Apr 25 2017

Google Pledges $50 Million to Close Education Gaps Worldwide

The tech giant hopes funding nonprofits can boost access to students in the U.S. and beyond.

About 4.3 billion people in the world don’t have regular access to the internet, the World Economic Forum reports. Though strides have been made to boost access in the U.S., the Commerce Department reports that a disparity still exists between urban and rural areas.

Late last month, Google announced plans to change that by pledging $50 million over the next two years to support nonprofits working to bring tech tools to students of all backgrounds and access levels.

“To start, we’re funding nine organizations around the world that we will also support with Google volunteers in areas like user experience design, translation, offline functionality and data analytics,” writes Google education lead Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink in the announcement blog post.

Google reports that it’s looking at three specific areas that technology can aid: giving kids the right materials, keeping teachers trained and helping students in crisis learn.

Nonprofits Seek to Boost Student and Teacher Engagement

From low-income communities in the U.S. to struggling countries, Google is working to extend a high-quality education to all.

“Technology can bypass the geographic and financial boundaries that block educational resources from reaching students, while also making those resources more engaging, interactive and effective,” writes Hoyer Gosselink.

In the initial announcement, Google pledges funds to Foundation for Learning Equality, which builds free open-source software to bring learning materials like books, videos and quizzes to many types of devices that can be used offline.

Google reports that it will also help by investing in “digital tools that offer teachers quality training and confidence-building tools that encourage creativity in the classroom.” One of the first grants in this category is going to ChalkLit, which will help support new teachers in India with content and community support.

The tech giant also announced in the blog post that it will support War Child Holland, a nonprofit that helps children in conflict zones continue to learn.

Partnerships and Innovation Help to Close American Digital Divide

Though these first three grants from Google will be supporting students and teachers in other countries, the tech giant has already made strides in the U.S. and will likely continue to do so.

Google has regularly worked with Khan Academy, an education nonprofit that provides free online learning materials, to “build critical tools for students, enhance its data infrastructure, create new content and more deeply engage with and serve teachers everywhere.”

Thanks to Google support, Khan Academy was able to offer a three-month math and science learning program for students in California, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reports.

Google-grant awardee the Foundation of Learning Equality collaborated with Khan Academy to create KA Lite, which works offline. This version could prove to be useful for schools with one-to-one devices (like Chromebooks) but with a student population that doesn’t have ubiquitous internet access at home.

Khan Academy is also working to help close the achievement gap by creating online materials to help students prepare for the SATs, Broadband Communities reports.

At Poiciana High School in central Florida, Principal Mike Meechin has a number of students who are at risk and low income. By using the Khan Academy materials in a pilot group, he’s seen an increase in SAT performance.

“At our school, we’ve got students that come in reading below their grade level,” Meechin tells EdTech. “This is not an area we’ve been able to get traction on until now.”

You can follow the latest on Google’s education pledges at its education philanthropy site.

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