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Closing the digital divide - Trends-Tendances on PC

Closing the digital divide – Trends-Tendances on PC

In French-speaking education, the impact of the small ASBL EductIT is not anecdotal. It even inspired the foundations of a Copernican revolution in terms of student computer equipment.

After a life of successful entrepreneurs, Philippe Van Ophem and Daniel Verougstraete have joined forces to help schools achieve their digital transformation. They propose to change the paradigm and, rather than equipping schools, to equip each student with a device (similar for all within the school) and to help teachers to integrate digital with the support of techno – specialized pedagogues. The goal: to take advantage of the rich palette of educational practices supported by digital technology (access to resources, possibilities for remediation, differentiation, collaborative work, etc.) but also to tackle racism.

After a life of successful entrepreneurs, Philippe Van Ophem and Daniel Verougstraete have joined forces to help schools achieve their digital transformation. They propose to change the paradigm and, rather than equipping schools, to equip each student with a device (similar for all within the school) and to help teachers to integrate digital with the support of techno – specialized pedagogues. The goal: to take advantage of the rich range of educational practices supported by digital technology (access to resources, possibilities for remediation, differentiation, collaborative work, etc.) but also to tackle the root of the problem of the digital divide by developing young people’s basic digital skills, beyond Instagram, Snapchat or Fortnite. A digital divide which the latest barometer of the King Baudouin Foundation reveals that it affects nearly one out of two Belgians. “States like the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and Spain, where students have the opportunity to regularly use a computer in class, suffer less from the digital divide”, argue the two entrepreneurs behind the ‘EducIT. “How can a young person, whose parents are dropped in relation to digital technology, develop the skills he needs if the school does not give him this chance”, wonder Philippe Van Ophem and Daniel Verougstraete. What is at stake is not only their success in higher education and their employability but also, quite simply, their ability to communicate with the public authorities: requests to the municipality, tax declaration, etc.” With such an objective in mind, there is no question that the price of the material is an obstacle.The approach imagined by the association, and taken up for a year by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation which proposes it and provides the financing for French-speaking education, is the following: co-financing between the public authorities (currently 75 euros per pupil) and the parents (25 euros per quarter for three years).This mechanism is supplemented by a solidarity fund covering up to 40% of the price of the machines students in schools with the lowest socio-economic index. So far, the “digital back to school” has made it possible to equip nearly 28,000 students and train some 9,000 teachers in digital technology. “Thanks to the collaborations of developed with the actors of the system, in particular the (federations of) organizing powers, this change could ultimately benefit all French-speaking secondary schools and the 360,000 students who attend them”, rejoice Philippe Van Ophem and Daniel Verougstraete. It is also these collaborations that allow the non-profit organization to gradually hand over. “Our ambition was to set up a model and validate it. Now that the authorities are taking over this model and can increase its scale, we are happy to completely erase ourselves”, rejoice Philippe Van Ophem and Daniel Verougstraete who can now ensure a transfer in the best conditions. Mission (soon) accomplished. CHRISTOPHER CHARLOT

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