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Technology 27 April 2020

The Week in Internet News: Schools Still Face Equipment Challenges for Virtual Learning

Grant Gross
By Grant GrossTechnology Reporter

Equipment shortages: As schools in the U.S. and other countries attempt to switch over to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, some are still trying to get students Internet access or devices to use to access the Internet. In Chicago, only about half of the 115,000 public school students who need a computer have received one, WBEZ reports. Another 43,000 computers will be handed out, and 10,000 have been ordered and will be coming “over the next few weeks.”

Equipment shortages, part 2: In California, the state is planning to distribute laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets to more than 70,000 students so they can participate in distance learning, MercuryNews.com reports. The state has requested funding and devices from companies, business leaders and philanthropists around the state.

Getting creative: Some schools are exploring alternatives when students don’t have Internet access or devices, NBC News says. A teacher in Tennessee turned to using a copy machine to print out packets and mail them to students. In Arkansas, where 23 percent of households lack Internet service, a local PBS affiliate is providing daily television programming tied to the state’s distance learning curriculum.

Pumping up encryption: Popular video conferencing app Zoom will improve encryption in a new release after being criticized for lax security that allowed uninvited guests to “Zoom-bomb” conferences with pornography or racist content. The new version of Zoom will make it harder for meetings to be Zoom bombed by adding, as a default, passwords and waiting rooms, which require passwords and a host to admit an attendee. For educational users, screen sharing will default to the host only, USA Today reports.

Deadly shutdowns: Internet restrictions and shutdowns can be deadly during a pandemic, journalist and author Puja Changoiwala writes on CNN.com. Internet restrictions are currently in place in several countries. “Through an information blackout, Internet restrictions threaten public health by impeding access to timely and accurate information about the Covid-19 global pandemic, and best practice guidelines like shelter-in-place, social distancing and washing hands to tackle it. These limitations also mitigate people’s ability to evaluate the risk, and better prepare,” Changoiwala writes.

Access to the Internet has never been more important. Learn about the work of communities around the world to keep the Internet open and globally connected.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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