This year’s SXSW EDU conference brought together global leaders who are leveraging technology to better education worldwide—including our own VP of Programs, Bunmi Esho. On March 7th, Bunmi shared the Endless Key with an audience of teachers, district-level IT leaders, and EdTech innovators in her presentation “Bridging Offline Students’ Connectivity Barriers.”
As a reminder, the Endless Key is a free tool that provides access to learning resources and content for kids everywhere, including those who have unreliable or no access to the internet. It features curated content from organizations like PBS Kids, TED-Ed, Khan Academy, Common Sense Media and Techbridge Girls, and is designed with inclusivity in mind.
The Endless Key is a free tool that provides access to learning resources and content for kids everywhere, including those who have unreliable or no access to the internet.
Bunmi highlighted its need: Conversations promoting broadband for all have been happening for 20 years - and we’re still 10 years out. “What does that do for kids in K-12 right now who need internet access?” Bunmi asked. “Since the pandemic, a report from Common Sense Media states 12-15 million learners are digitally disconnected in the US. That’s one-third of the K-12 population, and the majority of the unconnected are Black and LatinX.”
Curated Content for All Kids
Many providers already offer freely available content on the Internet or as in-person activities. The Key takes this content and digitizes it, making it available to all the students who might not be able to access it via a connection. With a focus on inclusivity, Endless OS Foundation is “ensuring that the students who are accessing the Key are able to have the same look and feel as if they’re on the Internet. They’re able to watch videos feeling like, ‘yes, I’m on the Internet!’”
"We are ensuring that the students who are accessing the Key are able to have the same look and feel as if they’re on the Internet. They’re able to watch videos feeling like, ‘yes, I’m on the Internet!’"
The goal isn’t to replace curriculum: “We’re here to go beyond that. When a student is out of school (either in an after school program or at home), for example, [we make sure] they have the ability to use the Chromebook they received from school, or even a family computer, and they're able to still access learning resources regardless of whether they have Internet.” And there are many communities that still don’t have Internet - in fact, some don’t even have electricity. For example, Endless is working in Buffalo, Missouri, where service providers refuse to set up Internet because of pervasive bedrock, which makes establishing the infrastructure too expensive.
With access to the Endless Key, those students in Buffalo and the 500 million around the globe who lack connectivity are able to access Internet-based content. Bunmi highlighted the Key’s valuable features:
It’s self-guided, and kids can choose their learning paths from a varied profile of content. This is “key” because a lot of kids want to learn and build new skills: whether it’s coding, finances, cooking, or medicine, kids love investigating the things they’re interested in. Teachers can use this to their advantage by starting projects in the classroom and sending the rest as homework with the confidence every student will have the needed access.
The Key encourages family engagement, which “has become a really important piece” of student success. It encourages families to come together for learning and exploration.
Recognizing the diverse needs of users, the Key will also soon feature curated Spanish language content.
Though the original Key was piloted as a USB, there is also now a downloadable app version, which will work better for students with Chromebooks.
There is an accompanying teacher’s guide that walks users through the steps to download and access the app. Plus, the newly-launched Educator’s Corner features different resources and updates on new content.
Bunmi described that the Endless Key app is currently in beta testing with about 250 students across the country participating in the program. The team behind the project is actively working on expanding the variety of devices to include Android phones, a popular device in the Global South, ensuring that no matter where a student lives, they have access to quality learning resources.
Overall, the presentation was a great reminder that the Key is an innovative learning tool that empowers students everywhere with self-guided learning opportunities. By focusing heavily on family engagement, skill development, and providing offline access to quality educational materials, it can be a game-changer for both teachers and parents alike who want better informal learning experiences for their children or students. Learn more about it by demo-ing it here, and listen to the talk below.
SXSW EDU 2023 Talk: Bridging Offline Students' Connectivity Barriers