digital-divide

How school leaders can erase the digital divide


Schools and districts, along with service providers and advocacy groups, are trying their best to close the digital divide and offer expanded internet broadband and functionality.

Kajeet introduced the SmartSpot, a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that works with any Wi-Fi-capable device, earlier this year. Each SmartSpot supports up to 10 student devices and is CIPA-compliant. Districts including Chicago Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools have adopted the SmartSpot.

Connect2Compete, which launched nationally in March of 2013, aims to “finally solve the digital divide in a way that’s big enough, at scale, to really get at the meat of the problem, and not as piecemeal as it’s been,” said Zach Leverenz, the nonprofit’s CEO.

Connect2Compete works with internet providers, hardware and software manufacturers, digital content creators, and libraries and nonprofits to deliver free and affordable technology and training.

There is a disconnect today in terms of the way teachers and students use digital tools and methodologies in the classroom versus a lack of at-home internet access that prevents those students from using digital tools outside of school.

Connect2Compete also aims to address the question of what bandwidth speeds and data levels are appropriate and needed in schools.

Leverenz said Connect2Compete hopes to work in parallel with the ConnectED initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years.

Aerohive Networks, a Wi-Fi and cloud-managed mobile networking service, introduced two access points that support 802.11ac gigabit Wi-Fi. 802.11ac is touted as a faster and more scalable standard than 802.11n.

The new standard offers an increase in data rates to beyond 1 gigabit per second and it provides greater capacity and overall improved performance over the current 802.11n standard–all of which can help schools support new and incoming Wi-Fi devices that access school networks through bring your own device and one-to-one initiatives.

Bradley Chambers, director of IT at Brainerd Baptist School, said that his district uses Aerohive’s solution to manage wireless devices, and that moving to 802.11ac access points will help alleviate strain on the network.

“Even modern 802.11n deployments can drop in 802.11ac access points in congested areas to see immediate relief,” he said.

Laura Ascione

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