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Will EdTech Get a Needed Broadband Upgrade?

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Whenever a new administration takes over inside the beltway, it’s common for officials and pundits to blue sky new ideas to address shortcomings in every area of government from labor to housing to healthcare, but one area that never fails to stymie presidents is education.

What’s worse for President Joe Biden and his education team is that they have been getting nothing but bad news about educational technology, or Edtech, as a consequence of COVID, probably the closest thing to an extinction-level event educators have ever faced. COVID closed schools, sequestered students, prompted distance learning and the faster-than-normal adoption of new technology that many students just couldn’t access.

The Brookings Institution performed a phone survey of 201 households and a total of 271 primary-school-aged children in February of 2021, seeking to understand how COVID impacted students.  Their findings revealed a vast technology gap between poor kids and everyone else, with 1 in 5 children not even offered a distance-learning option, and even those who were only showed up slightly more than half the time.

In addition, a significant portion of college students lack suitable internet access, with nearly 40 percent of them struggling not with their studies, but just the simple act of connecting to the internet for classes and assignments, according to a study by The Hope Center at Temple University. Coincidentally, the real figure may be higher than 40 percent, because Temple researchers experienced issues conducting the survey, reporting “inadequate internet access could have contributed to low response rates.”

NPR recently reported on the problem, interviewing Faylene Begay, a single mother of four living in Tuba City, Ariz. who is attending classes at Diné College. She does not have an internet connection at her home on the Navajo Nation Reservation, leaving her with an old phone with limited data.

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“It was just beyond my power to submit my work,” Begay told NPR. “That alone just kind of depleted my purpose … made me feel like I was defeated by the internet.”

That’s why the recently passed infrastructure bill included roughly $65 billion to improve and expand the capabilities of broadband service to those who don’t have it.

Education Week also recently reported that the bill also included $2.75 billion to address this “digital equity” issue, moving dollars into a variety of connectivity issues, including anything from laptops for students to digital literacy instruction for seniors.

As private industry sizes up all the pluses of the bill, some companies are already forging ahead, way ahead of the curve being set by government while still being aligned with its goals.

One of them, Genius Group, is a global education company with more than 2 million students in 200 countries. Headed by noted futurist and best-selling author Roger James Hamilton, the Genius Group is currently the world’s largest entrepreneur education company.

Hamilton has engaged EdTech head-on, through the creation of GeniusU, an EdTech platform that prepares entrepreneurs for the next 10 years by helping them adapt their business models and embrace the metaverse. GeniusU goes further than just preaching that the old ways don’t work anymore, because they are using the “new” ways right now through their future-focused, entrepreneur education system that spans from early learning, primary and secondary school, through university, adult education, and corporate training.

The administration’s education priorities, spread across several pages on the Biden-Harris campaign website, covers plenty of ground, promising more investments in early childhood education, vocational programs, minority-serving institutions and mental health services, and increasing teacher pay and reducing student debt, among many other goals.

GeniusU’s from-the-cradle-to-the-boardroom approach is something that Hamilton studied and researched extensively before putting it into practice.

“The greatest achievements in the world have been accomplished by entrepreneurs and teams of collaborators, thinkers, and doers,” he wrote in a recent column. “Learning is more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is more than gaining cultural literacy, more than learning a skill for a particular job, more than teaching the importance of social justice, of creating ‘good citizens,’ or teaching the importance of protecting the environment. It is all of the above and more.”

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GeniusU, under Hamilton’s direction, has created an education philosophy – made real through its unique programs – where the curriculum isn’t crafted as a pair of socks, one-size-fits-all, but rather steeped in the principle of entrepreneurship, in which curriculum Is personalized to a student’s strengths, passions, and purpose.  Perhaps that’s a track the Biden administration can follow once it’s done making sure we’re all connected.

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