Digital technologies have great potential in the field of education, but access remains limited in many communities around the world. endless networkis a global organization dedicated to solving capital disparities caused by challenges such as inadequate internet access, strategically directing investments to international companies that share our mission and actively contribute to achieving it.
One such company, Initiatives for information fairness (IEI) is committed to bridging the digital divide so that all students have access to educational information. Eric Langner His ingenious team at nonprofit IEI has discovered an innovative solution. And it’s been under our noses for years.
From sharing Sesame Street to sharing e-books, Datacast (sharing targeted content over digital television signals) helps deliver digital educational content to millions of students around the world. And it starts in America’s schools and prisons in North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Cheap, reliable and boasting vast bandwidth for seamless file sharing, television stations previously used data broadcasting to send emergency communications to homes across the United States. When combined with cutting-edge cloud technology, it’s also a safe and effective way to share customized digital content with your students.
Several local organizations have stepped up to help with critical educational access issues that have arisen during the pandemic. PBS station We worked together to enable local schools and individual teachers to use their existing digital television signals to send educational materials to students who had little or no internet access at home.
The Information Equity Initiative was born, and Mr. Langner, with more than 20 years of experience at PBS and NPR stations, nonprofit organizations, and public interest corporations, was a natural choice as co-founder and CEO.
EdSurge spoke with Langner to uncover the potential of this proven but underappreciated technology. We asked Universal where it fits into his broadband path. And most importantly, how does it help students?
EdSurge: How did the Information Equity Initiative come about?
Langner: It was born out of desperation. During the pandemic, 25% of U.S. households lacked broadband access. So three of his PBS member stations came together, recognizing that they could harness the television spectrum to directly serve children on the other side of the digital divide. Over the next three years, we worked with educators to design and integrate the system to work with learning management systems such as Google Classroom, Schoolology, and Canvas.
Although the pandemic has subsided, a huge number of children still lack access to content, unable to review and prepare for the next day’s lessons. Now, we’re ready to help teachers seamlessly create lesson plans and send them to all students, even those who don’t have broadband. And the best part is, nothing changes for the teacher.
“Nothing changes.” Could you please explain that? How does datacast work?
In the United States, PBS member stations reach 97 percent of all households. In other words, an almost ubiquitous infrastructure already exists. We use digital television signals that can carry data all the time. However, until IEI, the only data typically transmitted was emergency communications. I realized that if I could send an emergency communication, I could also send an e-book, a PDF, or an educational video for second graders.
So it now uses part of the TV spectrum to send data packets to students’ homes. Here’s how it works: The teacher selects their own content, or content available in the system, and sends it to students covered by her local PBS station. Each station typically covers approximately 8,000 square miles. Students install a special, inexpensive receiver called an Eddy in their homes and connect it to an antenna mounted on their window. Eddies are generally subsidized by schools and the Department of Education, cost just over $100, have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years, and can receive data and act as a hotspot, allowing you to connect Wi-Fi devices such as laptops. Connect your tablet or mobile phone to any supported device and access content without the internet.
Unlike television programs that can be viewed at specific times, teacher-generated data packets are stored locally on the device, allowing students to access data whenever they are ready to study or learn, even without an internet connection. packets can be accessed. Eddy can be used by up to 8 people in a household. A more powerful version, called Edwards, is available in school buildings and prison facilities and can serve thousands of people at the same time.
Where does datacasting fit on the path to universal broadband?
We want everyone to have access to fast, affordable broadband, but for many it will take years. And even when the last mile is connected, affordability remains an issue. Will the government continue to subsidize monthly costs?
What we offer is not a replacement for the Internet. Instead, today, an almost unlimited amount of curated content can be delivered to students’ homes virtually anywhere in the world at a very low cost.
What content can teachers share with students?
We specifically designed our platform to help teachers curate content at a local level. So teachers (or their districts) always decide what they want to get out.
When a teacher logs into the platform, they already have a class configured and students added. We do not collect personal data. Simply associate an individual with an Eddie device number and your content will be sent to the right place. Teachers can use learning management systems that include content from other libraries such as Sesame Workshop, PBS Member Stations, and Khan Academy, or create lesson plans using Google Classroom, Schoology, and Canvas. Masu. And when we press the send button, we will integrate in the background.
So if they’re working in Google Classroom, they don’t even know we’re there. Package all your content, whether it’s an ebook or an educational video, with lesson plan notes and send it where you need it. Datacast is built to send large files such as videos, so even large files can be sent easily.
Where will IEI go next? How can schools learn more?
We initially thought this would be a national K-12 service, but we realized that there are use cases that extend far beyond K-12 and the U.S. at scale. . For example, we provide content on education, workforce upskilling, reentry, and treatment in prison facilities. Deliver educational and SEL content to early childhood centers. In collaboration with federally qualified health centers, [non-governmental organizations] The NGO focuses on public health and maternal health. Because we are interoperable in more than 80 percent of the world’s countries, we are now starting to work with foreign governments to connect schools where the internet is either absent or too expensive. And since students in these settings often don’t have access to personal devices, we’re pairing Eddie with projectors to help us serve as many students as possible as cost-effectively as possible. As we are still in the early stages of implementation, there are not many achievements or results yet. However, we plan to measure the success and impact of his IEI on student learning and engagement. We are also working to raise awareness of this new technology and service to public television stations and educators.