Glass was amazed by the speed of IT and other departments to ensure every single staff member and student had access to WiFi in their homes. Working with city officials and network providers, they also set up hotspots for those who had limiting issues. Once connectivity was established, Glass and her educator colleagues set office hours, created a calendar for Google Meet, recorded and distributed video tutorials (all available to the public) and identified and deployed software and apps, including cutting-edge programs designed to help blind or low-vision students learn to read.
Building more resilient, connected communities
Good fortune seems to follow Glass wherever she goes, and St. Paul is no exception. With hundreds of thousands of residents still working and learning from home and competing for bandwidth, Verizon announced the expansion of its 5G Home to the city on Oct. 1, 2020. The home internet service, which is available in parts of select cities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, offers a new 5G internet gateway router (also announced by Verizon) and provides download speeds of up to 1Gbps, with typical speeds of around 300 Mbps.
“There is no doubt 5G can give education a boost,” Glass said. “Before the pandemic, we used assistive technology only when we needed it. But now that we need it all the time, teachers are recognizing the incredible potential of advanced applications using virtual, augmented and mixed realities to help learners with unique needs. There are so many immersive technologies being developed. Once 5G is available on a large scale, there’s no telling where education can take us.”
Opening doors and expanding education on every level
Glass acknowledges the shift to remote learning has been extremely difficult for parents. But staff members have said their contact with them virtually has been meaningful. In fact, maybe better than it was before. Many now realize this new online layer may open new doors and expand education on every level when in-person classes return—from having the option to participate in class remotely when a student feels ill to utilizing the newest and most engaging apps and software.
“We all know, kids with or without special needs are better off when they’re in schools with their teachers, but we can’t do that right now,” Glass says. “So, we do our best with what we have. And we are extremely lucky to be in possession of so many resources and experts. When I think back to the communities in the Amazon Basin, where electricity, potable water and telephones were a rarity—and in the villages nonexistent—I am reminded of the of the immense power of the human spirit to rise above overwhelming and impossible challenges. The year 2020 may go down as one of the most troubling in recent history. But it will also be one of the most memorable. Witnessing firsthand how people are coming together to solve some our most pressing concerns, it’s exciting to think about what we…