Friday, April 9, 2021

Three G's Would Be Great, Thanks

I get pitches (mostly because I write for, and an enormous number of them are ed tech related. Those folks are really, really sure that their moment has come. I'm just not sure they understand the situation on the ground.

Lately there's been an up-tick in 5G related offerings. VR with 5G! Woo hoo! Sometimes I read these e-mails while sitting in the parking lot of my local major grocery store, where I might have three bars of LTE.

The school where I taught up until retirement was a one-to-one school in a district where one-to-one was being steadily pushed downward through the grades. That was a challenge for one of the elementary schools, which was only able to connect to the district network via complicated arrangement involving a satellite dish. In my old high school, students and staff learned to keep their phones hooked to power (or turned of) because the attempt to connect to a decent signal would empty batteries before the school day was over. I watched many students try to perfect their phone wave or get the phone in just the right position to get just one more bar. 

Thirty years ago my colleagues would step out to the parking lot during breaks so they could grab a quick smoke. Now they pop out to the parking lot to get a decent phone signal.

During the pandemic shut down, lots of ed tech outfits bragged about how they'd licked the digital divide so students could work from home. In my county, teachers were still hand delivering hard copies of assignments to families who did not have access to a reliable internet connection. 

If tech companies really want to do something helpful for the education world, they can stop pushing the newest Shiny Thing and get the old, not-so-shiny stuff to work. For everybody. And lawmakers can start treating internet access as a public utility, just like electricity and sewage. In some parts of the country, we don't need 5G as badly as we need five bars of 3G. 

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