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Google commits R176m to edtech amid COVID-19

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Google has pledged $10 million (R176 million) to a Distance Learning Fund that will help support educational organisations to provide remote learning opportunities through the use of technology.

The fund is part of Google’s $50 million philanthropic arm, Google.org, which seeks to assist global organisations that are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Distance Learning Fund will help support organisations that are focused on helping educators access edtech resources they need, to provide quality learning opportunities to school pupils, particularly those in underserved communities.

The COVID-19 virus, which originated in China’s central city of Wuhan in December, has gripped nations across the globe, claiming the lives of over 16 500 people, with a current infection rate of over 382 000 and recoveries at more than 102 000.

Governments around the world have closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the global pandemic. This has led to an estimated half of the world’s children, youth and adults not attending schools or universities because of COVID-19 and educators across the globe facing challenges associated with teaching remotely at an unprecedented scale.

SA closed its schools early for the Easter break, and Italy,Iran and Vietnam have closed all their schools. China has closed schools in many areas, while Japan has asked all schools to close until the end of the school year.

In addition to the fund, Google has introduced two online resources to help teachers and students stay connected – a resource for educators called Teach From Home and Google for Education, which aims to help teachers keep teaching even when they’re not in the classroom.

“We’ve continued to listen to the challenges teachers are facing during these uncertain times and we’re announcing two new resources to help teachers and students stay connected,” comments Avni Shah, VP, Google for Education.

“Google for Education provides an overview of distance learning, including information on how to teach online, make lessons accessible to students, and collaborate with other educators, while Teach From Home is built with the support and cooperation of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education.”

Teach From Home is currently available in English, with downloadable toolkits available in Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Arabic and Polish, and additional languages coming soon.

Google says it is continuing to speak to teachers and partners to get feedback on what is most useful to build on and improve the platform.

The first $1 million (R1.76 million) grant is being used to help Khan Academy provide remote learning opportunities to students affected by COVID-19-related school closures, notes Google.

The edtech non-profit aims to provide a free, world-class education for school pupils across the globe.

Along with the grant, Google volunteers will help the Khan Academy provide educator resources in more than 15 languages, and through the platform, they'll reach over 18 million learners a month from communities around the globe.

Google says it hopes to announce additional grants to other organisations soon.

It recently partnered with the US government to develop a Web site dedicated to COVID-19 education, prevention and local resources nationwide.

The site includes information on best practices on prevention, links to authoritative information from the World Health Organisation and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC).

“We’re also looking for more ways we can help people follow authoritative public health guidance and locate appropriate health services through our products,” says Emily Moxley, product management director of search at Google.

“In the US right now, people seeking out urgent care, hospitals and other medical services in Google Search or Maps will see an alert reminding them of the CDC’s recommendation that symptomatic individuals call ahead in order to avoid overwhelming health systems and increasing the risk of exposure.”

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