for parents and government funded IT training for adults would help us bridge that gap.

Q: The computing curriculum has now been in place for over a year, has it proved to be a success so far, and how do you think we will we see this evolve in 2016?

A: As an ISP, this isn’t an area that we are able to comment on. However as a technology company that employs young people, we know that it’s vital for the future of our economy to provide our children with the digital skills that will allow them to succeed in their chosen career. In this day and age there are few, if any, jobs that do not utilize computers in some form.

It’s vital for the future of our economy to provide our children with digital skills

Q: E-safety is still a key issue in schools, with cyberbullying presenting a huge problem. What steps can we take to tackle this?

A: Better education in schools about the impact of bullying and how it can affect children’s lives. Easier ways of reporting online bullying and clearly imposed consequences for those who do bully online. Better counselling for those who are feeling threatened. Having somebody to reach out to confidentially, away from the school may have helped many young people who have taken their own lives because they’ve been continually tormented.

Q: BYOD adoption continues to rise in our schools and universities. How can we ensure we further reduce the data security risks associated with this next year?

A: Schools need to be sure that their data is protected. There are many different products available on the market, but ideally schools should be looking for an enterprise-class firewall that includes anti-malware, anti-virus and intrusion prevention. A responsible use policy, web filtering and the ability to view who is accessing what on your network is also vital. 

Q: MOOCs, BYOD, WYOD, gamification, are all popular terms and trends seen and used throughout the education sector. What trends will emerge over the coming months?

A: I think many schools will be looking at how technology can better aid children with special educational and behavioral needs. Also, could the dream of becoming a paper-free school actually become a reality?

David Tindall is the Managing Director at Schools Broadband W: schoolsbroadband.co.uk/

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