October 31, 2022

The Educators’ Solutions to the Digital Divide

Kai XR

Students today are used to learning in a digital world. Our founder and CEO, Kai Frazier, knows that firsthand from working as a history teacher. Through her teaching experience, she learned the power of virtual reality and immersive learning. Her students retained lessons and knowledge in a way she hadn’t seen before. Yet she realized that not all her students could have access to this tech in the classroom and this new format of learning. This isn’t an uncommon problem in the United States. After seeing this digital divide, Kai Frazier set out to close this gap through the founding of Kai XR

Technology is only becoming more important to the daily lives of people everywhere. We rely on it for nearly everything. It’s expanded our ability to video chat with people around the world, look up the answer to any question you have, and even learn new languages through apps.  

Yet there are still millions of people who don’t have access to this technology, especially underserved students in schools across the country.  Educators, schools, and tech entrepreneurs have been working to find solutions to the digital divide, which is essential to help students develop the skills they need for the future of work. 

At Kai XR, we’re on a mission to reduce the digital divide by making emerging tech (VR, AR, XR) accessible for every student, regardless of zip code or income. We’ve developed an interactive platform that allows students to go on over 100 virtual field trips using whatever device they already own, whether that’s a smartphone or a VR headset. We help students safely explore the world around them and learn hands-on right from the classroom. Our hope is to connect students with the digital world and help them build a more diverse worldview. 

When we first looked at the digital divide data, the gap between students who can easily access the internet from home and students who can’t was evident. Some schools have all the latest tech in every class—5G internet, a tablet for every student, the best VR headsets on the market—and these tools can have a big impact on students.

They can make learning more collaborative, immersive,  and memorable, while inspiring students to choose careers of the future in virtual reality, AI, and STEAM. Students attending schools without these same resources miss out on that lightning strike of inspiration that can change their lives forever.

So how can we eliminate the digital divide? To come up with a plan for bridging the digital divide, it’s important to first understand it. 

In this article, we’ll be going over: 

  1. The causes of the digital divide
  2. The consequences of the digital divide
  3. The solutions for the digital divide 

What’s Causing the Digital Divide? 

Schools play a big role in a child’s future—they ensure that no matter who you are or where you come from, you are prepared. When we look to bridging the digital divide, it’s important to remember this happens right here in the United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

During the pandemic, Oakland schools in California realized just how big a problem the divide was. When schools went remote, only 25% of students had the necessary tech and internet speed at home to support online learning. Students were connecting to the public library Wi-Fi to turn assignments in on their smartphones.

Imagine how difficult it must be to type essays and homework assignments on a smartphone’s tiny keyboard.

Once longer assignments came due, students quickly realized how unsustainable the situation was. 

This problem goes beyond Oakland. In the U.S., about 40% of schools don’t have broadband internet, and the number of people without it could be upwards of 163 million. That’s a lot of families that don’t have access to what they’re children need to easily stay on top of classes and homework.

The transition to remote/hybrid learning clarified the depths of the digital divide. Though nearly all American classrooms now connect to the internet, issues of equity remain: low-income students and BIPOC students have less access to tech at home leading to a “homework gap.” 

Income Inequality

Edtech has the potential to change how educators plan lessons, personalize student learning, and increase access to different types of teaching and learning. However, for lower income families, the digital divide has been clearer than ever. 

While higher income families may not think twice about their internet connection or their various laptops or tablets, it’s a struggle for lower income families.

  • 63% of families that have high incomes have internet access at home, plus a smart phone, a computer, and a tablet. 
  • 23% of families with lower incomes have these essential tools 

While some families could afford a computer, they may not be able to afford high-speed internet. This means lagging video lessons, slower upload or download times for assignments, and homework taking longer than it should.

Plus, if families only have one computer, students may need to share it with other family members and may not get to spend as much time on projects as they’d like. This impacts their performance at school and sets them behind their peers. 

5G is the latest generation of broadband, and it knocks older generations out of the park. While 4G had speeds of around 35 Mbps (megabits per second), 5G has speeds of 20 Gbps (gigabits per second). That translates to a speed of 20,000 Mbps! 

5G is already affecting education, enabling learners to be present in real classrooms at any time or place with the help of VR technology. Students are exploring and immersing themselves in the metaverse and digital makerspace classrooms. Some cities in the United States are still stuck with older generations of broadband, paying high costs. 

Location 

Those in rural areas have usually missed out on the quick internet and reliable cellphone coverage that people are used to in big cities. While 5G is set to change this, many will have to wait as companies roll out 5G coverage in new areas. Currently, the further away from cities people get, the lower the percentage of people who can easily connect with the internet: 

  • In urban areas, it’s almost 100%
  • In rural areas, it’s 65%
  • In tribal areas, it’s 60% 

According to the FCC, 19 million people that live in rural areas don’t have access to broadband internet. This excludes them from important information they may need from their local government, and can interfere with daily life. 

For example, emergency services may not run as well or efficiently with limited cell service or internet connections. Having cell service can help farmers be notified if livestock get out as it happens, so they can tackle these problems quickly. The tourism industry has also been affected, as seen in the Cranberry Isles. With accessible broadband, tourists and digital nomads stay longer because they can work while they visit. Without it, travelers don’t stay as long. 

Remote areas tend to be left out or at the bottom of the list when companies set up internet or cell coverage, leaving them at risk of the consequences of the digital divide. 

How the Digital Divide Sets Students Back 

In the past decade, schools and educators have taken big steps in harnessing tech to encourage and empower student learning.

Though tech in classrooms is helping with customized instruction, many educators are concerned that it can lead to equity issues, holding many students back from achieving success. Students who have the ability to explore the internet get exposed to more topics that may interest them and put them on a specific career path. For example:

  • Students may find an interesting article or YouTube video on marine biology, and it inspires them to focus on it as a career. Their extra research online may give them a stronger basis for their marine biology unit in class. 
  • Students may connect with other people with similar interests on a platform like Twitter or TikTok, and make friends from around the world. This exposes them to different viewpoints and cultures, and they may decide to learn another language. 
  • Learners may teach themselves how to code and make their own websites when they stumble over a community of others who share a passion for coding. 

Students without the luxury of accessing the internet whenever they like are limited to these  life-changing moments. They won’t be exposed to opportunities simply because they didn’t come across them organically. 

21st Century Skills 

Educators and schools need to be intentional about helping students develop new 21st century skills. What are 21st century skills? And how do they relate to technology access? 21st century skills cover a lot of ground:

  • Learning and innovation skills
  • Information, media, and technology skills
  • Life and career skills

These skills are meant to prepare young people for their academic, professional, and personal futures. And they are currently taught through the metaverse

Educators are implementing the VR classroom so students are better equipped with a background in these transformative technologies. Through Kai XR’s virtual field trips for example, students in middle school and elementary school can find experience that will introduce them to historic moments and places in history, travel to the Pyramids of Egypt, and then hang out with penguins in South Africa. 

All of this is possible with powerful internet and tech. Keep in mind that: 

  1. Metaverse companies and tech leaders see the metaverse only becoming a bigger part of life over the next twenty years.
  2. Businesses are aiming to include VR in their companies over the next few years.

This is why we need to continue finding solutions to the digital divide. Tools like VR cater to students no matter how they learn, be it auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. When educators can teach in immersive ways, they include more students and help them truly learn competencies

Social and Emotional Learning Skills

Social emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom refers to the group of skills and mindsets that allow a student to navigate interpersonal skills, self-regulate emotions, fight adversities, and understand themselves. 

SEL can bring equity to the center of learning environments and can provide a foundation to meaningful learning. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) lays out five core competencies that make up SEL:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Responsible Decision-Making
  4. Relationship Skills
  5. Social Awareness

With technology, students have been able to nurture these important skills to navigate the world around us to perform well in school, life, and at work.

For example, take your class on a virtual field trip to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Students can learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, his character, how segregation affected Black Americans, and how he fought for civil rights through nonviolent action. 

While social and emotional learning can be nurtured without modern technology in the classroom, new technology like AR, VR, XR, and the metaverse offer more opportunities for students to learn in new ways.

Educators can use innovative tech like VR or the metaverse to help students experience these field trips. Not to mention that our virtual field trips can be done anytime, without the time-consuming planning that in-person field trips can take. This tech can also help educators implement virtual social emotional learning activities into their lessons. 

We know that many students lack the tech infrastructure they need to continue learning from home. These challenges impact students’ social emotional learning.

At Kai XR, we know how important this is, and have been working closely with educators to create solutions to close the digital divide. Check out some of our solutions below!

What Are Some Solutions to the Digital Divide?

The importance of accessibility and connectivity in bridging the digital divide can’t be ignored. How can we all work together to ensure every young person has an equal shot? 

At Kai XR, we’re building solutions to fix the digital divide with VR, AR, and XR technology and the metaverse. Our goal is to connect 1 million kids with this tech by 2030.

Here are some solutions to the digital divide that can start bridging the gap:

  1. Increased accessibility 
  2. Virtual field trips 
  3. The metaverse 

Increased Accessibility 

One of the main issues in closing the digital divide is lack of access to the internet. That means organizations and individuals can play a role in advocating for these changes—from policy changes on the federal level to local initiatives and grassroots programs.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is one of the government agencies making it happen. They’ve launched programs around gathering accurate data and making broadband more affordable and accessible in lower income communities and rural areas. These initiatives include:

Cities like Oakland are providing hot spots and laptops during the pandemic. This worked. The percentage of Oakland students with access to tech and the internet rose from 25% to 98%

Tech companies like Kai XR, T-Mobile, and HP are constantly striving to give students access to connectivity.

We also know that the power of the 5G metaverse can help increase accessibility. 5G can do more than just improve existing wireless networks. As more infrastructure is built to support 5G everywhere, those in rural areas will have access to internet that doesn’t lag, is affordable, and can be accessed from anywhere. Check out the stats below to see the impact it can have in teaching and learning:

  • 10x faster than 4G: This means that information can be accessed quickly.
  • Ultra-low latency: This reduces lag time, meaning media can be consumed without buffering, and live interactive media can continue uninterrupted.
  • High bandwidth: Big capacity means more devices can connect at once. 
  • Expanded coverage: This will be critical in solving connectivity issues across the U.S. 

5G has already helped Kai XR connect youth with more tech in the classroom.

Virtual Field Trips 

At Kai XR, we believe virtual field trips can provide valuable learning opportunities for all students. Benefits of virtual field trips include:

  • Enhancing students’ learning
  • Keeping students more engaged
  • Reducing the barriers of learning, making it more accessible for many classrooms and learners
  • Allowing collaboration
  • Creating paths for SEL

Imagine flying through space, learning CRISPR from a leading scientist, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. These are all possible with virtual field trips.

Through educational VR, Kai XR helps educators take students on field trips right from the classroom. Our virtual field trips can be used to help students get the same benefits they would on an in-person field trip. 

And they can be used by anyone. No new, fancy equipment is needed to explore our virtual field trips. Educators and students can travel using their smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktops, or VR headsets—with our without Wi-Fi. Digital divide data shows that accessibility is a huge barrier for students and educators, and we’re dedicated to making our tech as accessible as possible.

You can explore our virtual field trips that cover a variety of topics, including: 

  • STEM 
  • Animals
  • Biology 
  • Travel

Students can dive into science by exploring our solar system. They can study biology as they discover wildlife or the human body. They can learn about other cultures and history by spending the day at the Egyptian pyramids. These trips simultaneously build technical skills and support social emotional development. 

When students learn about others through educational VR, they can connect on a deeper level and experience empathy for their peers and family members. This is an integral skill for their development and how they interact with their peers. 

Our virtual field trips fit into any curriculum and create an interesting and engaging environment in which students can learn. Instead of sitting at their desks listening to new information, they can take an active role in the lesson, which makes for a memorable, exciting experience. 

The Metaverse

The metaverse is the next iteration of the internet. We like the metaverse definition included in the Meridian Treehouse report, which explains that the metaverse will be “a decentralized network of computer-generated worlds where users feel a genuine sense of being in these spaces for work, leisure, and learning.”

In the metaverse, educators, families, and students will have a new world of possibilities. Classes that were done with a textbook will be old school and boring. With the metaverse, you can see and feel what you’re learning. Are you discussing the impacts of climate change in the ocean? See it for yourself through the metaverse by going to The Great Barrier Reef.

Your kids are already in the metaverse. The Roblox metaverse is a popular tech gaming company where millions of kids are creating avatars, playing games, going to concerts, and socializing with other users.

At Kai XR, we created our own digital makerspace classroom, Kai XR Create, where students can build their own worlds without needing to know any technical skills beforehand.

Students can drag and drop items into their world to build, create, and customize. From creating their own cities to their own forest camp sites, students can get as creative as they like. With the makerspace, they’ve learned skills like decision-making, planning and organizing, and spatial intelligence. 

Our metaverse caters to all students, regardless of ability or knowledge level. This is a safe space, free of ads, and with appropriate content for different age groups. 

Kai XR as a Solution to the Digital Divide

At Kai XR, we want all students to have access to transformational tech and build the skills they need to be ready for the future of work. We’re working with schools, educators, families, libraries, and after school programs to close the digital divide.

With our virtual field trips, students that live in cities and in rural areas have the same opportunities to learn. We have over 100 virtual field trips for students to explore, and they work on any device. 

To create a world in which all students can succeed, we have to level the playing field. Ready to close the digital divide in your classroom? Contact us or schedule a demo.

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