Writing and Marketing

Month: June 2020

COVID-19 and the Digital Divide in Canada

The digital age offers a plethora of new opportunities for educators to engage and communicate with students. While there were plenty of ideas floating around as to how to expand the integration of the digital into the educational space, COVID-19 forced many of those plans to be accelerated into practice. While schools and educators should be rightly proud of the innovation and adaptability they’ve shown, the sudden necessary shift into the digital space has also highlighted the cracks within the system, cracks into which a worrying large number of students fall.

The “digital divide” has been talked about before, but the current pandemic has only made the issue more pressing. The term “digital divide” refers to the split in Canada between areas with plentiful high-speed internet, and those without – specifically, low income, rural and indigenous households often do not have the reliable access to reliable internet that we often take for granted. In 2017, for example, only 37% of rural households, and 24% of Indigenous community households had access to high-speed internet. Compare this to the 97% of urban homes with access to high-speed internet, and you can begin to visualize what this divide looks like. Measurements taken during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic show download speeds in the affected areas as being only about 10% of those on the other side of the digital divide.

These numbers don’t even take into account households with no internet access, or with limited options for internet access, where a student may have to share a single computer with family members who also need it for work or their own education. Digital literacy is often lower in such households, who may not understand all the options at their disposal to allow for better connectivity.

This shows that not all educational institutions may have the capability to properly adapt to an emergency like COVID-19, or to keep up in general to digital advancement. There also seems to be no easy fix, as the monopolistic nature of ISPs in Canada does not encourage competitive pricing. There have been some promising steps taken, however. The CRTC declared internet access a basic right in 2016, and low-income families recently became eligible for internet plans sponsored by the government and ISPs collaborating – though this only applies to families, not older students who may live on their own.

While this does seem like an issue that needs to be tackled by the government and ISPs, there are some steps that educational institutes can take to at least mitigate the effects of the divide, if not eliminate it altogether. A good first step is simply being aware that the digital divide exists and being willing to give special consideration to students who may have internet difficult, in the form of more flexible assignments and scheduling. Educators are also well poised to help boost digital literacy, to make students feel more empowered and able to take concrete steps to troubleshoot issues when navigating online.

Education is going to only become more closely intertwined with technology – however it should be noted that education should not just be reacting to new technology and incorporating it, but preparing students to be able to adjust to the technological future they will find themselves in. An even playing field for all students is vital in this case.

Canadian Education and Fake News

While the internet has allowed for unprecedented levels of communication between people all across the globe, it turns out that we as a species were maybe not as interested in what other people had to say as we might have supposed. Increasingly, the rise of “fake news” provides online media consumers with narratives that they want to hear, rather than with objective facts. Adult Canadians have enough trouble picking out these deceptions, with over half of Canadians believed to have difficulties in determining a fabricated news story.

This is alarming in its own right, but younger Canadians still undergoing their education are less likely to have the needed reference points and background knowledge to identify fake news, though they may have better digital literacy than older Canadians.  In recent years there has been a concentrated effort to try and provide tools for critical thinking and recognition through educational programs.

While critical thinking was already part of the curriculum in many places, more modern versions require the addition of digital literacy courses, as purveyors of false information online have grown increasingly sophisticated. As well, in a shifting digital world, it is not only the information itself that needs to be examined, but its context and medium as well.

So, what are some new tools that educators can introduce to students to help them better understand this complex topic? Thankfully while the internet is the cause of many of the problems presented, it also offers a variety of solutions. Some are actual websites or programs that offer guides or services to better pick out the truth. Snopes.com is a classic example of this, and the Canadian government itself has launched spotfakenews.ca. Digital solutions can also include better understanding how to use the infrastructure of the web, such as better use of the “search by image” function of Google, to see if pictures are being used out of context.

One of the best uses of the classroom space is for teachers and students to examine fake news samples together and break it down to understand the methodology and purpose behind it. Many believe “fake news” is too broad a category, and should be divided into malicious disinformation, with a specific agenda, and misinformation created for the purpose of satire and irony. While creating information evaluation checklists to analyze media is useful, it is no replacement for practice through shared analysis.

The methods of manipulation of information are only going to become more and more sophisticated as time goes on, and Canadian educators must be ready to help newer generations of students navigate the changing media landscape. The tools we use must continually be monitored and updated to make sure they are relevant to the world we find ourselves in.

Example Blog Post

As real estate costs soar in major cities, acquiring quality real estate becomes more and more of a concern for businesses, especially since locations in major tech hubs are key for success. While larger businesses can often bear the burden, smaller teams and individuals are left with unenviable choices of less than prime working conditions, or possibly just working remotely. For individuals this is often doable but difficult, but for teams this can become unsustainable from an organizational and efficiency viewpoint. As well, an actual office isn’t just about desks for workers, but about the benefits such as a place to bring clients or have team meetings.

This is the reason for the rise in coworking culture across the globe, especially in cities that are major centers of innovation and creativity. The idea of a coworking space is one that is flexible, often having month to month membership, and is shared among however many teams or individuals decide to use the space. Apart from providing a more professional and focused working environment for clients, coworking spaces can also be great for networking between start-ups that may have talent and resources that the others need. Really great coworking spaces, like Cranium, will even offer amenities like private meeting rooms and board rooms, to allow for more professional interactions with team members and clients.

Example Captioning

The pictures and captions are pulled from some older social media posts, but I wanted to store them here – I may add some more in the future.

Here’s just some examples of how the space is used, but feel free to adjust as your inner designer dictates.

 

Yes, the couches can be used for sleeping on – we know the hours some of you keep.

 

Here’s the location as it will look with the new logo – which will hopefully make it easier to find!

 

 

Inolife Article

Following is a link to an article I wrote for Inolife Sciences, via MarketOne. They were a really great client to work for and I’m very proud of how the article turned out!

Inolife Sciences is injecting innovation into the pharmaceutical market

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