August 05, 2013

The lack of broadband in rural areas is causing a digital divide in education

Article originally featured on in the UK.

It has been almost three years since former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt promised Britain would lead Europe in fast broadband provision.

A fund of £530m was set up to ensure that by May 2015, 90 percent of premises in each local authority area of the United Kingdom would have access to internet speeds above 24 megabits per second with a minimum of 2 megabits for others.

However, a recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the ‘rural broadband’ project is two years behind schedule. Not good news when you consider that accessing fast, and reliable broadband is now essential for schools. The fact that the roll-out in rural areas is two year’s behind schedule means schools are struggling to provide modern teaching methods.

According to the NAO report, only nine of 44 rural areas will reach targets for high-speed Internet by 2015. Four areas could also miss a revised 2017 target.

A recent Ofsted report backs this as it indicated that schools in rural areas are failing their poorest children. From what I see day in, day out, the lack of broadband in rural areas has a significant part to play in this.

This is a stark contrast from inner city schools that are taking full advantage of BYOD within the classroom.

With strong bandwidth, supporting multiple devices, city schools are able to support modern teaching practices such as ‘flipped classrooms.’

The flipped classroom incorporates mobile devices more and more into the pupil’s everyday teaching experience. It engages the children more and allows interactive learning. One such way this is done is by placing the images to accompany the lesson on the mobile device to be used during the lesson.

Another benefit is incorporating an application for a mobile device within the lesson plan.

The pupil is able to interact with the educational app while the teacher is describing the topic at hand. The possibilities are endless and extend further than the classroom.

Pupils are able to take their devices home with them and access material placed online to review after the day is over. This can help a pupil prepare for the next day or simply conquer the nightly task of homework.

Inner city schools are able to take advantage of these modern teaching methods because they have the infrastructure to do so. A higher number of mobile devices requires stronger bandwidth in order to give each device the internet speed it needs to operate effectively.

With some rural areas struggling with connection speeds as low as 2 megabits, quite frankly a snails pace in our modern world, students are struggling to do their simple homework let alone interact with the teacher on a whole new level.

A digital divide is being created between the inner city schools that have excellent broadband and the rural schools that do not. The casualties of this divide are our children.

Having the fastest internet in Europe by 2015 is an ambitious target but it can bring potential benefits it can bring to both individuals and society. If this target is missed again it could hinder our children’s futures.


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