One of the abiding fears that some of us have is that after the COVID-19 pandemic is cleared all the digital divide gains that were made with tele-medicine, tele-justice, distance education and the like are going to get swept away; that the “nattering nabobs of negativism*” — the technophobes — will recover the ground they lost during the pandemic!

Man afraid of his computer

In Ontario, at least, some of these matters are irreversible and will not be able to be rolled back because too much has been put on the education table: a digital divide genie has been taken out of the box, for good.

The Province of Ontario recently purchased and distributed 21,000 iPads to the school boards. These iPads will be provided to the stay-at-home students during the pandemic.  Now low-income families can have access to the internet and kids can keep up with their studies; in one area the digital divide begins to close as a robust technology is now being provided to students and their school boards.

iPad Pro
Source: (Mike Yawney/CityNews)

Two other partners are part of this arrangement.

The first is Apple, which discounted their iPad tablets. These tablets normally retail for north of $400. The second is Rogers, which will provide cellular networking services for these tablets.

The cellular network access will persist until the end of the school year (i.e. to the end of June). The cellular package is worth about $65 per month. The net retail costs with taxes for this exercise would have been in the order of $800 per student for a program cost of less than $17 million. If the Province of Ontario could put together a great package like this, they would certainly have negotiated a great deal too! So, this package “may” have been purchased for let’s say, half of the retail price! But that is simply a guess. (Call that the COVID-19 discount!)

COVID-19: It's time to stay home

Some great things are now being set by going with this package.

The technology platform for educational purposes is now largely being set. While many of us prefer Microsoft technologies to Apple, given that children will be using these tablet’s this may be a burden that is beyond them.

The Apple operating system (iPadOS) will update itself, the tablets will have good antivirus protection and there is no need to tweak or adjust any operating system settings. This technology platform is very stable and user friendly and it works no matter who is using it.

Imagine the question “Teacher, what does this message mean?” in an online call.  In many cases, the teacher will not know how to respond to the kinds of questions that come from an operating system, and with the students being remote, that makes it even more difficult to diagnose and advise in these matters. This is not a problem with Apple tech as there is nothing to adjust; it has adjusted itself.

Teachers can now focus and draw upon stable teaching systems to support their curriculum and bring up those math scores, and certainly reading scores too.

Now there’s a plan to close the Digital Divide and improve learning outcomes, and that is one way to prevent the technophobes from bringing back darkness.

Congrats to the Province of Ontario, Apple, and Rogers for stepping up.

Read some of the news stories related to this piece: City News; ToDoCanada; mobilesyrup

  • * nattering nabobs of negativism – attributed to VP Spiro Agnew
Online Schools
Source: New York Times

Since this story was first released, others have made similar developments. The Province of Manitoba secured and deployed almost 3000 chrome notebooks and iPad’s. Part of this program was supported by Apple and Rogers. Read the full story.

Given the temperament of the times, these types of developments will certainly be repeated elsewhere in many forms.